Story within story within story, and all about a fictional story which is actually more non-fiction, The Words is a literary Inception; it takes a simple idea and overcomplicates it somewhat unnecessarily. There are some fantastic moments within the film, as well as acting which keeps the story mesmerizing even when it never quite reaches a point of fulfilling the promise that the build up promises. There is little mystery or suspense in this movie, and if you have seen the trailer you already know the entire movie. Even if we are not told something until the very end, it is hinted at so obviously that only a fool would not know the truth before the third act.
Aside from my annoyance with the fact that this film is being marked as a thriller rather than a drama and the overbearing repetition of story-within-story, I found myself enjoying much of The Words. Bradley Cooper is better than he usually is as Rory Jansen, a writer who finds a story in an old briefcase while on vacation and claims it his own. Even more captivating is Jeremy Iron, who plays the man who actually wrote the story. There is also an unnecessary storyline involving another writer (Dennis Quaid), who is the narrator of Janson’s story, though this framing story is almost not worth mentioning. It makes little sense, especially the addition of a young woman who nearly stalks him to find out more about his work. The role is played by Olivia Wilde, but the character is so unbelievable that it doesn’t matter who plays it.
Aside from a decent bit of dialogue and one interesting idea about literature which is pounded in time-and-time again, there is much to be desired within The Words. It builds suspenseful while never paying off with anything more than that one concept. The DVD includes an extended version of the film, adding a few minutes that don’t change much one way or another. There is also a behind-the-scenes look at one of the scenes and a look at the discovery of the material for the film.