Dr. Richard Walker (Harrison Ford) is a surgeon visiting Paris with his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley) for a medical conference. At their hotel, she is unable to unlock her suitcase, and Walker determines that she picked up the wrong suitcase at the airport. While Walker is taking a shower, his wife mysteriously disappears from their hotel room.
Still jet-lagged, he searches for her in the hotel with the help of a polite but mostly indifferent staff and then wanders outside to search himself. A vagrant overhears him in a café and says he saw Walker's wife being forced into a car. Walker is skeptical until he finds his wife's ID bracelet on the cobblestones. He contacts the Paris police and the U.S. Embassy, but their responses are bureaucratic, and there is little hope anyone will look for her.
As Walker carries on the search himself (with input from a very sympathetic but wary desk clerk at the hotel), he stumbles onto a murder scene and then encounters the streetwise young Michelle, who had mistakenly picked up his wife's suitcase at the airport. It transpires that Michelle is a career smuggler but does not know for whom she is working. She reluctantly helps Walker in his increasingly frantic attempt to learn what was in the switched suitcase and to trade whatever it is for the return of his wife.
It turns out that hidden within a small replica of the Statue of Liberty is a krytron, a small electronic switch used in the detonators of nuclear devices that had been stolen and smuggled by Arab agents. The American embassy, working with Israeli agents, want it back and are willing to let Sondra die in the process of reacquiring it. Thus, the doctor is forced to try to save his wife with Michelle, who wants her money for her work. The film ends with a confrontation beside the River Seine where Walker's wife is released. However, a firefight ensues between the Arab and Israeli agents who followed them. During the crossfire, the Arab agents are killed but Michelle is also shot and dies with Walker and Sondra at her side.
Angry and upset, Walker throws the krytron into the river while the helpless Israeli agents look at him. He then carries Michelle's body away from there. Soon after, the Walkers, traumatized because of what happened, leave Paris.Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Walker
Emmanuelle Seigner as Michelle
Betty Buckley as Sondra Walker
John Mahoney as Williams (U.S. Embassy Official)
Jimmie Ray Weeks as Shaap
Yorgo Voyagis as The Kidnapper
David Huddleston as Peter
Alexandra Stewart as Edie
Gérard Klein as Gaillard
Dominique Pinon as Wino
Yves Rénier as Inspector
Artus de Penguern as Waiter
Filming took place on location in Paris with exteriors filmed outside Le Grand Hotel in rue Scribe in the 9th arrondissement. The hotel's lobby also appeared in the film. Filming also took place at the Île aux Cygnes island in the Seine for the Lady Liberty scenes.
Release and reception
Frantic was released in the UK on 16 February 1988, with a release of 26 February in the USA and a 30 March release in France. The film was a disappointment at the box office with a domestic gross of $17,637,950, failing to recoup its production budget. However the film was more successful in other countries such as France where it received 1,293,721 admissions.
As opposed to its commercial failure, Frantic was a critical success. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 78% of critics gave positive reviews based on a sample of 40 reviews with an average rating of 6.4/10.
The film received "Two Thumbs Up" from Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert on the TV show Siskel & Ebert and The Movies. Pat Collins of WWOR-TV called it "Polanski's best film ever." Desson Howe of the Washington Post called the movie "vintage Polanski", with its relentless paranoia, irony, diffident strangers and nutty cameos. British film magazine Empire rated the movie three out five, calling it Polanski's most satisfying film since Chinatown, and one of the best traditional thrillers to come down the pike in quite some time. Roger Ebert in his review gave the movie three stars, saying "to watch the opening sequences of Frantic is to be reminded of Polanski’s talent. Here is one of the few modern masters of the thriller and the film noir. Frantic is a reminder of how absorbing a good thriller can be."