Bill Paxton plays Hank Mitchell, a regular guy in a regular town. He's got a beautiful wife (Bridget Fonda) and a child on the way. One day Hank, his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and Jacob's friend Lou (Brent Briscoe) come upon a plane that crashed in the woods. They look inside to see if the pilot is alive, and find a bag full of money ($4.4 million to be exact). From there, their simple plan of keeping the money turns into a horrible chain of events that would leave a lot of dead bodies in their wake. They decide to keep the money hidden until the spring when the plane would be found. If no one claimed the money, they would split it up and go their separate ways. But the lure of millions, and the fear of being caught turn them into killers. Layers upon layers of lies are built. Who can you trust?
The reason I say the movie is one of the best written films I've ever seen, is because it takes its time building the horror that eventually will take over their lives. It seemed simple enough, hold the money for a few months, then split it. But dealing with that kind of cash, nothing is simple. When an old man almost comes upon the plane, Jacob kills him. Instead of going to the police, they fake his death and keep on going. Lou tries to blackmail Hank into getting his share of the money. Hank has to get Jacob to team with him against Lou. Hank is the "good" guy who is supposed to be the calm leader. But instead we see how it is him and his wife that are actually the greediest of them all.
I usually don't like Bill Paxton. He has this way of playing every character the same, and he doesn't have a lot of inflection in his voice. And while that's basically the way he sounds in this film, somehow it works. Billy Bob Thornton, who burst onto the scene a few years ago in Sling Blade, gives another outstanding performance as Jacob. Jacob is a little slow, we're not really sure if he is retarded or not, and Thornton gives him heart. Sort of like the character he played in Sling Blade actually. And Bridget Fonda was great as the wife. She was supposed to be the high moral ground, and yet throughout the film, in her own subtle way, you see that she is in fact the manipulator who may be even more greedy that Hank. Sam Raimi, the director behind the Evil Dead movies does a wonderful job of slowly bringing out the characters true colors. Everything is carefully done, with small details and scenery that make you feel the same way the characters do. The scenes of dark, cold winter parallel the dark, cold way the characters start spiraling into their own hell.
Overall A Simple Plan was a very good film. It seemed a little slow at times, but for the most part everything that happened, happened for a reason. I would not be surprised to see this up for a screenplay Oscar in March.