Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh

The second feature spun off from the hugely popular 1993-2002 television series plays like a stand-alone episode rather than drawing on the show's complex and sometimes muddled mythology, which makes it more accessible to newcomers and occasional viewers than 1998's THE X-FILES. But like the first film, it isn't a patch on the series' best episodes, and on its own merits it's an okay thriller whose influences will be all-too clear to B-movie buffs.

Six years after FBI agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson), who were thrown together to investigate cases that defied (or seemed to defy) ordinary explanations, abandoned the so-called "x-files" division, their lives have gone in very different directions. Scully, the skeptical doctor whose Catholic faith was sorely tested by some of the cases she and Mulder investigated, is now a staff physician at Our Lady of Sorrows Hospital and is deeply involved in the case of a young patient with a fatal genetic disorder. Mulder – blackballed by his former employers and officially a fugitive – has gone to ground and spends his days studying offbeat newspaper stories in the shadow of his iconic "I Want to Believe" poster. The abduction of an FBI agent in West Virginia brings them back into the fold via ambitious agent Dakota Whitney (Amanda Peet). Painfully aware that the clock is ticking for the missing woman, Agent Whitney's best lead is Father Joseph Fitzpatrick Crissman (Billy Connelly), a deeply compromised priest who claims to have visions and has inexplicably led them to their best clue yet: a neatly severed arm buried in the snow. Granted, it's a man's arm and Whitney's task force can't begin to imagine what it has to do with the case, but it's all they have. Is Crissman genuinely psychic and, if so, could a true believer like Mulder tease enough concrete information from his vague and ambiguous paranormal insights to rescue the missing woman? Or does Crissman have some mundane connection to the case the FBI hasn't yet uncovered, one he's consciously or unconsciously mining for some perverse reason?

Series creator Chris Carter and longtime collaborator Frank Spotnitz (Carter directed and they co-wrote the screenplay) focus heavily on Mulder and Scully's thorny relationship, forged in the fire of horrific shared experience and doomed by their fundamental incompatibility: She skeptical to the bone and he's looking for proof that there are more things in heaven and earth than science can explain. Their simmering romance, rooted in friendship and intellectual curiosity, drove the series: Monsters of the week get old fast, which is one reason Kolchak: The Night Stalker, the 1970s series Carter claimed as his inspiration for The X-Files, burned out after 20 episodes. But without that background, their poignant reunion takes a backseat to long and none-too-subtle conversations about faith and belief. To Carter and Spotnitz's credit, such weighty concerns aren't the stuff of most mainstream genre movies. But they're also not sufficiently gripping to transform a middling thriller into something truly provocative or haunting.