A classic film for lovers of scepticism, this is a story about scientists debunking stage psychics using a variety of laboratory techniques.
The story centres around a small team of scientists who, aside from their academic careers, work to prove or disprove the genuineness of people who claim to have psychic powers. Sigourney Weaver plays a college professor who has 20 years' experience in the field. We see her giving lectures about how so-called mediums use tricks during seances - with the buildings power to make the lights go off and on, and use sleight of hand to move the table around, and so on. Weaver's character has strayed away from objective science a long time ago, having never seen a genuine case. Her assistant, played by Murphy, is the technician with all the fiddly bits of recording equipment. He's younger and less sceptical, but she's done a reasonable job of bending him to her belief that there is no such thing as psychic powers.
Along comes De Niro who is clearly based on 1980s spoon-bending guru Uri Geller. He can also apparently read minds, cause electronic equipment to explode and do faith healing. He and Weaver have "history", and he's the only psychic who really has her thinking that her sceptical view of the world might be wrong. Cue arguments within the team, embarrassing TV chat show recordings, spooky psychic events happening all over the place, and the feeling that De Niro really does have powers that he can use at a distance. Several twists make it into an intriguing tale with a surprising ending.
There are some really good scenes where the psychic powers are being analysed under lab conditions. This movie is a good introduction to the science of scepticism.
Poor points in the film include ridiculous over-acting (Weaver sometimes comes across as if she's fighting aliens rather than doing science experiments) and a bizarre love affair that's quite inappropriate, yet has no bearing on the rest of the story.
So all in all not a particularly gripping, or even convincing watch, but it gets you thinking a lot about psychic powers and leaves you with a sense that not all the answers are yet there.