Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman in The Prestige

Christian Bale did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alfred Borden but that's not all, and Hugh Jackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Angier but that's not all in The Prestige.

The Prestige is an excellent film about the rivalry between two magicians one the great magician and the other being the great showman.

On the surface the casting of the two leads of the Prestige seems to fit particularly well for their characters. First you have Christian Bale as Alfred Borden who desires to come up with an illusion that would truly leaves audiences astonished. Bale is well known for his physical devotion to his roles, and although there technically is not anything notable in that regard here, but it makes it particularly fitting that he plays Borden who has a particular devotion to his craft. Bale is a perfect fit for the role perhaps because of this as he has that natural intensity about himself, and despite his many talents as an actor a natural charm is not necessarily one of thing. In many ways Bale was brilliantly cast as Borden as he matches the style of the character with his normal style of performance. This is not some gimmick but actually a particularly effective element in the film.

Now Hugh Jackman on the other hand is not particularly known for his physical devotion to the roles, although he actually has done that for several films though usually not in to the degree of Bale's, and to be particularly blunt is not referred often as a great actor. Jackman though is often noted for his personal charm and showmanship, especially due to his background in the musical theater. Again like Bale, this appears to be especially clever casting as Robert Angier is not meant to be a great magician since he does not come up with the tricks himself, but he is known for his ability to win over a crowd. Well Jackman certainly seems to be quite the fit here as well as he has the particularly outgoing manner in many of his performances. Each fitting into these molds is incredibly effective in showing the divide between the two men not only as a magicians but also through their differing personalities.

At the beginning of the story chronologically speaking this does not matter as they simply are both assistants to another magician who have at least friendly enough working relationship with one another. This quickly changes though when Angier's wife is killed in a dangerous trick they may or may not have been caused by Borden accidentally. It is a fantastic scene for Jackman where he shows the uncontrollable grief that will propel Angier to have a personal vendetta against Borden. Angier quickly cements the permanent animosity between the two when he purposefully shoots off two of Borden's fingers in a fit of anger. Jackman in fact is rather effective in the way he portrays Angier's hatred as he plays in the bursts of an intense hatred as though there are moments of his memory of his wife that force this out of him, and propel him down this dangerous path.

While their feud begins we also see the two begin each of their personal careers as a stage magician. With Bale we see Borden's act which actually has a distinct lack of charisma about it, which actually works quite well in showing Borden's inability to fully capture the audience's imagination. What Bale does convey so well is that internalized intensity about the man. Although it is not until the end of the film where we actually learn what exactly Borden is doing Bale does absolutely convey the drive in the man. There is constant conviction in Bale's performance as he seems to have this dire secret only he knows, and no one else is allowed to foresee. In a certain way Bale is colder to we the audience as well as Bale does carry himself in a less open fashion than Jackman does, Bale though makes this the nature of Borden which is particularly compelling to watch.

Jackman, as Angier tries his hand at his own career, gets to present his skills as a showman. Interesting enough The Prestige may actually be one of the best examples of Jackman's personal charm actually translating to one of his performances, although here it is refined to for a specific intent. Yes Angier is often more lively and outgoing than Borden when we see him at a personal scale, but the real charm of the man appears when he is performing onstage. Jackman is just about perfect in these scenes capturing the grandeur of the method that Angier employs on stage. Jackman builds the presentation of Angier's own tricks, and shows the way in which he makes them seem better than Borden's original. Jackman brings the needed charisma in these scenes as he creates the broad appeal of the magic trick making it a true even simply to witness what is happening.

As they respective careers take off so do their mutual obsession with one another which never truly ceases to exist. In Bale's performance it is a most curious mix in his performance as though Borden has two very different personalities at hand. At times Bale portrays Borden as certainly devoted to his trick, but more dismayed than driven in regards to his rivalry with Angier. When the issue comes up Bale portrays mostly a palatable regret more than anything else as though Borden does feel responsibility for what has happened between the two of them. Borden at these times seems altogether more gentle of a soul particularly seen in his interactions with his wife Sarah (Rebecca Hall). Bale has a genuine sweetness in these scenes as he portrays a more likable Borden who it seems would be content just to live his life without the world of duplicity involved with magic.

On the other hand though there appears to be a certain randomness involving Bale's performance as he suddenly brings a vicious intensity as Borden takes particularly extreme measures to get his own revenge against Angier. Bale makes the obsession particularly palatable in Borden in these scenes as it seems to extend into his personal life as well. In these scenes Borden starts an affair with Angier's old assistant, and has a callousness towards his wife. Bale in these scenes shows Borden to be far more aggressive in his attitudes, and altogether colder man who seems to often lack empathy. Bale again is as good at brutally course as was at being sweet. There seems to be an obvious disconnect within Borden. Bale handles both versions, if you will, of the character, but this is not a case where they seem shades of man. There seems to be something off about it.

With Angier there is not that same sort of duplicity. As I stated before Jackman plays the part as though as basically sudden outbursts of the obsession. This is not to say that Jackman portrays Angier as though he is loses his obsession then suddenly gains it. Jackman is instead quite good in mostly showing Angier as being much better than Borden at covering up this obsession. Jackman keeps his more outgoing nature most of the time to seemingly make Angier more likable, yet there is almost his own subtle coldness about him as the obsession never seems to truly leave him where it would on occasion leave Borden. A quick side note one of the few reservations  I have towards Jackman in his performance as Angier's double for a trick named Root. It's an over the top caricature by Jackman. He's suppose to be a bit much, but Jackman plays up the act a little too much to be funny.

Of course everything is turned on its head when all is spoiled with the twists being revealed. One of the twists is that Angier is still alive, even though at the beginning of the film it appears he has drowned with Borden being sentenced to hang for having caused it. This is revealed to Borden by Angier visiting Borden under his real name Lord Caldlow. Bale is outstanding in the scene as he rather realistically portrays the complete disbelief in Borden, and is particularly affecting as Borden pleads to Angier to reveal the truth. A slight sour point comes for Jackman once again as his Caldlow demeanor is also a bit on the caricature side of things, which is especially noticeable in the reveal since Bale is so good in that scene. Thankfully Jackman redeems himself with his final scene as Angier's reveals his "trick". Jackman is great in his final scene as he portrays the sad end result of Angier's obsession in his dying moments. Jackman has such a desperation and fear as Angier reveals the risk of his trick, but is also quite moving as he still hints at a final pride of finally pulling off his greatest illusion.

There is yet another twist as it revealed that there is not one but two Borden as he had a twin the entire time. This reveal is a particularly effective twist because it does not only hold up to scrutiny it actually only makes the film all the more interesting on re-watch. One of the reasons for this is Bale's performance which suddenly makes perfect sense when you realize there are two of them as one has been hidden all along in Borden's silent partner Fallon. This makes their final scene together particularly affecting as the brothers finally, in public anyway, seem to recognize each other as brothers and Bale is actual quite heartbreaking as he creates the strong kinship between the two that we only really see in that scene. Bale realizes the twist in his performance by carefully creating each brother even while you're not aware of it, and gives a particularly compelling portrait of two men who share the same life yet are never the same man.
(For Jackman)
(For Bale)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly

Keanu Reeves did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Bob Arctor in A Scanner Darkly.

A Scanner Darkly is an interesting film set in the near future where drug problems have run rampant and about a detective going undercover to infiltrate the supply chain.

I suppose I should quickly address that this indeed an animated film, but since the animation directly utilized the actors physical performances it does not matter for this review. Well I will admit Keanu Reeves is not an actor I have been particularly kind to, and I don't take back my thoughts towards his performances in films like Dangerous Liaisons and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Every new performance by any actor is a new chance for the actor to potentially show some ability. Here Reeves plays the undercover detective who spends his days with a group of druggies as himself sort of, which is more than can be said when he is actually reporting to his department. In these scenes he dresses in a full body suit that distorts his image and voice in order to keep his identity a secret to almost every one even to his immediate superior. This leaves Bob in to lead a most precarious life to say the least.

This part seems almost tailored made for Reeves's particular style, which often can be problematic, but that is not the case here. Often it feels though Reeves is a non-entity and almost emotionless, but that actually makes a lot of sense for his character here. Reeves's performance makes Bob the almost non-entity he is. Reeves in a particularly effortless fashion is able to create the weird place that his character of Bob is in. On one hand when he's with the drug addicts Reeves shows that emotional distance since he is not truly one of them because he is only a cop trying to infiltrate their lifestyle. On the other hand Bob cannot find solace when he is actually as "himself" doing his job due to being in the body suit. Not only only is not himself but he is also unable to honestly communicate with everyone else who also are completely distorted. Reeves is effective as he exudes that odd place that Bob is in as he does not seem apart of any part of the world.

Reeves's particularly set of skills happen to work perfectly in his scenes where he hangs out with the other druggies Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), Ernie (Woody Harrelson) and Freck (Rory Cochrane). Where each of them are all off in their own worlds of sorts Reeves plays a double game with his technically detached performance. Reeves's is effective on one side showing the detective side of Bob as he does keep a distance from them. Of course Bob in a way gets involved in a way more than he should because he does take the drugs along with them in an attempt to seem like he is one of them. The drugs take a particularly odd toll on Bob though as he basically slowly loses himself as it works his way to becoming a shallow husk. Well for a perfect shallow husk look no further than Keanu Reeves. To be completely fair to Reeves though it is not as though Bob is has lost himself from the beginning there is a transition.

The interesting thing about Reeves's work is how he kinda moves to becoming the Reeves we all know best as the film progresses. Reeves is quite effective in portraying the way that Bob seems to lose his mind as the film plays out. Reeves, since part of what Bob loses is his emotions, is quite affecting by showing the outbursts of emotions in Bob that come out while he slowly loses moves towards becoming nothing at all. One particularly moving scene comes when he is reporting to his superior and he is told that he will actually be punished for having become addicted to drugs. Reeves is terrific in this scene as he conveys a man suddenly see everything finally close in around him and his final sudden breakdown is well performed by Reeves as he expresses basically the last bit of that's left of Bob's humanity basically. After that point Reeves brings us to Bob becoming seemingly absolutely detached from everything.

Now this certainly was good casting as Reeves is given the chance use the more problematic elements involving his acting to advantage. It is not simply that though because Reeves is not simply some sort of odd prop for story. The character arc which is showing the damaging effects of the drug abuse is fully portrayed by Reeves. The film does indeed start with Bob already starting in a bad place, but not in the worst place to be sure. There is something quite powerful in Reeves work as honestly has more than there usually is to him, and it is quite disconcerting as he slowly picks these apart from his performance. It is true that this role, a bit like Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love actually, makes Reeves's weaknesses into strengths, but Reeves does deliver past that, even if that happens to brilliantly utilized, giving a compelling portrait of a man's mental demise due to drugs.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Clive Owen in Children of Men

Clive Owen did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Theo Faron in Children of Men.

Children of Men is an excellent film set in a world that has been torn about by the sudden infertility of seemingly all women.

We first meet Theo at the beginning of the film as he is merely watching the news of the youngest person in the world dying while he is getting coffee. We see him adding alcohol to his coffee outside before the coffee shop he was just in explodes from a bomb, either from terrorists or the government it is never told. From there on he is are average man who we are to follow through the world that the film creates. Theo seems simple enough and Owen is great in establishing his character's rather bored way through life. There isn't anything passionate as he maneuvers through the day and even after narrowly avoiding being blown up there is not much happiness in having survived that. Other than portraying the fear of the immediate moment of the attack Owen is very effective in establishing as this as a more ordinary occurrence than it should be in this world because of his nonchalance towards it afterwards. The most notable thing about Theo early on is Theo's exasperation with it all.

The most notable thing about Theo is more of who he knows than who he is actually is. First with his off-beat hippie friend Jasper (Michael Caine) as swell his estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore) who is a the leader of a terrorist group opposed to the government. In his scenes with Jasper Owen is quite good in just exuding a bit of joy showing that his time with his friend is probably the only good time he really has in life. On the other hand it is a particularly disconcerting thing when he goes off to a meeting with his wife as she has thugs abduct him using a van and bag over his head bringing him to a hidden location. Although he is seeing his wife for the first time in some time their relationship is not delved into too much in terms of Owen's performance. Instead Owen rather properly expresses just the surprise and disbelief at the manner in which she is meeting her. Also there really is not a great deal of time for anything else as she technically only met him to have him procure papers for a woman who needs to get out of England.

Theo is able to procure the papers through his well to do cousin and accepts the mission apparently due to the money he is being offered for it. This does not appear to be the only reason as Theo contacts Julian again for the mission. Owen's is terrific as he alludes to a more active Theo of one time as he expresses affections to his wife, carefully as though not to make it too obvious yet suggests the history the two one shared. Owen seamlessly switches to his usual sardonic callousness though after she rebuffs his semi-attempt at rekindling due to memories of their dead son who died in a flu epidemic. Suddenly though as they begin to try to transfer the woman Julian is suddenly killed in an attack. Owen is truly outstanding in the scene as Julian is laid to rest as he first keeps his usual uncaring reserve. After he walks away from the rest of the group though Owen is absolutely heartbreaking as he so naturally loses that reserve to reveal the overpowering grief that Theo actually feels over his wife's death.

Soon after this point Theo finds out that the woman in fact is pregnant and takes it upon himself to get her to safety after he finds out that it was his wife's own terrorist group that killed her. Owen only continues to be exceptional in portraying Theo's reactions to this apparent miracle. When he sees that she's pregnant Owen is flawless in expressing the wonderment of seeing the impossible one again, and gives so much weight to what it means within the film's world. Owen's performance technically becomes even more reserved technically speaking since Theo has to continue right through trying to help the woman find safety while avoiding being killed by either the terrorists or the government forces. Owen does not necessarily have even a lot of lines, which is interesting because I would not describe Theo as a stoic individual, but that never matters as Owen's performance stays consistently compelling throughout the film.

The second half of the film there continues to be great moments for Owen's performance and it is astonishing to note how simple in terms of what Owen needs to do yet how powerfully he does it. One such scene that is fantastic is as Theo overhears Jasper tell the story of how he met Julian. Owen does not say a thing yet his expression conveys the heart beak and the emotional loss as Theo merely is given the moment to reflect on the past. An equally poignant moment comes when Theo must witness yet another of the people he loves being killed. Owen reaction charges the scene with such an intense emotional power as this time he is forced to once again grieve while being charged with anger for the act as he seems to hold in all in well wishing to scream out his pain. Also the pivotal moment of the birth is brilliant played by Owen. All the nervousness, unease, and even humor as he tries to talk her through it, then when the baby comes Owen once again shows the wonderment of the moment.

This an interesting challenge against Clive Owen since everything about Theo as a character is technically just accepted and even his character arc never stops to next the stop. The film never needs scenes specifically to develop Theo's character though because of Clive Owen's work. He flawlessly creates the character through the lines, and shows him grow as a hero without needing to have an obvious scene to make this change. Owen's work here is one of the moment, and that's all that he needs to be. The way he makes every scene have a greater impact through the simplest aspect of his performance. Even the way he moves around in the action set pieces is notable, yet never distracting, as he just again adds to this visceral punch. Owen is never overshadowed by the vision of the world he only amplifies it with his performance that shows an actor does not necessarily need the normal associated elements of a great performance to give a great performance. Well Owen gives a great performance, and I'd say one of the very best of its sort.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Damien O'Donovan in The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley is an effective enough film that depicts from basically from a small scale Ireland's attempt to gain independence from the British.

Ah yes Cillian Murphy the man whose made my personal top tens three times yet I have never reviewed him. Well now here's the review to rectify this problem. Murphy has played some off-beat roles like in Batman Begins as the Scarecrow, but even with his unorthodox appearance he actually does often play the any man as well. That is the case here as he plays Damien O'Donovan an Irish doctor who in the opening of the film is just one of the men of the community. There is nothing particularly distinctive about him at the beginning of the film as he is just one of the men harassed by British soldiers after they caught playing game with the British claiming it is in violation of the ban on public gatherings. The film actually keeps Damien as such for almost the entirety of the film as director Ken Loach purposefully shows the community together in their fight. 

Murphy is technically just one of the men in the group although he is of course given enough focus to be clearly lead. Murphy's performance is rather low key as this is not depicting the struggle of one seemingly larger than life man a la Michael Collins, who actually gets derided in this film. Despite the nature of his part Murphy never is overshadowed by the vision of the film. He allows Loach's to take this approach without question, as Murphy never goes for a grand standing performance, instead he stays very much in making Damien an average man in the situation. Murphy is terrific though by just realizing this average man in a very honest fashion. Whether it is his interactions with the other people or with his wife Murphy just has a genuine authenticity in his performance. There is nothing that seems forced about the man, and in addition, despite technically being a simple character, Murphy never makes Damien seem less than he should be.

Murphy by depicting Damien in just a realistic fashion makes the later actions of his character have the greater impact. If Murphy had made him the larger than life man when the rebellion takes place everything, interestingly enough, might have seemed simpler as it would have been a hero defeating his enemies. This is not the case though and Murphy does not accentuate the heroic qualities of the rebellion in his performance. This is particularly notable when they start to take a violent approach which includes executing those who were involved with the executions of Irish men. Murphy is great in this scene where Damien performs the killings on the men as he portrays it less like a folk hero, but rather more of a man who has never killed a man in his life. Although Murphy portrays a clear devotion to the cause he still portrays the mental anguish as Damien is finally takes a life for his cause.

After the bring the British to negotiations and they are given a form of independence a divide breaks with those who either think it is not enough freedom, or they also desire to introduce communism into Ireland. Damien is one of these men who refuses to become peaceful even after a form of peace has been created. Damien is one of the voices of dissent and again Murphy stays very much in the mold of keeping Damien just a man rather than necessarily a great leader. Murphy is effective in his delivery as he does not make a grand speech, but still the emotional statements of a man with the utmost conviction in what he believes. Murphy is good though by perhaps suggesting the weaknesses in Damien's abilities to change the mind of the others, including his brother, that not only fails to convince them but causes him to alienate them from his cause as though they were never even on the same side to begin with.

Cillian Murphy's performance artfully matches Ken Loach's vision for the film which is presenting the fight for Irish Independence from a more modest perspective. Cillian Murphy always reinforces this idea through his unassuming yet driven performance. The power of his performance comes from always representing Damien's journey of a normal man who has strong convictions. One of his best scenes that reflects this is his last scene when Damien is about to be executed for attempting to rebel against the new Ireland and refusing to tell where he has hidden his weapons. Murphy is quite out of the ordinary in this last scene because he actually does not present Damien as a man defiantly facing the executors. Instead he's rather heartbreaking by showing a man reacting with the fear of a man who is about to be killed as he does cry out, and breakdown in the moment. Murphy gives a remarkable performance as he makes the ordinary compelling.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Ken Watanabe in Letters From Iwo Jima

Ken Watanabe did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying General Tadamichi Kuribayashi in Letters From Iwo Jima. 

Letters From Iwo Jima is an excellent film that depicts the pivotal battle for the island of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese. 

Ken Watanabe plays the Japanese General in charge of the defense of the Island of Iwo Jima which soon will be attacked by American forces. Watanabe has an interesting role as he plays who would technically be the unseen and unknown villain in most World War II films set in the Pacific theater. Watanabe does not portray the General as villain working for an evil regime in fact he is quite the opposite as Kuribayashi first arrives on the scene. Watanabe carries himself with a strong commanding presence as the General begins to instruct the men. Watanabe though along with the command has a considerable natural warmth he brings in the part to. There is a naturalism optimism about Watanabe’s manner in the scene and effectively allows Kuribayashi to be the inspirational figure he should be upon his arrival.

This is rather interestingly undercut by the fact that one of the first things we hear from
Kuribayashi is his thoughts which is basically accepting his fate which is to die defending his country. Watanabe is very affecting by having this somberness that is pervasive in his performance. Watanabe is particularly good as he very quietly suggests this in his scenes with his men, but as a man trying to cover up his own hesitations. Watanabe is very good as he depicts Kuribayashi as a devoted soldier as he fervently attempts to make the right adjustments to make the island's defenses as formidable as he is able to make them, but also a man who is well aware of the futility of his objective. Watanabe make this inconsistency entirely understandable as he portrays Kuribayashi as having the convictions to his men, yet in his personal feelings reflect a reasonable man.

Watanabe has two especially great contrasting scenes where he motivates the troops. The first time is just before the beginning of the battle and it's a terrific scene for Watanabe as he shows Kuribayashi attempting to reinforce the ideals of Empire. In this scene Watanabe has a great forceful intensity as Kuribayashi fulfills this particular role. There is a coldness though that Watanabe suggests that this is obviously not the true nature of the General. Watanabe shows the effectiveness of this sort of speech, but there is one truer to his heart near the end of the film when Kuribayashi rallies his men for a final charge. Watanabe presents a far greater depth of feeling showing now that all of what the General is in this speech as he does believe it will be his last stand to protect his family. It's a powerful scene and particularly remarkable due to the contrasts that Watanabe presents between the moments. 

Kuribayashi is not always fulfilling his role as General though and the film does leave several moments where Kribayashi reflects back on his life including his time in America. The brief flashbacks are limited but well handled by Watanabe. He does well to make it at different Kuribayashi in the past. Instead of the somber man Watanabe instead portrays the enthusiasm of youth living in a very different world than the one he ends up in. The majority of the scenes though do not necessarily depict what Kuribayashi is thinking. Watanabe is excellent in these moments and there really is not a lot being said. In fact some of the scene merely depict him maybe reading or writing letter that is all. That is all that Watanabe needs though as he creates such poignancy in these moments as Watanabe reflects the happiness of the past while facing the sorrow of the present. It's wonderful work as he gives life to the letters from Iwo Jima.

Watanabe's screen time is somewhat limited due to the nature of the film where he goes back and forth between several men involved in the conflict. There is enough focus on Kuribayashi and perspective given to him that I don't hesitate calling him lead though. Watanabe's presence is felt throughout, and you are never at loss for where Kuribayashi is in terms of dealing with the battle. The film returns back to Watanabe's ongoing depiction of the psychological wear of the battle, which is not helped by men committing suicide against his orders, as the American front line slowly comes closer to his headquarters. It's a rather remarkable portrait of the career soldier devoted to a cause he does not truly believe in. Watanabe seemingly with such ease makes that conflict understandable realizing the human, really rather gentlemanly, nature of the man within along with the fearless convictions of a man of duty.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006: Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon in The Departed

Leonardo DiCaprio did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, Sag and BAFTA, for portraying William "Billy" Costigan, Jr. in The Departed.

This is actually one lack of an Oscar nomination that is extremely easy to figure out since DiCaprio was nominated for his performance in Blood Diamond. It is rather odd to note, something I don't know if that many people remember, is that DiCaprio was actually double nominated at Sag. The problem was he was not double nominated in lead, but actually received a nomination in the supporting category which is about as ridiculous a case of category fraud as one can imagine.

Anyway DiCaprio takes on the role of the cop who goes undercover as a criminal that was originated by Tony Leung in Infernal Affairs. Of course one of the reasons The Departed works as a remake is it smartly takes many different approaches around the same plot. One of these is in the character of the cop which is written and played very differently by DiCaprio than it was by Leung. Leung's take on the character was more based around the exasperation of being an undercover cop, as he's already been one for 10 years by the time the plot begins. The Departed differs greatly here by starting at the beginning of his time on his assignment and going from there. DiCaprio's work therefore is one quite the different wavelength as we start with him in the film as he basically is told by his superiors that he'll never make it far in the police department with his background so he might as well settle for being an undercover cop.

DiCaprio is quite good in his earliest scenes in establishing Billy Costigan's always troubled personal background before he even gets into the deeper trouble of playing the criminal. DiCaprio carries himself with a quiet intensity to start reflecting the difficulty in Billy's life even before he was a cop. DiCaprio importantly in this scenes creates an emotional honesty about Billy before he must go into a world of constantly duplicity. Unlike his co-star I am about to get to, DiCaprio portrays Billy as someone frankly we as the audience can trust. Although obviously he will be hiding a lot as the film progresses, DiCaprio does not really hide Billy from us. He plays him as a genuine man whom is easy to sympathy from the scene where Billy is given the blunt news by his superiors. DiCaprio effectively makes the hero to go into the dark world of crime, which cannot be said about someone else who plays the criminal pretending to be the cop.

Matt Damon did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Staff Sgt. Colin Sullivan in The Departed.

Matt Damon's performance also greatly differs from his Hong Kong counterpoint, although in this case that is not necessarily a good thing. Andy Lau played his corrupt cop working for the crime boss as confidant and cocky but quite charming. Damon on the other hand plays him as confidant and cocky but not at all charming. Well that's not exactly quite right because I suppose Damon plays him as a guy who thinks he's quite charming but the problem is he really is not. It's hard to tell whether or not Damon made this an intentional part of the character. The only thing is he's just extremely unlikable here as Damon plays him as an especially contemptible sort. Damon pushes on the charm offensive like Sullivan really is always trying extra hard to be this flamboyant guy everyone loves, but there's just something so obviously despicable in his excrement eating grin.

Damon and the writing seem to purposefully paint Sullivan as a despicable villain who is there just to be hated. Damon seems to try every attempt to distance us from his own personal story, and simply look at him as the rat Sullivan is. There is a persuasive smugness in his depiction of Sullivan that makes you just simply want to see something bad happen to him sooner oppose to later. The thing is though Damon does not even quite make Sullivan the type of villain you love to hate, because he's just so cool while being just so evil at the same time. At the same time Damon also makes Sullivan seem as pathetic as he can as well as he seems to imply that's he's a spoiled brat more than anything. This is seen from his just look of pouting when clearly being impudent, or possibly even worse when he basically throws a hissy fit at Mark Wahlberg's Dignam when he won't give Sullivan what he needs to be able to find DiCaprio's character within the criminal organization.

Speaking of which DiCaprio makes use of the scenes, not in affairs, as Billy attempts to join Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)'s criminal organization by connecting with his old neighborhood. DiCaprio is effective in these scenes by performing a fairly subtle act that he puts on as Billy becomes the criminal. DiCaprio does not accentuate it too much which is important since it should be believable, but he does carefully differentiate Billy's act from who Billy truly is. In the act DiCaprio is effective in creating the thug personality for Billy. That being the guy who stays pretty reserved most of the time, but is quick to fits of anger whenever he is even slightly insulted. DiCaprio is good in showing kinda the act as he has the moment where he purposefully kinda show Billy creating point of having a short fuse while technically not really being the thug that would connect with. DiCaprio is great at kinda making Billy seem like the not especially smart thug, while still conveying the true intelligence of Billy underneath.

DiCaprio's best moments though are portraying the absolute truth about Billy as he must do his job which is basically going on routine beatings and sometimes killings with Frank's thugs, while avoiding being found out which would cause his death immediately. DiCaprio portrays the growing stress of his predicament throughout the film incredibly well. Some of DiCaprio's best moments are his reactions as he sees the heinous acts depicted by Frank and the others. Honestly I would say DiCaprio even does his very best to make Jack Nicholson's over the top performance work by giving realistic reactions to his insanity. I won't say DiCaprio is able to completely make up for what Nicholson does, because Nicholson goes a bit too far with some of the mannerisms he throws in, but DiCaprio steals the scene with his down to earth performance. DiCaprio's fear and intensity in fact is worth of something far more intimidating than some random weird looks, and making rat faces that Nicholson does in the interrogation scene.

Now Damon is also decent enough in playing against Nicholson as well, and although I might sound otherwise, I don't think Damon's performance is bad. He is good at being a guy you want to see some very bad things happen to, but in this vein his performance does not exactly go anywhere either. It seems like the film is attempting to show that perhaps Sullivan does have some regrets about his corruption, as well as feels like he is becoming isolated, the problem is Damon does not follow suit at all. Damon just seems content in being the jerk, and there is never a hint of regret in his portrayal, which was the most remarkable quality in Andy Lau's version of the character. Of course it did not need to be exactly regret, it could have been something even less which would just be in creating a sense of Sullivan becoming alienated from all others, but Damon does not even try to convey this. He's content with just being sleazy scum which he's not ineffective at to be sure, but the role does have deal of potential he never bothers to try and find.

DiCaprio though gives a powerful portrayal of simply the weight of having such pressure on the man for so long. DiCaprio is fantastic in internalizing the devastation in Billy as even greater tragedy befalls. DiCaprio is creates such a poignant depiction of a hero. DiCaprio expresses the emotional turmoil wonderfully and even does manage to bring a bit of charm to the role. He does not overplay it, that would be all wrong for Billy, but he just adds another reason to sympathize with Billy's plight throughout the story. DiCaprio earns the tragic nature of the character, and makes his exit devastating as it should be. Now Damon, unlike Lau in the original, is not standing up in his final scene so to speak. The only thing that can really be said when Damon makes his exit is a loud "FINALLY" due to just how unlikable he makes Sullivan. The ending is satisfying because Sullivan simply gets his comeuppance, but perhaps there could have been more complex emotions elicited from that scene if Damon had bothered to bring more complexity to the role. Damon never matches DiCaprio, and unlike the first film where you could become invested in both characters this is far more black white. The film could have hit even greater heights if both characters where as compelling as DiCaprio's Billy Costigan, but that never happens as DiCaprio gives a great performance while Damon does not, although he technically does not give a bad one either.
(For Damon)
(For DiCaprio)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Alternate Best Actor 2006

And the Nominees Were Not:

Hugh Jackman in The Prestige

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed

Ken Watanabe in Letters From Iwo Jima

Clive Owen in Children of Men

Jean Dujardin in OSS 117: Cairo Nest of Spies

Predict Those Five or Predict These Five:

Christian Bale in The Prestige

Matt Damon in The Departed

Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others

Cillian Murphy in The Wind That Shakes the Barley

Keanu Reeves in A Scanner Darkly

Or predict both separately if you want. I'll give you two requests.