As a fan of films, people always ask me which actors I really like. Usually they have to act in diverse projects, not shy away from blockbusters or smaller films, spice it up with accents, and not fall for typecasting. We have all been disappointed by great actors who start well and let us down. Mine recently being Johnny Depp, whom I followed from his early days in Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Edward Scissorhands, through to Chocolat and Pirates of the Caribbean. And it is the never ending Pirates that really gets on my tits. I get why sometimes you need to do the money making projects to afford to do the smaller independent ones, but still you can at least hang on to some integrity. And I may offend some of my readers, but I wish they would just hang Jack Sparrow and be done with it.
Also, like a lot of guys my age, I had a bit of a crush on Claire Danes from her My So Called Life series, playing opposite Leonardo in Romeo and Juliet and even in later films. However, I really do wish they would just lose Carrie in some Homeland op, and save us her drama and tears. And to be brutally honest I gave up on that series ages ago because her character was just so riddled with cliches. Actors, like footballers, should know when to call it a day and bury their contracts.
Enough of my pet peeve, let’s get onto an actor I still like a lot and saw recently in one of his newer outings. We all know him as the “Returning King” in Tolkien’s fantasy trilogy, but I will take a look at two of his non-blockbuster pieces.
After a hard work week I decided to sit down with a couple of bottles of local beer and watch The Road. My tipple of choice was a good one as the film is very bleak, and whisky would not have been suitable for the mood of the film. Set post-apocalypse, it centres on the journey of a father and son, trying to survive in a world where most have not. Viggo Mortensen‘s character and his son, played by the talented up-and-comer Kodi Smit-McPhee, have a many-layered relationship. The father takes the responsibility for accepting their plight, which has been made worse by the actions of his wife. The bleak present day is juxtaposed with very rosy glass tinted flashbacks, to when they were a family together. I find it very apt that his wife is played by Charlize Theron, as she can be seen at the moment in the new Mad Max film.
The Road really centres on the relationship between the father and son, which can, through the film’s arc, often be at a crossroads. The main cast is cut down to just them two. Other than Charlize’s supporting turn, a few notable cameos are made by Guy Pearce, Robert Duvall and Michael Kenneth Williams. A lot of my friends, including a leipglo columnist, found the film too bleak; but it really was this many-creviced relationship of father and son and the cracks in the film’s mood that kept me there till the surprising end. It did have narrative elements of other post-apocalyptic movies, to name-drop The Book of Eli, about it. However, the tone was very much out there on its own, almost like the two central characters in the wasteland they journey through. It is a gritty, mainly un-action-movie-like journey, and not at all sexy-cyber-punk-esque. A so-called “road to nowhere” movie that became a favourite poison to wash down with a good bevvie.
I guess it is films like this that make me really appreciate the depth of Viggo’s skills as an actor. One other notable film is Eastern Promises, a very brutal look at the underbelly of the Russian mafia. The film starts with a midwife trying to find the family of a baby whose mother dies during birth. From then on the film becomes a narrative embroidered in blood, rape, crime, brotherhood, deceit, murder and discovery of both chiaroscuro (dark and light) sides of family and London. Viggo, like Naomi Watts who plays alongside him, are mesmerising characters, whose stories have your stomach turning with mixed emotions. Although this is nothing new for a Cronenberg film, it must be the most brutal role I have seen Viggo in.
Other notable, lesser known films you dear readers could check out of his, and give us your opinion of, are Hidalgo, The Indian Runner and A Dangerous Method. I am likewise eagerly waiting to see how he fares in Captain Fantastic (as an aside, do not be put off by the superhero-sounding title) and Den Menschen so fern (Far from Men). I have not seen all his back-filmography, but I have not seen a bad film of his yet. Even in the riskier ones, as above, I have found his character and choice of film sometimes very daring. Good actors to me have to be brave.