Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


I just watched the Gary Oldman version of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and got to thinking of the power some actors have that others just don't. I saw the Alec Guinness version when it first aired, and his inhabitation of the role of George Smiley was so complete, it will always be his in my mind. Period. Gary Oldman did an excellent job, but I never got past the idea that it was Gary Oldman. Of course, he wasn't helped by a director and editor who seemed to think only in 15 second scenes.

But the thing is, I've seen other shows where an actor makes everyone else around him or her seem like children playing at the game. Like in "Spooks", a British series about intelligence agents. The lead is a good-looking guy played by Matthew MacFadyen with a good bit of flair. But then came a couple of episodes where Hugh Laurie guested...and he owned the shows he was in without a bit of effort. From the second he was on camera, he was the boss.

Sandra bullock had the same power. She saved "While You Were Sleeping" from its second-rate director and pale male leads, and made you believe Kiefer Sutherland would spend years looking for her in the vile remake of "The Vanishing". But then again, she couldn't save "Miss Congeniality 2".

Of course, it could just be that the camera likes certain people so much, they come across better even if they don't have great acting ability. Or the actor may fit into one role perfectly while be inept in another, no matter how good they are. Marlon Brando, for instance. He's considered one of the greatest film actors ever and got two Oscars, deservedly, but he sucked in "Guys and Dolls" and came damn close to ruining "Apocalypse Now".

Then there's the case of "The Last Time I Committed Suicide", which had a beautiful script and excellent turns by Thomas Jane and Keanu Reeves but was flat out ruined by the director. I was so angry at what happened, I refused to see anything the director has done since...yet Jane and Keanu managed to come out unscathed.

Of course, Keanu brings the same questions to my wonderings. He was great in "Speed" and "Matrix" but when he tries Shakespeare or anything that requires he come across as intelligent, he's in over his head. He's not a stupid man; I've seen some of the books he reads, but his film persona is dumb-blond, even though he's brunette.

I dunno...I didn't DISlike this version of TTSS. It's just...y'know, I don't think the style was right for it. Le Carre's stories require thought and concentration and space to enjoy the puzzles they're building, and this version didn't have of that. It was style for style's sake, in too many spots, with unnecessary setups in others. For instance, when Smiley finds out his wife is fooling around with a colleague, the director has several different angles of Smiley coming to the realization, cutting back and forth between them, nonstop, refusing to let us feel the shock of the betrayal. It was just wrong.

The Alec Guinness version was languid, in comparison, but by the end, I was so caught up in it I didn't have any nails left to chew on.

That, to me, is the mark of a good movie. And a great actor.

No comments: