Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Left-field Garfield destined to spin success for Webb

In light of Sony's announcement that the Spider-Man franchise would receive the reboot format which reinvigorated both Batman and Bond franchises, the appointment of (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb was greeted with quiet approval. An inexperienced director who nevertheless oversaw an innovative 'story about love' which had even the most ardent rom-com hater cooing with admiration, he boasts Amazing Spider-Man credentials.

As ever though, the position of director is inconsequential in comparison to which actor would be slinging webs around New York City. There was the obvious (Logan Lerman, Aaron Johnson), the risqué (Josh Hutcherson) and the unimaginable (Jamie Bell). And there was also the unknown, Andrew Garfield.

Well, unknown to the mainstream and A-list-obsessives. Garfield, contrary to erroneous reports and his accent, is an (Epsom-raised) American who has carved out a versatile niche for himself in quality British television (no, really) such as Boy A and Red Riding. Film-work has begun to escalate, with supporting turns in Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs and Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus preluding two forthcoming (and high-profile) roles in David Fincher's The Social Network and Mark Romanek's adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's bestseller Never Let Me Go. The latter opposite English roses Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley. Spider-Man Mk.II will finalise an enviable triumvirate which ensures Garfield will soon be a stranger to anonymity.

In Red Riding: In The Year of Our Lord 1974, Garfield's Eddie Dunford features in almost every scene, embodying a cocksure naivety which diminishes the further his journalist crusader's audacity reaches in a bid to expose corruption and more within the West Yorkshire police.

Utterly magnetic and chic sporting flares, a slick-yet-shabby haircut, leather jacket and bushy sideburns, he drinks pints and whiskey recurrently and shags two women in under 100 minutes. Sound like the antithesis to Roger Moore's seventies Bond? He even impersonates Sean Connery's brogue Scottish drawl, 'Here to shee the Old Man, Mish Moneypenny.'

Dunford's characteristics mirror the Spidey-skills Garfield will embody when he dons the red and blue lycra, albeit with profane language. So in effect the LA-born thesp has been unknowingly warming up for the role which sparked countless 'Andrew who?' queries.

The Red Riding trilogy was released theatrically Stateside at the beginning of March this year. It mustn't be a coincidence, such is the beacon of light Garfield is amidst the eerie gloom of Northern England, that a little under four months later, he was unveiled as Sony's latest wall-crawler?

Most curious revolving Garfield's casting is the evident emphasis on his natural wit. Tobey Maguire's Spider-Man, excellent portrayal though it was, was prone to criticism in reference to incessant moping as some yearned for the wise-cracking persona that graced the 90s cartoon series and Marvel's most revered comics. It's not so much a challenge posed, as free reign allotted to Garfield when one views his charisma.

That he's an unknown quantity is irrelevant when one recalls Christopher Reeve or Brandon Routh's casting as Superman, Cubby Broccoli and Harry Saltzman opting for Connery as Bond, or Eric Bana going green for Hulk. The unknown quantity is invariably the ace up a film's sleeve.

Having recently turned 27, Garfield will actually commence filming at an older age than Maguire did at the beginning of the last decade. His late-20s do however belie a post-grad freshness (weariness for those of us with an unhealthier bank balance) which won't cause too many concerns for the makeup department as they bid to preserve that youthful complexion.

At his worldwide unveiling, Garfield emerged from darkness to be greeted with a multitude of flashing cameras, the perfect analogy for his emergence from the unknown into the A-list stratosphere. He appeared understandably nervous and flabbergasted - just as well that he wasn't required to field any questions. But ironically that nervousness, juxtaposed with his imposing six foot frame, further illustrated just why left-field Garfield had director Webb spun.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Dapper cheekiness leaves Leo in the shade

A belated comment maybe, since the hyperbole surrounding Inception emanated months ago - and its momentum displays no symptoms of subsiding - but having seen Christopher Nolan's seminal sci-fi twice now, it seems pertinent to comment on the quality of the acting chops displayed by certain members of the established cast.

As impressive as it was first time, the emotionality that was ostensibly at the crux of Inception initially struggled to register, and as a consequence subordinated the effect of Leonardo DiCaprio's Cobb. DiCaprio excelled of course, but not to the extent of Joseph Gordon-Levitt as 'Point Man' Arthur and Tom Hardy as 'Forger' Eames.

Gordon-Levitt was an eleventh hour casting after James Franco (Spider-Man, Pineapple Express) was unable to commit to the role due to scheduling conflicts, and predictably now having seen Gordon-Levitt's performance, it's hard to envisage Franco possessing the same dapper wit and likability.

Pivotal to Arthur's function was Hardy's Eames, who emerges as the surprise package of a film where the unexpected should be expected. Hardy had already embodied the unhinged characteristics in Bronson as the notorious and eponymous prisoner Charles, having displayed a kempt suaveness in small yet noticeable supporting roles in the likes of Layer Cake and Marie Antoinette. And the retention of his Hammersmith accent enhances the impudence and witty killings he metes out to whoever's subconscious, because it's a dream (or is it?).

The ying-yang dynamic that generates between Eames and Arthur is written with such a measured drollness that it's easy to yearn for more from them. But it makes the sporadic bursts of action all the more enthralling, and it's that balance which Nolan strikes that makes them an entertaining duo. They don't get sidetracked.

Incidentally, on the second occasion I saw Inception, the poignancy was more visceral. During the first viewing the dream within a dream within a dream within a dream concept wasn't distracting, so perhaps expectations of Nolan dealing with guilt and sentimentalism so successfully in Memento, The Prestige and his Batman films were overly demanding. However those moments exhibited by DiCaprio and Cillian Murphy's Robert Fischer in the final act are empathetically moving, with the aid of Hans Zimmer's evocative score.

But still, it is the character acting of Gordon-Levitt and Hardy which rates highest. The emotional core of Inception is indeed portrayed in a beautifully heartfelt manner by DiCaprio and Murphy, with the former aided by an ambivalent and duplicitous Marion Cotillard. But forgive the shallowness, but it's the entertainment factor which Gordon-Levitt and Eames produce that makes them so outstanding. These two previously indie-merchants have now, at the first time of asking effectively, slotted as comfortably into the mainstream stratosphere as a sleeping extractor. That their chiselled mugs will doubtless feature in the headline films year after year is as much a dream for the girls as it is the acting enthusiasts.