Saturday, September 19, 2009

Fracture and Breach

Two movies with a similar prime theme: an older (experienced) man versus a younger (cocky)

Fracture is the one that worked less well, I felt: Anthony Hopkins plays a man who murders his wife and is certain he can get away with it. Hopkins does yet another variation on his Hannibal Lecter creep. Ryan Gosling plays a young lawyer full of himself who needs taking down a peg or two (quite a few people in the movie try, but only Hopkins really succeeds).

The problem is that Hopkins is a totally unsympathetic character from beginning to end, even when he's beating Gosling at his own game. Gosling deserves being pulled down but he's actually the one in the right, so the audiences' sympathies are pulled different ways. More importantly, Fracture never quite takes off. Hopkins has things his own way for too much of the movie, and Gosling's character, for all the build up it gets as a super-whiz kid, doesn't really seem to have the goods. It's almost a matter of luck that he figures the problem out in the end.

Breach starts slowly, and seems as though it isn't going to gain steam, but by the end it has really gripped the viewer. For once 'based on a true story' doesn't mean a lack of dramatic impetus. Furthermore, Ryan Phillipe and Chris Cooper inhabit their characters thoroughly - Hopkins and Gosling, in the other film, seem more to be just performing their roles.

Cooper has always been able to play characters we find unpleasant without switching us off completely. We always hope for some redemption (there's none here, by the way). In this movie he's an FBI agent who's been double-crossing his country for decades, and no one's been able to catch him. Phillipe is given the role of being his stooge, pretending to be a lot dumber than he is, in order to bring him to heel. This requires the ability to be both quick on the uptake and apparently slow at the same time, and the tension frequently results from him playing out both sides of the character at once.

The person played by Cooper remains an enigma throughout, full of contradictions and frequently thoroughly nasty. It's an excellent performance. The movie is mind against mind - there's virtually no violent behaviour in it, and the only shooting occurs either on a target range or briefly at the end as an excuse to frighten the younger character.

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