Marlon Brando received his fifth Oscar nomination for portraying Maj. Lloyd 'Ace' Gruver, USAF in Sayonara.
Marlon Brando certainly had some unforgettable characters he originated on film in the 50's like Terry Malloy, and Stanley Kowalski unfortuantely Ace Gruver is not one of these character. Ace Gruver in fact is not much of a characters. A West Point graduate, a son of a General, the type of pilot his name suggests, as well as a rather simple southern boy apparently.
Marlon Brando takes a rather odd approach, for Brando anyways, in his portrayal of Ace. Although he usually portrays not the smartest men, such as Stanley Kowalski and Terry Malloy, he usually portrayed some type of intelligence in them. Ace though he honestly seems to portray as a bit of a dunderhead, and he certianly does not add to it with his rather odd southern accent he uses, which is a bit too laid back sounding.
I think what Brando was trying to do, was play the character as not a smart guy, but unfortuantely Brando undercuts his own portrayal. Most of the time he back a big dumb guy look, I really can't find a better way to describe it, but at times Brando shows frankly more intelligence than there should be in a few moments that honestly seem to contradict the rest of his performance.
Now Brando never keeps his performance consistent because of the reason i have said before, which really makes it so he cannot really create a convincing portrayal overall. I never knew what made Ace what he was, or who he was really, because Brando wants to portray him so simply most of the time, and when he tries to add complication it seems out of character, rather than a deeper side of the same character.
Brando really does not succeed in other facets of his performance either. He is not really believable in any of his relationships whether it is with his American girlfriend where it becomes hard to understand why they ever liked it each since they are so exceedingly unnatural together. Than his relationship with the Japanese dancer Hana-ogi (Miiko Taka) which needed to be really authentic since it is pivotal to the film, but it never is.
Brando fails to ever really convey honest emotion in these scenes, and the relationship never becomes believable or even really romantic. It does not even matter that Taka is not very special in her role, Brando usually can be fascinating on his own, but here he never is. He never has a single moment that really comes off the screen, or resembles his excellent performances in Streetcar, and On the Waterfront.
I will grant that Brando could have been worse. I cannot deny some some charm behind his expressions in this film. Unfortunately his performance though never becomes anything special. It remains an inconsistent effort, as well as a lacking effort. He never really makes Ace Gruver compelling character, and this remains one of if not the least impressive performance of the earlier career of Brando.