Thursday, 12 December 2013

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1964: Nigel Green in Zulu

Nigel Green did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Colour Sergeant Frank Bourne in Zulu.

Zulu has a pretty strong ensemble that does nicely to distinguish most of the smaller characters from one another. There are plenty of good performances to be found from some of the random soldiers with brief yet pivotal moments, then there are the larger parts some with personal characters arcs like Jack Hawkins's drunkard pastor, James Booth's cowardly soldier who finds courage due to the battle, Patrick Magee's overworked surgeon. Although most of these performances are worth mentioning my favorite of them all is very easily Nigel Green's performance as the one man who does not seem the slightest bit afraid of the upcoming battle that seems will result in their deaths.

Nigel Green's performance is being the ideal British soldier who stands by his beliefs with an unending courage. This courage though is something quite unassuming in Green performance yet always something quite strong and noticeable. Green is terrific in portraying the convictions of career soldier in a believable fashion that shows a true spirit of determination. One of Green's best moments is when he faces down Hawkin's pacifist pastor. The Sergeant defends the actions of all the men through a psalm he knows quite well. Green brings a certain delight as the Sergeant defends his chosen profession, but also importantly reinforces the idea that Bourne absolutely has a fervent belief in his duty as a soldier.

One of the great aspects of Zulu is it does allow the audience to take the tale in a variety of ways. This comes to play greatly in the character of Sergeant Bourne. Bourne is by the books down the line even getting a man to button his jacket properly before the battle is about the begin. The film, and Green's performance derives some nicely placed humor with the extreme nature of the character at times to alleviate the tension in just the right way. The best moment in this regard is Green's delivery when Bourne is calling off the names of the soldiers to find out who's alive. One of the men does not respond but Bourne insists that he is alive, Green is so serious in his delivery that the makes the moment hilarious.

Green never goes too far nor does he ever make Sergeant Bourne a laughingstock. Green is easily just as good at showing the fierce conviction of the soldier. Green is sort of comforting here as well by being believable man who can stare death right in the face and not blink an eye. Bourne is not an emotionless husk even if he is a man of his code though. Right in the same roster scene that has a very funny moment it is also a somber scene as Bourne's calls names that lack a response. When there is no response Green is rather poignant in the subtle way that you can see that Bourne is affected by the loss, but he simply it would be against his code of conduct to break his purposefully strict demeanor.

Nigel Green apparently specialized in these sorts of roles and that is not much of a surprise considering the way he looked anyway, but also he is very good at it. Green is excellent here for a variety of reasons. One being that among the large ensemble he knows how to stand out whenever he has a chance, without feeling out of place within the picture itself. The greatest strength of his performance is that he makes Sergeant Bourne into a real man here opposed to a caricature which was a serious danger for this character considering that he does indulged in a little bit of comedy. Green does not falter once giving an effective portrayal of a career soldier and succeeds in giving the best performance of the film.


RatedRStar said...

I loved how commanding he was, he was like " Sir yes sir" without any fear or objection =D.

Michael Patison said...

It seems you like the rest of the ensemble well enough. I do too. Other than Green, who I completely forgot about, I also like Magee and Booth.

I only half agree with Hawkins. While the storyline is nice and Hawkins handles the drunkenness well, I just couldn't believe him as Swedish in the least. Also, I think Ulla Jacobsson's lack of acting ability sort of took away from the potential of some of his scenes.

Louis Morgan said...

He was miscast, but since he did not try to act Swedish, and gave a good performance otherwise I did not really mind.