Friday, 7 March 2014

Alternate Best Actor 1996: Liam Neeson in Michael Collins

Liam Neeson did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite being nominated for a Golden Globe, for portraying the titular character in Michael Collins.

Michael Collins goes for mainly the fairly simple hero based  approach of showing the efforts of the Irish to gain independence. It isn't anything great, and Julia Roberts is in it for some reason, but I found watchable it enough.

Liam Neeson probably has had one of the stranger career paths for an actor as in the early nineties he was probably best known for starring in prestige pictures like Schindler's List then he transferred to the go to man to play the doomed mentor like in Gangs of New York  for example although still with the occasional portrayal of a lead in a prestige picture still like Kinsey, but now he is a go to bad ass for any action movie. Although a strange course perhaps it should not be looked at too surprising because take a look at his performance as Michael Collins an Irish freedom fighter of the early Twentieth Century. After all Michael Collins is an Irishmen with a very particular set of skills, and if you're English you better let Ireland go or else he will look for you, he will find you and he will kill you.

Seriously though Collins for most of the film is a rabble rousing heroic figure who will do everything he can to fight for the cause, and bring others to fight for it as well. Neeson definitely brings what the part need which is a lot of passion and energy to every scene. He's very believable as the freedom fighter because he just throws himself into every moment of it as fiercely as he can. Most of what he does is just basically calling upon his men or doing things himself to further cause with just a moment or two that are a bit quieter to make a potential wisecrack or two. Neeson is able to dial up and dial it down with great efficiency and he does a very good job of being a true hero type which is very much fitting to the way the film chooses to present Michael Collins.

There were potentially some room for more to the character but the film tends to avoid it. It delves a little bit into a romantic relationship with a woman named Kitty but since she is played by Julia Roberts those scenes are just kind of distracting. Neeson is sweet and charming enough in them, but honestly it really does not matter whether he chemistry with Roberts or not as the film does not really care too much about that relationship when you get right down to it. Another area that would have been interesting to explore is when Collins is sent to be a negotiator to England to work through a treaty to free Ireland. This could have shown Collins in a different light as he speaks and negotiates with the English, but the film chooses to not show these scenes leaving Neeson still very much restricted in his portrayal of Collins.

The film does not stop there though as the finale of the film depicts a rift between Collins and some of the Irish over the treaty that leads to a civil war. Collins does not really have a change of heart towards violence or anything else rather it shows that Collins believes that they have gotten what they need so the violence simply should stop nothing more. The film's decision to present this view makes it so once again Collins just needs to stay in that hero mode, just instead of arguing against the English he instead must passionately argue against his brethren. Neeson keeps it consistent though and he stays effective in bringing the needed zeal through the proceedings. Neeson in fact makes it very easy to sympathize with Collins in these late scenes because he only continues to present Collins as man fighting for the same cause the whole time.

Although Michael Collins is not presented in a particularly complex way I really can't blame Liam Neeson for any of this. Whenever there is a chance to explore Collins in a fuller fashion the film seems to actively avoid it to keep him very bluntly as a hero. The film easily could have created a journey where Collins perhaps changes his views or something, or even just changes his views slightly, but the film chooses instead to present Collins as being right from the beginning to end. All of this has to do with Neil Jordan's writing and directing though and none of it really comes down to Neeson's performance since where Collins would have to be a little different the film refuses to show it. In the limited scope given to him though Neeson does give a strong performance by bringing such a righteous intensity, and unquestionably making Collins the hero the film desires.

28 comments:

luke higham said...

Louis: I'm changing my predictions
1. Ewan McGregor
2. Chris Cooper
3. Kenneth Branagh
4. Liam Neeson
5. Leonardo Dicaprio

Matt Mustin said...

Haven't seen this, but Neeson's usually pretty reliable, even at worst. What did you think of Alan Rickman?

luke higham said...

Louis: rating as well for Rickman, Thoughts & ratings for the rest of the cast and Liam Neeson in Kinsey.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I'm changing my predictions too;

1. McGregor
2. Branagh
3. Cooper
4. Neeson
5. DiCaprio

Matt Mustin said...

I'm actually really looking forward to your review of DiCaprio, because I know you hate Baz Luhrman.

Michael Patison said...

Same here:
1. McGregor
2. Cooper
3. Cooper
4. Neeson
5. DiCaprio

RatedRStar said...

I will destroy Baz if you dont Louis =D, speaking of Neil Jordan, did you enjoy any of Neil Jordans films Louis?

RatedRStar said...

I dont know why but I kinda like seeing Neeson as the hero all the time, it makes his films usually watchable =D plus he has one of the most soothing voices ever, plus for a guy born in 1952 he has aged amazingly well lol.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Louis, could I have thoughts and ratings on:

Dean Stockwell in Blue Velvet

Owen Wilson in Midnight in Paris

Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard in Public Enemies

Ken Watanabe in Inception

And the cast of the Thin Red Line.

Sorry if that's a lot!! Thanks Louis

Lezlie said...

You know, I'll change too XD

1. McGregor
2. Cooper
3. Branagh
4. Neeson
5. DiCaprio

Michael McCarthy said...

I haven't made mine yet but I just finished Hamlet so now I can...

1. Ewan McGregor
2. Kenneth Branagh
3. Chris Cooper
4. Liam Neeson
5. Leonardo DiCaprio

I'll actually be really upset if Leo's not last, otherwise it can be any order.

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Rickman was a lot like Neeson, I like what he did in combining the pompousness of his character with some genuine measured passion, but again I felt they could have gone much further with the character then they did.

Luke:

Rickman - 3.5

Rea - 3.5(Rather liked his portrayal of the sneaky inside man, and I would have preferred that he did not exit the film especially since the person he portrayed actually lived through the whole ordeal)

Quinn - 3(He was fine enough in creating both a believable friendship and later divide with Neeson, but he was mostly overshadowed)

Roberts - 2(Honestly she could have been worse. Her accent is dodgy though and it is just distracting to see her here)

Neeson - 3.5(I'm a bit annoyed by his casting here only because Dylan Bake, who is in the film, looks just like Kinsey. Anyway Kinsey I think fails somewhat because the film never really says what it exactly thinks about Kinsey leaving Neeson somewhat limited in his prospects. I still thought he gave an interesting and effective enough of performance within the limitations)

There are some other good actors like Charles Dance and Brendan Gleeson but unfortunately they aren't given anything to do.

RatedRStar: I actually liked this film to a certain degree. I also like The Crying Game and Mona Lisa. I don't love any of them but I do like them.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar:

Stockwell (I may review him so I'll at least wait until then)

Wilson - 3.5(The best performance as a lead in a Woody Allen film where the actor is covering for Allen himself, because Wilson doesn't try to imitate Allen)

Depp - 3.5(Dillinger feels somehow incomplete in the film, but I do feel Depp does an admirable job of playing up a certain charisma with the danger of the character. Also it was nice to see Depp actually trying to do something rather than recycling the same old shtick)

Cotillard - 4.5(To me she was the memorable part of the film. She managed to even overcome the weakness of the relationship in terms of the writing through her performance, I found her scenes in the police interrogation particularly effective)

Watanabe - 4(A fairly good example of getting something out of barely anything. Brought the right power and presence to the part)

I need to re-watch the Thin Red Line.

Matt Mustin said...

Louis, I know this has been mentioned before but I would recommend watching Chronicle if you haven't, if only for Dane DeHaan's performance.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

@Michael: If Leo isn't last, THE BLOOD OF THE INNOCENT SHALL FLOW WITHOUT END- I mean, I'd be very upset.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Louis, could you consider reviewing Jack Lemmon in The Great Race? I've heard he's a riot in that.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

^ He is.

Kevin said...

Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on Tom Cruise and Matthew McConaughey in Tropic Thunder, as well as the cast of Burn After Reading, excluding Pitt?

RatedRStar said...

This is off topic Louis, but going back to Henry Brandon, if he was round about 22 years old, I wonder why he never quite made it big since he seemed to be very talented, maybe he could have been outed since he was gay and it could have hurt his career, Have you seen him in any other films (how did he do?)

Anonymous said...

I quite liked Brandon in The Searchers, he was appropriately scary and threatening.

Michael McCarthy said...

So off-topic....I just met Ian McKellan...that is all...

Louis Morgan said...

Matt: Possibly although supporting 65 supporting is pretty stacked, but I think when I do it I'll probably combine the Hill guards to create more room.

Kevin:

Cruise - 4(It's great to see Cruise give such an intense performance in the service of pure comedy)

McConaughey - 4(An indication of things to come I think, and I loved pretty much all of his scenes the hilarious highlights being his crisis of conscience well checking out magazine covers, and his reaction when he thinks Speedman has murdered a prostitute)

Malkovich - 4(Rather funny performance but then again John Malkovich yelling tends to come off as pretty funny. His scene with Pitt is probably the best moment in the film)

Jenkins - 4(A very nicely handled straight man role by the ultimate straight man. Jenkins nicely brought just a little sanity to the mix, and I always feel sorry for his character)

Simmons - 3.5(Not exactly unlike J.Jonah Jameson but it is a fun piece of work with Simmons providing appropriate annoyed confusion to his role)

McDormand - 3.5(She was fairly endearing and I liked her scenes with Pitt in particularly but I did think she got overshadowed by many of the other characters)

Swinton - 3.5(Surprisingly small amount of screentime actually but she is enjoyable in doing her wife. I found her best moment to be her scene doing her job as a children's doctor)

Clooney - 2.5(Did wacky better in his first collaboration with the Coens. He always seemed to be trying very hard to be funny while many of the other actors simply were)

RatedRStar:

I've seen other films with him in it like To Be Or Not TO Be, Beau Geste and Joan of Arc but the only one I noticed him in was The Searchers where he played fairly simple role but I agree with Anonymous in terms of his success with the part.

From his success in Babes in Toyland I would say his true calling was as a comic actor, but from his filmography it does not seem like he really returned to comedy often so unfortunately I think he might have been a misused character actor who just sorta got lost in the shuffle.

Anonymous said...

What did you make to the rest of The Searchers cast minus Mr Wayne (Bane Voice)

luke higham said...

Louis: your ratings & thoughts on Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener & The Duchess.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Confession time: I hate The Searchers.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Ward Bond I feel is the only person who, outside of Wayne, is really worth talking about and I may review him for 56 supporting. I will say that Hank Worden is terrible and his whole character is dated in the worst kind of way.

Luke:

The Constant Gardener - 4.5(Interesting to see him play a nice guy and he proves himself capable of being the good guy. He is very moving in his portrayal of his character's grief and determination. I actually think his performance makes Rachel Weisz's character have a greater impact than she does herself)

Duchess - 4(Although I felt the film itself to be pretty stale Fiennes at least brought some energy by playing a cold man with the right fierceness and style)

Anonymous said...

Could we have your thoughts and ratings on the following Cloud Atlas alumni?

James D'Arcy

Jim Sturgess

Hugh Grant

Keith David

David Gyasi

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Louis, what are your ratings and thoughts on the cast of Carnage?

Louis Morgan said...

D'Arcy - 4(Rather quiet work in the scheme of things. He adds a great deal by bringing an emotional resonance in his scenes with his poignant performances)

Sturgess - 4(The straight forward leading man in his stories and he really does it well bringing the right enthusiasm to the proceedings)

Grant - 2(Most thought they just sort of made him up in various ways, and doing so was somewhat effective. He did not do much for me performance wise though)

David - 2.5(He's fine enough in his main role but still he's pretty standard and forgettable)

Gyasi - 2.5(I thought he was fine, but just did not leave too much of an impression)

Matt:

Waltz - 4(The best of the four because he really delivers each line with a great snark, and captures the right tone with his cold clinical delivery)

Reilly - 3(I did not buy him exactly in the role, and I do feel he sometimes went a little broad at moment. Nevertheless I do think he was still enjoyable in parts)

Winslet - 2(I felt she was completely overshadowed by the other three, and when she gets drunk her performance turns for the worse rather than the better)

Foster - 4(Plays nicely kind of the opposite of Waltz yet a compatriot in terms of the fierceness of their separate beliefs. Instead of coldness Foster plays up a passionate determination although nicely undercuts it with a certain desperation)