Thursday, 28 May 2015

Alternate Best Actor 2007: Cillian Murphy in Sunshine

Cillian Murphy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Robert Capa in Sunshine.

Sunshine is a decent enough space thriller about a group of astronauts' attempts to restart the sun and save humanity, although have to say Danny Boyle really goes overboard in the last act with his directorial flourishes seemingly almost to make up for the first two thirds of the film which thankfully lack his usual kinetic approach.

Cillian Murphy plays the mission's physicist there to operate the giant bomb which will revive the sun. Sunshine takes a similar approach to Alien, although does not do it nearly as well, in that it attempts to portray the crew of this spacecraft of science fiction in a down to earth way. This means that Cillian Murphy's Robert is only just about the lead since he does have to most personal focus in the film, but the early scenes in particular gives a fair amount of time to the the characters besides Capa. There is an interesting dynamic found with Murphy as Robert since he almost seems to have someone else vying for the lead role with Chris Evans's Mace, who is kinda the Charlton Heston there almost there to be someone who we know exactly where he stands since he makes it abundantly clear himself. The former and future superhero though is not the lead, even if he might be in most films, here instead we get Murphy as the lead who perhaps is best known for playing the Scarecrow in Batman Begins.

This is not Murphy going against his assumed type as the villain thanks to his angular and often gaunt looking appearance, although Capa is not a villain here. Murphy though does seem out of place in a heroic crew, and this works as just a visual way to show his distance from the rest of the crew since he is not an astronaut by profession. He simply does not fit in and Murphy amplifies this all the more with his distance he creates in his interactions with the other crew. Murphy does not play this as though Robert is trying to purposefully be cold or unfriendly with them, rather he exudes a natural discomfort fitting for a man who has simply lived a different life than his current comrades. This helps establish Robert's position on the ship where he's not the captain, and in no way is looked upon as a superior by the other, but he is given final say on the most important matters due to his expertise. Murphy creates this interesting dynamic in quite an effective though understated way as he makes Robert a separate sort from the rest.

The early scenes due somewhat reduce Murphy role because of this though since he does not interact all that much, that is until it decided that they should take a drastic action to potentially ensure the success of the mission. The decision is given to Robert and he rather bluntly makes the decision, along with a few other decisions of similar gravity throughout the film. It's again an interesting take, certainly unusual for a lead character, as Murphy does bring the same sort of bluntness with his performance as he does not portray Robert really dwelling on them for more than a moment. It's a precision that Murphy suggests, but it does not feel as brutal as it feels though. Murphy does not play it as though Robert is some uncaring or evil man by any means. What Murphy does instead is play into the intelligence of his character, as he makes the decision Murphy always alludes to Robert's complete understanding of the mission that propels him to make his decision in such a fashion. It's unique because Murphy manages to avoid seeming cruel by successfully showing why Robert acts this way.

I suppose Murphy also eases this all the more through the scenes where we get Robert's personal view. Murphy is especially good in suggesting the internalized unease in Robert as they come closer to the mission. When things start to go awry Murphy gradually reveals these more outwardly, although he does well to show that Robert only reveals this when he's either alone, or the situation is intense enough that he can't hide it. Murphy's performance works in amplifying the various actions scenes through his honest portrayal of Robert's fear throughout these scenes. These work particularly well for Murphy as he shows that eve though Robert is a man who makes calculated decisions, he's still a normal man when it comes to the life or death situations in the story. Murphy is very moving by slowly losing that reserve and conveying what every loss does to Robert's emotionally. He keeps building this up until the final minutes of the film where Boyle's choice of excessive editing undercuts Murphy's performance. Even as it is obvious that Murphy is trying to do something emotional with the rather explosive finale, he simply can't because every one of his image gets spliced away every split second. The impact of his performance is severely diminished. Even with that underwhelming ending, which has nothing to do with Murphy's own work, this is still a fine performance.

30 comments:

Matt Mustin said...

Ratings and thoughts on the rest of the cast, as well as ratings and thoughts on Michelle Williams and Patricia Clarkson in Shutter Island?

Anonymous said...

Also, what are your ratings and thoughts on Ruth Gordon in Harold & Maude?

Calvin Law said...

Louis thoughts and ratings on the supporting cast of Seven Psychopaths? As in the ones you didn't cover for 2012 alternates

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Who do we think out of the remaining 4, will get a 5? Methinks:

Reilly: 4/4.5
Hoffman: 5
Pitt: 4/4.5
Lau Ching Wan: Hopefully a 5

luke higham said...

Louis: I'm glad you gave him a 4.
Is Swinton a 4.5 now for Narnia.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I'm just dying for a 5 right now and it had better be Hoffman.
I'm actually wondering at the moment, whether supporting could equal '41, '87 or even '65.

luke higham said...

Louis: Your Top 5 Female Lead/Supporting Performances of 2011 & 2012 with ratings. Plus any other performances that would get a 4 or more from you.

luke higham said...

Louis: For the '09 ranking, that you posted a year ago, you actually forgot about Laurent and Kruger from Inglourious Basterds.

luke higham said...

Louis: Calvin Law is GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar by the way.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

@Luke: I think the following will get 5's in supporting:

Bardem
Jones
Finney
Zahn
Rockwell
Lynch
Foster

I am also starting to make my way through Hannibal the TV series. Dancy is surprisingly good, as is Fishburne, and Mads...well wait and see :D

Calvin Law said...

@Louis: Yeah and actually I might retire GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar now, just put all my requests down to Calvin Law :)

luke higham said...

Calvin: One performance missing from that list, that I personally am really hoping to see get a 5 from Louis is Timothy Dalton in Hot Fuzz.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Having recently rewatched Hot Fuzz, I could totally see Dalton actually winning.

Calvin Law said...

@Luke and kook160: Damn forgot about him haha, yeah Dalton is great, in fact the whole of the supporting cast in Hot Fuzz is great, one of the most quotable film of all time.

luke higham said...

Calvin: Now I really want '07 to beat '65.

Michael McCarthy said...

So I actually just watched The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance for the first time, and WOW is Jimmy good in it. I honestly think 1962 is easily more deserving of 10 lead reviews than 2007 is. Here would be my lineup:

James Mason-Lolita
Laurence Harvey-The Manchurian Candidate
Tom Courtenay-The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Oskar Werner-Jules and Jim
Henri Serre-Jules and Jim
James Stewart-The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Toshiro Mifune-Sanjuro
Richard Attenborough-The Dock Brief
Peter Sellers-The Dock Brief
Montgomery Clift-Freud

And Louis, since I know I requested Werner and Clift and it's such a strong year, if you only want to do five reviews I don't mind if you save one of them for a bonus review.

luke higham said...

Michael McCarthy: 1962 is too well regarded, for it to have only five, also I would say Mason and Courtenay are locks to be reviewed, so I do think it's a guarantee that there's going to be ten for that year.

Calvin Law said...

Don't forget Robert Mitchum in Cape Fear and (possibly) Ralph Richardson in A Long Day's Journey Into Night. I agree that Jimmy is by far the highlight of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it's such a great subversion of his usual character and upon reflection I'll give him a 5, making that his 9th 5 for me. I'm glad you mentioned Attenborough too as he's brilliant too.

Michael and Luke who are your top 10 for 1962 lead and supporting?

Michael McCarthy said...

I forgot Mitchum, for some reason my brain wanted to put him in supporting.

1. O'Toole
2. Mason
3. Harvey
4. Cortenay
5. Werner
6. Serre
7. Peck
8. Stewart
9. Mitchum
10. Lemmon

Anonymous said...

I don't think Louis will like Richardson in Long Day's Journey Into Night. To me he was too theatrical and Hepburn acted circles around him (she was brilliant, I don't care for the movie though). I hope Lemmon will remain in the top 5, he gave one of the most heartbreaking performances ever (and Remick is so underrated in that film, she was amazing).

Calvin Law said...

I don't think so either but there's always hope! Haha

1. O'Toole
2. Courtenay
3. Peck
4. Lemmon
5. Mason
6. Stewart
7. Attenborough
8. Werner
9. Richardson
10. Mitchum

Calvin Law said...

Also for supporting:

1. Sharif
2. Duvall
3. Sellers
4. Quayle
5. Rains
6. Ryan
7. Howard (in Mutiny on the Bounty, shite film but he is the best part, my favourite Captaom Bligh)
8. Peters
9. Guinness
10. Marvin

Calvin Law said...

Also Terence Stamp would be 7th I think

luke higham said...

Calvin: I'll just give my top 5s for now.
Lead
1. O'Toole
2. Courtenay
3. Mason
4. Lemmon
5. Peck
My 6th place at the moment is a tie between Stewart in TMWSLV and Mifune in Sanjuro.

Supporting
1. Ryan
2. Nakadai
3. Sharif
4. Sellers
5. Duvall

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Has anyone seen Slow West? I Saw it the other day and mostly disliked it.

luke higham said...

Koook160: Not yet, what were your thoughts on Fassbender.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Fassbender - 4: Refreshingly easygoing, despite playing a hardened killer. Dials back his usual intensity and plays it in weirdly effective nonchalant way. He still manages to sell the more serious moments in the end, however. One thing I should note is the critics who praise/criticize him for his "American" accent were watching another film entirely. His character is Irish and he uses his regular dialect.

luke higham said...

Koook160: Well I'm relieved that you liked Fassbender, which is the main thing.

Michael McCarthy said...

On the subject of recent films we've seen, I just saw Far from the Madding Crowd. I thought it was a bit over edited and some of the directions that were taken with the characters didn't quite work, but it was still beautiful to look at and filled with enough energy to keep me invested.

Louis Morgan said...

Slightly shorter responses since my originals were deleted.

Matt:

Byrne - 3(She's good in portraying an earnest empathy in her character)

Yeoh - 3(Underused really but she does add something merely with her presence. Also she reminded me a bit, although not enough, of Bruce Dern in Silent Runnings in giving that same wonderful fascination with plant life)

Curtis - 3(He seems cut short, and apparently he was, but Curtis handles the fascinating of the sun in an intriguing way)

Garity - 2.5(He's fine but does not get to make much of an impact)

Sanada - 3(Given far too little to do but I did feel he was interesting in the little he had)

Wong - 3(Also not enough to do, but he's rather moving in his emotional freak out scene)

Strong - 3(Mostly voice work but he's good at doing some evil fanaticism)

Evans - 3.5(He brings that needed confidence and tough guy presence with his performance. His performance is simple in the right sort of way as he just is the hero as he should be)

Williams - 4.5(Brilliantly ethereal work as she is so haunting yet almost magical in creating the fantasy of her character. Then absolutely delivers in bringing the blunt reality in such a disturbing way)

Clarkson - 4(Another memorable one scene wonder from a film filled with them. She fits the dream of Teddy's so well as she is so convincing in reassuring every little delusion he has)

Gordon - 5(Although I don't care for the film I can't fault her performance. After all she gives the best performance, I've seen of such a common character. That being the youthful wacky old person. Gordon though manages to make her feel like a real person despite the concept being all set for just being a caricature. Gordon though rises above that and gives great work here)

Calvin:

But if you abandon the name will Donald Sutherland ever get his due?

Cornish and Kurylenko - 2.5(They are both there just to fulfill the trope purposefully. They suit the purpose just fine)

Stanton - 3(I kinda wish he got to play Walken's part. Not that Walken wasn't already perfect, he was, but Stanton is also always great whenever he gets a chance)

Pitt and Stuhlbarg - 3(An enjoyable cameo and you could see a film from their perspectives)

Ivanek - 3.5(An entertaining straight man in the scenes with Harrelson I especially love when he refuses orders at the end)

Luke:

2011:

Actress:

1. Elizabeth Olsen - Martha Marcy May Marlene
2. Jodie Foster - Carnage
3. Viola Davis - The Help
4. Rooney Mara - The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (although I really should re-watch this one)
5. Meryl Streep - The Iron Lady

Supporting Actress:

1. Jessica Chastain - Take Shelter
2. Carey Mulligan - Drive
3. Marion Cotillard - Midnight in Paris
4. Jessica Chastain - The Tree of Life
5. Berenice Bejo - The Artist

And:

Kathy Burke - Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - 4
Fionnula Flanagan - The Guard - 4

2012:

Actress:

1. Naomi Watts - The Impossible
2. Jessica Chastain - Zero Dark Thirty
3. Emmanuelle Riva - Amour
4. Noomi Rapace - Prometheus
5. Quvenzhane Wallis - Beast of the Southern Wild

And:

Helen Mirren - Hitchcock
Kara Hayward - Moonrise Kingdom - 4
Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games
Helen Hunt - The Sessions

Supporting Actress:

1. Doona Bae - Cloud Atlas
2. Amy Adams - The Master
3. Linda Bright Clay - Seven Psychopaths
4. Gina Gershon - Killer Joe
5. Samantha Barks - Les Miserables

And:

Judi Dench - Skyfall
Shirley MacLaine - Bernie
Jennifer Lawrence - Silver Linings Playbook
Sally Field - Lincoln
Juno Temple - Killer Joe