David Bowie is actually only in about two minutes of the film, if even that, in his role as missing F.B.I agent Phillip Jeffries. He appears mysteriously out of an elevator in F.B.I headquarters, rambles seemingly incoherently then disappears without trace, yet leaves an ever lasting memory in this time. Of course credit must go to David Lynch's brilliant set up of the scene, but this scene would not be what it is without David Bowie. Bowie is of course known best as his work as a musician however onscreen he has a singular screen presence, an almost otherworldly quality. This is most useful in this role as one sits up and takes notice the moment Bowie ever enters the frame, Bowie's mere existence amplifies the already enigmatic nature of scene. It is not merely about Bowie being so fascinating in it of itself, but as his performance as agent Jeffries. The beginning of which is Bowie portrayal of the state of Jeffries which seems to be a of a man who sees far beyond one's normal existential crisis. The very particular emotional distress Bowie exudes isn't of just a time traveler, but of a man who has been through hell learned terrible secrets behind his whole universe and is here to tell the story. There is a painful urgency yet confusion that Bowie brings in every bit of that strange anguish he delivers in the role. As he makes Jeffries this man barely in his place with only this minor grip on reality trying to explain his story before disappearing while we witness a blood curdling scream by Bowie. To make everything all the more fascinating though Bowie uses a southern American accent in the role, which is some strange masterstroke. This only makes the already effortlessly intriguing Bowie all the more captivating. Bowie in just a couple of minutes, again if that, leaves an undeniable impression, creating one of the most enthralling figures in the grand Twin Peaks universe.
See, I've already gone places...
A moment later though Wise instantly switches to a heartbreaking tone in the purity of the despondence that he shows in Leland as he profusely apologizes to his daughter for his earlier demands. Wise in this moment is completely earnest and sympathetic in his portrayal of such a tender sorrow as Leland attempts to explain himself. This is extremely inconsistent from the previous scene yet this is not a flaw in Wise's performance but rather the truth of it. Wise in that moment shows that being absolutely the purest form of the true Leland Palmer, which is as this loving father. A loving father that Wise does bring such a terrible shattered warmth, as he shows a man attempting to genuinely care for his daughter. Wise though makes every moment of it seem as though he on this horrible edge, as he suggests Leland is always a second from a complete emotional breakdown. Wise is harrowing to watch though as he does not make this in any way false, despite what we have previously seen, as he presents something being deeply wrong in this yet there is an absolute truth in his guilt. Wise in doing this though realizes the grave predicament that Leland Palmer exists in.
The predicament is not that Leland is struggling with his worst impulses but rather that he is literally possessed by an evil spirit that thrives on the suffering of humans. Although the idea of the demon inside can be taken as a metaphor, but in this case it's not. Now the literal in itself is potentially a ridiculous concept but it never feels as such due to the brilliance of how Wise portrays it, as well as another reason which I will get to soon. Wise though creates this state of the man which he does not show as a Jekyll and Hyde but rather something much worse. Wise depicts it as a man essentially being torn from within as his own self is constantly corrupted, which he is occasionally released from yet he can do nothing about it. A genius element in Wise's work in that, even though it's not even required, he actually in many ways allows for both the literal and metaphorical interpretation of Leland's mind. Wise's work is outstanding as he manages to find all that makes of the man without losing control of it. He realizes so effectively this confusion in himself in every moment as in his physical manner there is always this horrid pressure to this as a man who seems never at ease whether he is giving into his shame, to the monster within, or if even he's not directly either. Wise portrays a man who is simply wrong from the inside out yet makes sense of this insane idea. Wise is downright amazing in every scene as he brings the warmth in portraying Leland's love for his daughter, but he is also terrifying as he brings about her own corruption and death. Wise's work in the television series was great, and this performance is an incredible companion of that work as he reveals the internalized horror of the man.