Monday, 12 February 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2017: Hugh Jackman in Logan

Hugh Jackman did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying X-24 and James Howlett aka Wolverine aka the titular character in Logan.

Logan is one of the best films within the superhero genre by expanding its limits through its approach as a neo-western in its depiction of essentially the "last ride" of the Wolverine.

There is perhaps no actor closer sewn to their role in this genre than Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine as their connection goes beyond just a few entries on the actor's filmography. Jackman before the first X-Men film in 2000 was an unknown theater actor who had only previously been in a couple obscure Australian films. Jackman was not even the first choice for the part only coming into contention through a recommendation by his friend Russell Crowe who turned down the role. Jackman himself was not even cast until two weeks of filming after Dougray Scott dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. Jackman was not even initially embraced given his unknown status, and his tall stature compared to the more Danny DeVito sized character of the comics. Jackman's charismatic yet appropriately gruff performance in the original film not only assuaged the majority of such concerns but also led to his breakout as a star in general. Jackman is a notable actor who seems to have appreciated the character that brought his mainstream success far more than many do. His general attitude is to wear it as a bit of a badge of honor showing no hesitations in reprising the role. Of his 18 years in the spotlight Jackman has been onscreen in the role in at least some way for half of them having played the role nine different times. In the public eye he's gone from that Aussie no one knew about hired past the last second to becoming synonymous with the character.

Now there have been some high and lows throughout this tenure, most often stemming from the quality of the film itself. Jackman usually has been a consistent enough factor in these films even when the films themselves have not been great. His sort of basic achievement in the role shouldn't be overlooked. Jackman after all is one of those interesting cases of an actor who broke out really in an against type role. One should have expected Jackman to be the charming romantic lead, but before Jackman could even be pigeonholed into such a role he had already proved himself capable enough as as this rough and often brooding anti-hero. One never thought when even watching his first film, "this guy must come from musicals", rather Jackman established himself as this character and his various facets therein. Although I won't say these films always explored these facets all that well, Jackman always seemed more than eager to himself. Jackman with that in mind obviously took great care to fashion a proper sendoff for the character and his final performance as him that fully explored the role. Re-teaming with The Wolverine's James Mangold but this time both of them taking the next step which that film was allowed to take. This was not only in ensuring a r-rating that doesn't cop out with a ridiculous CGI robo-samurai but also in terms of aiming for a darker and more character driven story in general.

The film establishes this tone quite clearly from the opening scene which rather than some extravagant action sequence is rather a low down and dirty brawl between Logan and a group of thugs who try to lift the wheels off his leased limousine. This makes the fight between Logan and Lady Deathstrike look like a choreographed dance, as here there is nothing but sloppy brutality as Logan struggles to kill the thugs. Jackman's own approach to this is wholly different even in the way he initially approaches them. Jackman rather than the Wolverine swagger of old just portrays Logan as trying to calmly talk to the guys out of the fight before they shoot him. After that point Jackman portrays it as this instinctual reaction as he goes about killing the men. Jackman delivers no cool one liner and portrays no pride in this moment, just a sigh of sheer exasperation as he leaves the scene. Soon afterwards we see one of the common facets of Logan which his ability to endure pain. This is given particularly graphic detail here as even though he can bare the wounds they now scar him. Jackman's work has never been more visceral though in finding every moment of sheer physical torture as Logan treats his wounds. Every scream fraught with such agony by Jackman showing a man who doesn't seem to fully recover even as Logan's wounds seal.

Jackman is outstanding here in realizing the state of Logan as the film opens. He portrays the role as a man who essentially has had it with life, although he doesn't do this in as a dour of a fashion as one might expect. He depicts this in a more day to day sort of fashion and with this certain contentment within this state of not caring about anything. When we see him doing his job as a limo driver Jackman wisely doesn't excessively brood there. He depicts rather this resignation to what his life is now as he goes about making money in between visiting his old mentor Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who he lives with at an abandoned factory. Jackman captures this particular sort of weariness of life for a man who for the longest of time believed he had no way out of it. When he speaks of the past of the X-men with the professor or anyone else Jackman delivers these lines with Logan sharply brushing off any mention of it as a corrosive cynicism towards the past. Jackman shows in these moments Logan's way of coming to any type of grip with it which is almost too keep the past in the past by always reminding Charles that the glory days are gone. There is something especially harrowing in Jackman's approach of this by so quietly revealing this attitude of Logan's, as not a man who is actively troubled by his life, but rather passively so through the sense that he's ready to give up on it through a whimper.

Jackman portrays essentially an acceptance of death in Logan when he speaks to the professor by rejecting talk of the past, and trying to get the professor on their "future" of living their days in isolation in the ocean. When Logan speaks to the professor of this there is a bit of optimism in these early scenes however Jackman portrays this as a externalized rather than internalized optimism. He plays it as Logan granting this momentary encouragement for the professor rather than for his own benefit. Jackman delivers a gentle warmth in that moment but pointedly places within his relationship with the professor than towards Logan's own condition. This is more fully evident when asked about the idea to take a ship out into the sea, along with questions of Logan's single adamantium bullet he carries with him, by the professor's other caretaker Caliban (Stephen Merchant). Caliban reminds Logan of his failing health and confronts him on his plans of suicide. This is where Jackman reveals a real anger with his plight though Jackman depicts it as Logan lashing out to get Caliban to stop speaking. Jackman portrays this in a way of Logan as being well aware of his condition and his own choice but troubled when reminded of it. His anger is that just to stop being reminded of it rather than any sort of actual rejection of truth as Jackman reveals that resignation to be that of a man who knows he's going to die soon and treats the prospect as an inevitability. That anger though Jackman uses suggests there man be some fight left in Logan although very faint.

A complication towards Logan's life reveals itself when he is initially offered a job to transport a young girl Laura (Dafne Keen) to the border of Canada. This is later thrust upon him when Laura's guardian is killed and her only safe haven is with Logan and the Professor. Jackman naturally reveals that this resignation towards his fate leaves Logan rejecting essentially being the "hero" and helping Laura. It is only when they receive a direct threat from the Revers lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), who intend to take Laura, does Logan intervene. Jackman even portrays this is essentially a survival instinct at first, realized so well in one of my favorite moments of Jackman's performance where Pierce tells Logan that he's killed Caliban. Jackman in the brief instance as Logan reveals his claws to kill Pierce, after claiming to having killed Caliban, with do we see the return of his old fierce some rage, but this is quickly taken out of him when he's jumped by Pierce's men and beaten into submission. Laura is not just a random little girl but in fact Logan's pseudo-clone/daughter who is able to fight off the men and escape with Logan and Charles. Jackman is fantastic in this scene again by bringing such a desperation in the action sequence. There is no moment where he's the cool collected hero, rather he reveals within his physical unrest of a man just trying everything he can to escape.

The three manage to escape which leads them to go and attempt to bring Laura towards her safe haven, and in this we get further exploration between the two central relationships. In part we get Stewart and Jackman together and there is a richness throughout the film in their interactions. They make use of the fact that they've shared so many films together and bring that sense of familiarity in their performances. There is that hint of warmth even as the two seem to be at their lowest point in the early scenes, and use that so well in their dialogue between each other. They speak to one another with the right casual emphasis of two very old friends even as they writhe in different forms of anguish. The introduction of Laura changes this though as Charles tries to take on his old place as mentor towards Logan and attempts to convince him to help the girl. When Charles encourages Logan to do the right thing Jackman's reactions are remarkable as in every word you see the measure that it weighs on his mind. He never once shows him rejecting Charles's words even when he says he's not going to do anything, or that someone else can help, Jackman's face reveals the truth that the old man's words are finding themselves into his soul once again. Jackman in this brings just a bit of hope back to Logan, only a bit in their interactions. There's still a roughness yet Jackman brings just a little of that old Wolverine charm back particularly when the two speak of their old days at school revealing Logan as potentially finding a bit of affection rather only cynicism from the past. There's such a genuine heartfelt quality in the words the share as both Stewart and Jackman create such a powerful friendship between the two. When Charles dies by the hands of X-24, Logan's more exact clone, there is not one but two absolutely heartbreaking moments delivered so effectively by Jackman. The first when he quickly tries to deal with his friend's final moments in just a few seconds with "it wasn't me" where Jackman brings us Logan so earnestly trying to make him understand. The second being his eulogy for the Professor after burying him. Jackman is devastating to watch as he so convincingly internalizes the grief in his broken inarticulate delivery, and brings such a guttural sorrow as he cannot find the words for his friend.

The other relationship is with his sorta daughter Laura which Jackman initially portrays as this overt reluctance towards the girl. He doesn't depict this as insensitive in fact he takes quite the opposite approach in depicting Logan's frustrations around as fighting both with and against his nature at the same time. In one part showing just the begrudging motions in every interaction as though she is a burden, but with this temperamental attitude of a man haunted by too many deaths to want truly take another life into his hands. Jackman though is great throughout as he finds the better side of Logan constantly revealing itself in these interactions with her that gradually become more intimate. Although at first his delivery of every line to her is to the point, Jackman begins to reveal more concern and speaks with more tenderness in every successive scene. He starts to look at her with real care that goes beyond just the responsibility of any normal decency accepting essentially the role as her father as the two make their escape towards Canada. This eventually leads to the final act, which is the weakest portion of the film in just its final action sequence isn't as good as the rest, the introduction of the other clones is a little lacking, and extra plot points involving the central villain just feel unneeded. It doesn't become bad at all though particularly not due to Jackman's exceptionally devoted work. There's a great moment just before the final sequence where Logan speaks to Laura about his own demons from the past, and his plan to commit suicide. Jackman brings in his delivery just this vulnerability as he shows not only Logan recognizing his state more honestly, but also offers this openness towards Laura. That which reveals more closely his concern for her even if he is using it as a reason not to go with her across the border to Canada.

Of course instead of going off and committing suicide though Logan chooses to save them in one final battle which, despite being an action scene is astonishing acting by Jackman throughout. In one part the physical torture he undergoes has never felt more visceral than it does here as he reveals what every wound does to him, and throughout the battle portrays this decaying state of Logan. The only thing essentially keeping him going is when he finally fully unleashes that adamantium rage. This brings me briefly to Jackman's other performance as X-24 that is pretty straight forward as this rage monster. What's so effective though is the way Jackman differentiates the two. The rage in X-24 Jackman makes meaningless as this surface hollow anger, whereas in Logan's rage Jackman carries this palatable deeper emotion within every terrible cry. We see all the sorrow that as brought Logan within the anger showing a man in this state, and not just the beast we see in X-24. The greatest moment of his performance, that sends off the film on a high point, is after the battle is won though this leaves a dying Logan in Laura's arms. Jackman has never been more heart wrenching than he is here in gasping out the final words as Logan. As distressing as the scene is he finds a poignancy as his eyes only project the most genuine of love for Laura as she encourages her not to be the weapon she was intended to be. There is also this rather special moment in which Jackman's portrays this calm at the sight of death as this curiosity and discovery fitting for a man who has suffered throughout his whole life, yet only now is finding release from it. This is a great performance by Hugh Jackman as he explores the character far from the limits of the previous films, and offers a worthy sendoff for his long relationship with the role. He not only delivers his best turn yet as an actor but also the greatest leading turn in any comic book film.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you loved him and great review.
Louis: Your thoughts on the voices of Robert Shaw, Lee Marvin, Richard Burton and Tony Jay.

Psifonian said...

Best performance of his career. I've never been all that wild about Jackman or his portrayal of Wolverine, but this is shattering work.

Calvin Law said...

Hot damn. I knew he was going to get a 5, but this was way more ecstatic than I'd expected. I agree completely - I have no idea why I gave him a 4.5 when I first watched the film, maybe I took too much for granted.

Emi Grant said...

Louis: Which performances would you say that (along with this one) would be the Top 5 best leading turns in comic book films?

Luke Higham said...

1. Stanton
2. Bale
3. Jackman
4. Kang-Ho
5. Jane

Brilliant review and one of the most satisfying for me personally.

Calvin Law said...

Luke: 'greatest leading turn in any comic book film' puts him alongside Mortensen and Choi, I think that's nearly a guarantee of a top 5 position.

Calvin Law said...

My final predictions:

1. Gosling
2. Pattinson
3. Renner
4. Stan
5. Franco

1. Stanton
2. Jackman
3. Bale
4. Song
5. Jane

Mitchell Murray said...

I'll be reviewing Jackman in a bit myself, so as much as I'd like to chime in here I'm afraid I'll have to reserve my thoughts for now.

Michael McCarthy said...

1. Stanton
2. Jackman
3. Bale
4. Song
5. Jane

Luke Higham said...

1. Stanton
2. Jackman
3. Bale
4. Kang-Ho
5. Jane

Charles H said...

I've never liked his portrayals of Wolverine and the X-Men films in general, but this is easily his greatest work. Worthy five.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I haven't see it since it came out last year, but your review is reminding of everything I liked about the performance. Perhaps I should have praise him just as much as I did Stewart and Keen the past year.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Second only to Heath Ledger for me in terms of the greatest turns in comic book films. He's outstanding here, and this review was well worth the wait :)

Charles H said...

He's behind Ledger and tied with Morgan for Watchmen as my favorite comic book performance.

jerty beam said...

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Bryan L said...

Louis: Your 80s and 00s cast and director for The Place Beyond The Pines? With Rourke and Harrison Ford as Luke and Avery for the 80s. And perhaps Michael Angarano as AJ in the 00s

Anonymous said...

I should say I really enjoyed Stephen Merchants work and felt he turned what would be normally a pointless stock character into a memorable one.

Bryan L said...

Louis: Oh and whom would you consider Christian Bale and Andrew Garfields' respective contemporaries?

Anonymous said...

Ironically enough, two of the greatest comic book performances of all time have been given by Australians.

Louis: In your review, you mention brooding. Your top ten brooders of cinema?

Giuseppe Fadda said...

He’s brilliant, completely agree with your review.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your updated top ten Hugh Jackman moments.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Your top 20 moments from the Star Wars films, and your thoughts on the editing of A New Hope.

Nguyễn Ngọc Toàn said...

1st set:
-Gosling
-Pattinson
-Franco
-Renner
-Stan
2nd set:
-Stanton
-Jackman
-Kang-ho
-Bale
-Jane

RatedRStar said...

This is surely not real.... but it is..

Michael Fassbender is going to star in a film called Kung Fu Fury with David Hasslehoff, based on a successful kickstarter short film about a cop named Kung Fury who has to defeat King Fuhrer (Adolf Hitler)

I dont know what to say....

Emi Grant said...

We really need to start a campaign to get Fassbender a new agent

Luke Higham said...

Could be a cult film or an unmitigated disaster.

What on earth is Fassbender thinking of.

Luke Higham said...

Where the hell are these dream collaborations that some of us have been wanting for years. Still no Fassbender/Hardy, Fassbender/Nolan etc.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Shaw - (One of the greatest refined English accents you'd possibly fine. Shaw's voice alone seemed to capture a certain command.)

Marvin - (I remarkable voice of his in that it is a definitive sort of voice as he sounds so confident yet with this sorta casually drunkard quality to his voice.)

Burton - (A truly magnificent voice in every regard. One could almost use it as really the actor's actor voice of all voices.)

Jay - (Was there ever a more impressively deep voice than his? Not sure there might have been others who go as low, but not in such elegant fashion as Jay's one of a kind of voice.)

Emi Grant:

Including Manga.

1. Hugh Jackman - Logan
2. Viggo Mortensen - A History of Violence
3. Choi Min-sik - Oldboy
4. Robert Downey Jr. - Captain America: Civil War
5. Ryan Reynolds - Deadpool

Bryan L:

1980's Directed by Peter Weir:

Luke: Mickey Rourke
Avery: Harrison Ford
Romina: Mercedes Ruehl
Jason: Viggo Mortensen
AJ: James Spader
Robin: Scott Glenn

2000's Directed by Andrew Dominick:

Luke: Ethan Hawke
Avery: Brad Pitt
Romina: Salma Hayek
Jason: Jake Gyllenhaal
AJ: Dominic Cooper
Robin: Robert Carlyle

Well looking at it in sort of a Clift/Brando sorta way, where time of breakout is very important.

Bale:

Leonardo DiCaprio
Joaquin Phoenix
Cillian Murphy

Garfield:

Domhnall Gleeson
Chris Pine
Eddie Redmayne
Ben Whishaw

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

If we're talking about actors:

Daniel Day-Lewis
Montgomery Clift
Ryan Gosling
Joaquin Phoenix
Clint Eastwood
James Dean
Marlon Brando
Mickey Rourke
Viggo Mortensen
Tom Hardy

Tahmeed:

1. Final Luke/Vadar battle - The Return of the Jedi
2. "I Am Your Father" - The Empire Strikes Back
3. "I know" - The Empire Strikes Back
4. Vadar's death - The Return of the Jedi
5. Han and Greedo - Star Wars
6. Luke vs Vadar - The Empire Strikes Back
7. Death Star I Battle - Star Wars
8. Cantina - Star Wars
9. Watch the X-Wing Rise - The Empire Strikes Back
10. Two Suns - Star Wars
11. Obi-Wan speaking of the past - Star Wars
12. Yoda revealing himself - The Empire Strikes Back
13. Rescuing Leia - Star Wars
14. Using the death Star - Star Wars
15. Battle of Hoth - The Empire Strikes Back
16. Opening - Star Wars
17. Monster in the snow - The Empire Strikes Back
18. "I haven't heard that name in a long time" - Star Wars
19. Asteroid Field - The Empire Strikes Back
20. Emperor's temptations - Return of the Jedi

Jackman:

1. "So... this is what it feels like." - Logan
2. "There's Water" - Logan
3. Making Peace - Logan
4. Dinner Table - Logan
5. "It wasn't me" - Logan
6. Pierce claims to have killed Caliban - Logan
7. Tending to the professor - Logan
8. Angier reveals his "trick" - The Prestige
9. Argument with Caliban - Logan
10. First conversation with Laura - Logan

Star Wars:

The editing of the original Star Wars is one of its great facets, and along with Jaws and The French Connection is particularly influential in terms of its realization of pacing. This is particularly true in the action sequences which have this dynamic and fluid pacing that was rarely seen at the time, but though of course with its own influences after all it specifically uses the Kurosawa wipe. The whole film has that forward momentum even within every scene that doesn't linger defining real the modern blockbuster approach to editing, and this standing as a great example of it.

Luke:

This is a weird choice, but maybe he's using reverse psychology as this sounds like a bad idea whereas most of his recent failures, particularly The Snowman, should not have been that bad.