„The Guilty” and the others. Ambitious solo performances30.12.2018
In a film based on a solo performance, there is no room to maneuver around plot holes or distract the audience from poorly written twists. On the contrary – the director has to serve a tightly paced and surprising story dominated by a character whom the audience will want to follow all the way to the end credits.
The Guilty (2018)
Gustav Möller’s thriller The Guilty, currently being screened in Poland, is an example of such a film. The Danish Oscar candidate is nearly perfect: tense, subdued, non-obvious, slow to reveal its hand. It’s smart entertainment that brings to the table something beyond a final twist. In this case, there would be no movie without Jakob Cedergren – the actor audiences might remember from Thomas Vinterberg’s Submarino, among others. Here he plays an emergency hotline operator. As the plot unfolds, Cedergren begins a one man investigation conducted via telephone. We see mostly his face, across which all the emotions in the world play out, but also his right hand which yearns to fill out the blanks in his story. However, the whole truth is revealed only during the final minutes of the film.
Getting caught in a trap, racing against time, and having to rely on your phone are classic tropes in solo performance movies. Buried, starring Ryan Reynolds, takes them to the extreme. There is no space here for any background. The protagonist is locked in a coffin and has only 90 minutes to escape. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like a particularly ambitious sort of entertainment, but the director, Rodrigo Cortés, mines the convention for absolutely everything it’s worth, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. He uses not only the common fear of enclosed spaces, but also creates a seemingly hopeless scenario in which even the tiniest detail can change the outcome.
Locke is not just the first film directed by celebrated British screenwriter Steven Knight, but also the first production in which Tom Hardy plays a regular person – as opposed to a gangster, a murderer, or a cartoonish supervillain. The trap into which our protagonist falls is not a locked room in which one awaits one’s death, but an SUV barreling down a highway that creates an illusion of freedom. Hardy is onscreen alone, but we are also treated to the voices of great actors, including Olivia Colman, Tom Holland, Ruth Wilson, and Andrew Scott. In order to make the film more realistic, the director shot the conversations live, keeping his supporting actors in a hotel and having them call Hardy on cue.
Moon is the directorial debut of David Bowie’s son, Duncan jones; his first and unfortunately only good film to date. The minimalist, well written science fiction drama focuses on the life of contract worker Sam Bell who is about to complete his 3-year-long mission to the Moon. Is there anyone else on the space station apart from the computer voiced by Kevin Spacey? Is he slowly getting paranoid? Or maybe he’s just seeing things? The answer eludes us thanks to the great Sam Rockwell who goes above and beyond, keeping the audience guessing and creating an unforgettable screen duet with himself.
All Is Lost (2013)
A lone sailor and his struggle with the elements. Here, he is played by Robert Redford trying to maintain control over a sinking yacht despite his advanced age. All Is Lost is a film that is not exactly unique – after all, we have seen this story quite a few times already – but makes up for it with its minimalist, original approach. No one asks the question “why?” or “how did this happen?”. What’s important is the here and now, the desperate fight for survival.
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