November 6, 2006

Admiration and Awe For Christian Bale

christianbale.jpgLately Cinecultist has been on a bit of an inadvertent Christian Bale kick, though it's been a welcome close-up on this seriously Method thespian. It seems that with every role he takes on, Bale sinks his teeth in and refuses to let go. We can always expect scary but fascinating work from him.

Over the weekend, CC watched on DVD his particularly freaky performance in The Machinist. A Memento-esque psychological thriller directed by the always excellent Brad Anderson with Spanish funding and shot in Barcelona, this will always be known as the movie where Bale lost so much weight for the part, he looks like a concentration camp victim. It's really phenomenal he can even lift his head or move across the set, let alone give the powerful performance he delivers. After seeing the movie, CC had so many ideas swirling around in our head that we went back to reread our friend Kristi's review in Reverse Shot when the film came out. Not surprisingly, she nails the idea that the movie's structure and Bale's performance are incredibly deliberate, leading not to a surprise ending but a "shrewd" and "quiet culmination." Bale shows very realistically--in a hyper-stylized movie--how insomnia and guilt can lead a robust man into insanity.

harsh2.jpgOur other encounter with Bale recently was in his forthcoming film, Harsh Times which comes out this weekend. Again, this is a role where Bale is not playing someone glamorous or attractive, his character Jim Davis is highly flawed. A former Army Ranger back from the sands of Iraq, Jim is trying to get reestablished in Los Angeles, find a job in law enforcement and bring his Mexican girlfriend over the border. However, a familiarity with the underbelly of LA and a destructive friendship with Mike (Freddy Rodriquez from Six Feet Under) keeps leading Jim back to the wrong decisions.

Bale's character is not one we'd like to meet in a dark alley. Even his ever changing accents from homeboy patois to Army speak formality, barely mask his menace. When CC saw the nonfiction film The Ground Truth earlier this year, it was clear that life in war for the soldiers is a true hell but Bale's searing performance brings it more home than even a documentary can. He's incredibly brave to exhibit himself that nakedly on screen. Harsh Times isn't an easy movie, but it's powerfully upsetting.

All of this Bale goodness has CC thinking about trying to catch his performance in The Prestige before it leaves theaters and anticipating his part in Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There. Obviously directors like Haynes, Anderson, Christopher Nolan, David Ayer (Harsh Times as well as Training Day) know they're getting the goods when they cast Bale in their movies. Now if only the Academy would figure that out too.

Posted by karen at November 6, 2006 5:09 PM