In Praise of Colin Farrell
I just finished watching Peter Weir’s The Way Back (2010), a terrific film featuring beautiful cinematography, strong acting, and an inspiring story about human endurance. I realized that Colin Farrell, who makes a valuable contribution, is recognized far less than he deserves. Farrell is in fine form here (one of his best performances): the Russian accent, the tattoos, the brazen attitude. He really sinks into the role without drawing attention to himself, and he is, as a result, completely believable. Why does it seem like people rarely talk about this relatively young (though soon to turn 35) Irishman? Well, they once did. Farrell broke out in 2000 with Tigerland (I still haven’t seen it, but everyone speaks highly of his performance). He was quickly the new hot thing: starring as Jesse James in American Outlaws (2001), opposite Bruce Willis in Hart’s War (2002), and opposite Tom Cruise in Spielberg’s Minority Report (2002). None of these films are particularly great (Spielberg’s is pretty strong), but Farrell had the looks, charm, and charisma to light up the screen. He completely carried Phone Booth (2002), starred opposite Al Pacino in The Recruit (2003), and had some fun as a villain in Daredevil (2003) and as a lead in Swat (2003). I actually haven’t seen Phone Booth since Brennan and I watched it in theaters (9 years ago…wow), but I found it to be a pretty intense ride. I can’t really speak about the quality of the film without viewing it again. The other films, however, are clearly fluffy entertainment and do not require heavy-lifting-acting. Farrell was an in-demand star who could hold his own even in the worst films. His off-screen exploits and bad-boy party image tended to take attention away from his rising on-screen talent, but the actor balanced it out with solid work in the wonderful Intermission (2003) and the quiet A Home at the End of the World (2004). Around this time, things slowed down. Farrell was no longer a heartthrob or an action star; perhaps people just moved on. I haven’t seen the film, but by all (or most) accounts, Oliver Stone’s Alexander (2004) was an utter failure. This certainly didn’t help, and while Farrell starred in Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005), his career was on a downturn. Ask the Dust (2006) failed to earn impressive notices, Michael Mann’s Miami Vice (2006) was another failure, and Woody Allen’s Cassandra’s Dream (2007) certainly wasn’t going to turn things around. Yet, Farrell bounced back, and when it happened, it was because of his acting ability rather than his public persona. He was incredible in the small but potent In Bruges (2008; an amazing movie). He surprised many when he won the Golden Globe for it, but no one could argue. Farrell was back, and we were happy to have him. He does great character work opposite Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart (2009). He has Horrible Bosses and Fright Night coming up this summer. He’s starring in the remake of Total Recall, and he was just cast in Seven Psychopaths with Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Chris Walken (um…wow!!). It looks like he’s here to stay.
Farrell is really a phenomenal talent. His work in The New World, In Bruges, Phone Booth, and of course The Way Back, shows such range. With an enviable energy level, he can dig into very different characters and pull them all off with style. He can do believable accents in a way that doesn’t seem forced. And he certainly doesn’t rely solely on the accent; he takes on the body language and expressions which accompany the character. I look forward to his future work and hope people keep him in their film conversations, because I think he’s earned it.