Tuesday, February 7, 2012

CineCritical Spotlight: Michael Fassbender

I previously stated that CineCritical would look at 2011's male version of Jessica Chastain. No other man (besides Ryan Gosling) stepped into the spotlight with such authority. Fassebender, born in Germany to an Irish mother and German father, first appeared on screen in Band of Brothers, the HBO/BBC miniseries aired in 2001. It was not until 2008 that Fassbender gained much critical traction. He won a slew of awards for his performance in Steve McQueen's directorial debut Shame, a film about the 1981 Irish hunger strike. He has since appeared in and won raves for Fish Tank (2009) and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. He did not equal Jessica Chastain's film total for 2011 (seven), but Michael Fassbender made the most of his four features (plus an early 2012 release).

Fassbender stars alongside one-time It girl Mia Wasikowska in Cary Joji Fukunaga's Jane Eyre. The film is the sixth adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's celebrated 1847 novel. The film had the misfortune of being released in the spring (a limited run in March) and was well forgotten by the time awards season came. Mia Wasikowska won the lion's share of attention for her portrayal of Jane Eyre, going as far as to earn a shout out from Meryl Streep during her Golden Globes acceptance speech last month. Time Magazine's Richard Corliss named Wasikowska's Jane Eyre the fourth-best performance of 2011.

Unfortunately, neither Siobhan nor I have seen the film.

Released in June, Fassbender's next film is the fifth instalment of the X-Men franchise. X-Men: First Class breathes new life into the series after the disappointing X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006). Fist Class is a prequel, looking at the relationship between Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Fassbender), who becomes Magneto. The acting is certainly not the best part of the film (as many of the performances were slightly disappointing, in my opinion), but the screenplay is more cohesive. Matthew Vaughn, who directed Stardust (2007) and Kick-Ass (2010), also brings a more assured vision as director. It was this film that brought Michael Fassbender to international audiences.

Read Siobhan's review of the film here. It also ranked #6 on her year-end rankings.

Premiering at the 68th Venice Film Festival in September (winning a Volpi Cup for Best Actor) and screening at the Toronto International Film Festival, Fassbender won raves for his performance in Steve McQueen's second film Shame. Most of the hype around the film centred around the subject matter (sex addiction) and nudity (Fassbender's penis). Critics were able to look past the vast amount of nudity (there is a lot!) and see Fassbender's performance for what it is: brave and without ego. Somehow Fassbender did not receive an Academy Award nomination (one can assume his slot went to Demián Bichir in A Better Life). The film, which opened in November, lost some momentum after audiences began seeing the film. I guess the film just was not as controversial as the studio (Fox Searchlight) had hoped in order to generate box office revenue.

Read my review of the film here.

I have long been a fan of David Cronenberg, but his film A Dangerous Method did nothing for me. I did not even think it merited a review after seeing it. Viggo Mortensen stars as Sigmund Freud and Fassbender costars as Carl Jung. Critics have said that Keira Knightley's performance is one of the best of her career. I think A Dangerous Method suffered from a late release date (January 13) after it had screened in Venice and opened in the United States in November. David Cronenberg is a fantastic director, with Eastern Promises (2007) being the crown jewel in his filmography, but after casting Robert Pattinson in the forthcoming Cosmopolis you can colour me worried.

Michael Fassbender was once again in theatres in January with Steven Soderbergh's Haywire. The film is a vehicle for former mixed martial artist Gina Carano (and she kicks ass), but Fassbender makes the most of a limited role. Soderbergh keeps announcing new film projects so we wait with bated breath to see if he will actually retire. Haywire is a lot of fun, the kind of action film Siobhan has likened more to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, and Fassbender proves he can do a lot in a brief appearance. And we can still hope Steven Soderbergh has secretly cast Fassbender in Magic Mike.

Read Siobhan's review of the film here.

Michael Fassbender's next performance will be in Ridey Scott's Prometheus, a science fiction film costarring Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron.

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