It seems like the favorite to take home the Academy Award for Best Actor this year is Gary Oldman for his turn in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I'm a big fan of Oldman's work in general, and his take on George Smiley, the soft-in-the-middle, morose, cerebral, anti-James Bond spy is great. He was fantastic in State of Grace as a low-level, scene-stealing thug, he's been great as Gordon in Nolan's Batman series, and he was just plain wicked in Leon. Oldman's long overdue for an Oscar nomination, let alone an Oscar, and in any other year I'd say, "Yeah, let the chap have it."
But there's just one problem: Brendan Gleeson turned in the performance of his career in The Guard, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh.
(MINOR SPOILERS ALERT)
Gleeson's cop is sardonic, funny, curmudgeonly, brazen, and a bit racist. He returns lost weapons to the IRA rather than impound them. He hires call girls to entertain him on his day off. He wants everyone to think he's just another roob from the country, but this just might be a clever Columbo-like ruse to mask his intelligence. He uses drugs. He manages to stop a shipment of $500,000,000 (street value) worth of cocaine. And, to top it all off, he just might have been an Olympic swimmer.
I don't think The Guard will receive any nominations this year, and that's a shame. Not too many people saw it, and nobody's talking about it right now during the crucial time around awards season. It's a fast, fun movie with intelligent humor and smart dialogue, and the characters are all interesting. Don Cheadle's FBI agent is a little underwritten, but that's okay because it's really Gleeson's show here.
John Michael McDonagh is the brother of Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed another awesome crime film, In Bruges. The Brothers McDonagh have a great ear for dialogue and create cliche-challenging characters, but they don't rely on these devices as crutches when telling a story. They both care just as much about plot, resulting in lean, but layered, stories.
1 week ago