Common Man
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A Common Man

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There is a myriad of ways that a filmmaker might employ to generate the psychological intrigue and sheer emotional intensity necessary to plunge the audience into a mindset of anticipation and frenzied speculation as to what will come next in the story. One that I have personally found to be eminently effective is pushing a reasonable man beyond the point where reason suffices. The protagonist then finds himself pushed by circumstances beyond his control, spiraling into the most irrational behavior conceivable. The high water mark has been considered to be ‘Falling Down’ featuring an incredible performance by Michael Douglas. Even when a film falls short of achieving this level of quality the sheer emotional potential and psychological insight into the dark recesses of the human condition is captivating. A recent film that adds credence to this supposition is ‘A Common Man’ showcasing the Oscar-winning talents of Sir Ben Kingsley. Right there is the reason to invest your time in watching this movie. He is arguably one of the greatest, most versatile actors currently performing. Some marketing companies have pushed this movie at this time to cash in on the high profile role Sir Ben has in the summer action blockbuster, ‘Iron Man 3’. While there is a valid technique, it should not be the reason to watch ‘A Common Man.’ If anything Kingsley’s participation in a career full of mainstream movies and independent films like this should increase your desire to watch the action-filled superhero flick. Although this particular offering might not reach the level of top offering, it is a well-constructed movie that provides a platform for an intriguing performance that relates a reasonably tightly woven story.

Kingsley portrays a character known only as ‘The Man.’ This is a nicely designed plot device. Not only does it increase the inherent mystery of the circumstances but it makes his character more ubiquitous, a stand-in for any person that just might find them readily able to identify with a person trapped by incredibly irrational circumstances emotionally. When blended with Kingsley’s ability to seamlessly slip into the persona of the character he is portraying utilizing experience accumulated over a lifetime to make it seem as simple as us changing jackets. Some have stated that this role is beneath Sir Ben’s level of talent, but they should realize that good actor can make us believe he’s accurately playing a part; a great actor makes you believe he is that person. Although there are several technical shortcomings in this production Kingsley’s presentation are once again beyond reproach.

The film opens by giving the audience a glimpse into the mind of The Man as he begins a spiral into darkness. He is sitting in a room surrounded by every sort of material necessary to create explosive devices. Within eyesight are articles concerning the string of bombings terrorizing the tiny nation of Sri Lanka at the hands of the radicle group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, The Raison d'êtris of the principle plot point demands the succession of territory traditionally claimed by the Tamil people. The methods exemplified by their bombings demonstrate the violent ends they are prepared to take to achieve their objective. As a result of the bombings, four of their ardent supports have been incarcerated. The Man is demanding their immediate release or else he will explode five additional devices. They are located in on a public bus, a commuter train, an airfield, a police station and a shopping mall. All of these locations are likely to be very publicized and costly in innocent lives. Fans of international cinema may recognize this as the Indian production, ‘A Wednesday ‘released in 2008.We all live at a time when war is no longer waged solely by governments able to dispatch huge numbers of men and equipment to demoralize and kill the enemy. Now, a small group or, as depicted here, an individual, can successfully plan and execute deadly actions right in the core of a busy city. Here in the United States, such acts of domestic terrorism were not ‘our’ problem; it was ‘there’ problem. This modality of thinking formally permitted domestic audiences to dismiss the themes presented here as remote from our concerns. Very personal factors motivated the filmmaker undoubted, but we can no longer distance ourselves from the potential.

A series of bombings used to project terror for a political or social agenda require the public be aware of the issues, demands, and repercussions for noncompliance. To this end, The Man contains the police investigator, Morris Da Silva (Ben Cross); informing him the devices and the requisite actions to ensure safety. To place even more pressure on the detective, The Man also notifies the media of his actions and intentions. This initiates most of the required plot devices for this type of movie; the sword of Damocles, underserved misfortune on behalf of the potential victims and the literal interpretation of the ticking clock to tragedy. The writer/director Chandran Rutnam has a couple of previous films in the political statement vein mostly within a local, national venue; this opus represents a wider scope for the filmmaker bringing his social consciousness to an international audience. For this Sri Lankan filmmaker the issue at the heart of the story is not a few inches in a newspaper or a few screens on a news site; is an issue he grew up knowing and intimately affected by it. This personalization comes across here in a subtle fashion whose impact was greatly enhanced by the sheer professionalism of the stars. This is what many seem to be underestimated by many people; that a story of this sort can be effectively told in a way audiences accustomed to high octane movies tend to favor. This is the epitome of the independent film; focus on the humanity of a particular story drawing the viewers into moving beyond watching a movie to experiencing the circumstances depicted. The issues explored here are real; they drastically and directly impact the lives of millions. An issue such as this demands attention and the most respectful and efficient way to accomplish this is through a deeper psychological exploration of the people within the context of the situations.

What the movie comes down to is a clash between two strongly dedicated and intensely motivated individuals; a man on a socio-political mission and a police investigator devoted to finding justice. The morality intrinsic in the situation is largely left to the interpretation of the audience and subject to change as a result of the performances and the honest intent demonstrated in the screenplay. The directorial style is straightforward, concentrating on the emotional effect of the issue and the psychological manifestation as shown through the character arc of The Man. in all the film requires more attention than usually expended on a more casual film. While you will enjoy the performance of Sir Ben Kingsley in the third installment of the ‘Iron Man’ saga you will be moved by his performance in his film.

Posted 05/17/2013        Posted 11/30/2014  Posted 02/10/2018

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