Uncaged - Captain Corelli's Mandolin (2001), Windtalkers (2002), Sonny (2002)
This year, I am going to try to get through the whole oeuvre of Nicolas Cage because my fascination with this man and his contradictions is endless. God help me.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
I happened to love the Louis de Bernieres’ novel that this movie was supposedly based on for its colorful characterizations and beautifully drawn relationships not just between the central couple but everyone else. Instead, this movie is a thudding bore that made this vibrant novel, a stately wartime romance with three leads (Cage, Penelope Cruz, and Christian Bale) that have very little romantic chemistry in other pairing. Most of the secondary characters are cut for efficiency and to the movie’s detriment. Nicolas Cage is playing Italian with a capital ‘I’ again, but instead of playing this identity for comedy like in Moonstruck, it’s a lazy substitute for characterization, and unfortunately, Cage doesn’t bring enough to this character to make him interesting. I had avoided this movie for years because I had heard how bad it was, and I wish I had avoided it some more.
It’s already a huge misfire that this movie focuses on not the heroic Navajo men who were such a crucial part of the victory in the Pacific theater of WWII but rather the white man who protected him apparently. I didn’t understand why we were focusing so much on Cage’s character’s personal issues at the expense of any of the Navajo soldiers, even though there were some of the obligatory scenes of racism and misunderstanding. Also, as good as John Woo is at staging Hong Kong action, it felt inappropriate for this film, since his style exacerbated the already problematic tendency of war movies to glorify war and violence. I suppose if I were younger and more impressionable, I would have been swept off my feet by this movie, since Woo is still a master, and the battle scenes are exhilarating, if inaccurate.
Sonny is Nicolas Cage’s only directorial effort, and it should definitely be his last. This tale of a disaffected gigolo trying desperately to break out of his soul-crushing lifestyle is not a terrible story by itself, but the film is languidly directed, and it’s hard for the viewer to muster any real empathy for James Franco’s Sonny, especially since he himself seems so loath to seriously escape his lifestyle. I kind of liked Brenda Blethyn’s monster of a mother who forced her own son into prostitution when he was very underage, just because she is playing SO Southern that it’s hard to take her character seriously. And Harry Dean Stanton turns in an interesting performance as the deadbeat dad who keeps giving his son the worst advice. Otherwise, there is very little to recommend this movie, even if you think that Cage has been in enough movies to know how to make one. He really doesn’t.