Sunday, October 20, 2013

Sunday Best: Actors of All Time #16 - Jim Caviezel

photo by Genevieve

The Passion of the Christ
The Count of Monte Cristo
Pay It Forward
The Thin Red Line

The actor on this list with probably the thinnest resume is Jim Caviezel. He has been acting for many years but has only had a handful of leading roles.

His big breakout moment was in Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line. It was nominated for an Oscar and received glowing critical acclaim. I hated it. I thought it was boring and pretentious. But I found Caviezel to be captivating in what little screen time he had. The movie essentially opens and closes with his story, a GI who wants to escape the madness and meaninglessness of war. I was fascinated by how he would often have a little, barely noticeable smile on his face, almost Buddha-like, as if he had some secret knowledge hidden in his small performance.

Caviezel continued to do small, but effective parts, like that of the druggie in Pay it Forward. Again, with very little screen time, Caviezel convincingly showed the despair and hope of a character who has no reason to go on besides his next fix.

He began to show his leading man chops in movies like Frequency. This underrated film showed his ability to mine emotional depths of a character trying to connect to a long-lost father while desperately racing against the clock to stop a murder that he set into motion. A lot of that emotion has to be done over the radio, so he had employ all of his talent in his voice acting to convey his character.  He showed a much more action-oriented leading man stature when he starred in Outlander, a fun and scary sci-fi Beowulf.

But the role that made me really take note of his acting abilities was The Count of Monte Cristo. This movie is also very underrated, especially as an epic character journey. Caviezel takes his Edmond Dantes on a soul-harrowing journey into darkness, hope, vengeance, and life. I'm amazed when I watch Caviezel walk around with a wide-eyed, earnest innocence that is slowly stripped away through years of torture and replaced with a cruel, cold fury. What amazed me was how despite the extremes of character, not a single note of it rang false from his performance. I completely believed him as the na├»ve innocent an as the world-weary warrior. Watch the subtle way his body language, like posture and gait, change to create a completely different type of man while still remaining Dantes.  To this day I watch that performance in awe.

But his best role is of course his portrayal of Jesus in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. I do not believe that my judgment is persuaded simply because I am a devout Catholic. From a purely performance based assessment, what he did in that movie was truly remarkable. So few people have played the God-Man convincingly. He is either too distant and alien or he is too flawed and common. Caviezel's Jesus is neither. He is both in control and filled with emotion. His opening in the Garden of Gethsemane is filled with such anxiety that I could not tangibly understand how a man could be so afraid that he would sweat blood. But even in those moments of agony, it never felt like his Jesus was not in control. Not only did Caviezel have to speak all of his lines in Aramaic and Latin, but he had to do most of his most intense work non-verbally. Look at the mixture of fear and courage on his face right before they use the scourge. The physical toll that the role took on him is well documented, but you can feel the full force of a great actor's skill and talent being used to bring the story to life.

And I believe that Caviezel is still only getting started. Right now he is working heavily in television, but there are still amazing performances left in him for years to come.

No comments:

Post a Comment