Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Fighter 2010

There is no dearth of biopics about legendary sportsmen, who made it big against all odds. In that The Fighter (2010) is no different. It charts a few years (between 1990 and 2000) in the life of junior welterweight boxer Micky Ward, when he had taken a hiatus from boxing and had worked on his comeback. The story is less about his achievements in sport - much of his fame is from his fights from 2002 onwards - but rather about his family life and the hardships he faced on a personal level.

With his mother as his manager and his older half-brother as his trainer, Micky was put in various terrible boxing situations, as he was the family bread-winner and ultimately the family pawn. His mother doted on her elder son, Dicky Eklund, who was once a boxing legend. Her adoration for Dicky made her blind to the fact that he was a crack addict, which made him an irresponsible coach. She was also blind to Micky's well-being and far more interested in how his work could support the family and Dicky's comeback to professional boxing. In all this madness Micky found Charlene, who not only loved and nurtured him, but helped him win back his confidence and get out of the rut. There is of course a predictable redemption theme in the film, but it's a true story and so the drama is acceptable.

The main character of the film may be Mark Wahlberg's Micky, but the most author-backed role is Christian Bale's. Bale plays Dicky Eklund with such aplomb that it is staggering to watch. As is usual for him, he has dropped weight, adopted mannerisms, changed his accent, speech pattern and his body language, to look and sound as convincing as possible. At the end credits of the film, we see the real Dicky Eklund, providing proof of Bale's unbelievably authentic performance - but even without such evidence, it is obvious throughout the film that he is phenomenal. He has made very few bad choices in his career (bar 2005's The New World) and he continues to pour his soul into every role he takes on. He is a giant of an actor.

I wish I could say that Bale wipes the floor with the other actors, but it seems that this is a director's dream ensemble. Mark Wahlberg is extremely convincing, in looks and performance, and wins the audience over from the beginning. Ditto for Amy Adams, who straddles the line of superior bitch and small-town under-achiever with absolute dedication. She is fantastic. But the surprise package for me was Melissa Leo, whom I can not recall from all the other films I have seen her in but, who has now left an indelible mark on my mind. She is a hateful, vile character all through the film and yet without a single melodramatic moment, we almost forgive her at the end. The actress is nothing short of exceptional in every single scene she has.

David O' Russell's handling of his actors, the story and the very tight script, and Michael Brook's excellent score, take The Fighter from an average rating straight to top billing. No wonder the actors are winning awards, right left and centre - and if there's any justice in the world Bale and Leo will get the Oscars they so deserve.

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