LoquaciousMuse May 14, 2011
With Priest opening this weekend, we took it upon ourselves to review the oeuvre of its star, Paul Bettany, and determine which of his films have been strongest. The past half decade hasn’t been too kind to Bettany critically, and Priest may not break him very far out of that mold, as fun as it seems to be. But when we look back and remind ourselves of what happens when he makes the right decisions, things start looking up.
A Beautiful Mind
The movie that put Paul Bettany on the American cinematic map and in my American cinematic heart. Not that I haven’t had a tumultuous relationship with it. I loved the film when I first saw it, then resented it for winning everything, then saw it again on cable and remembered why I liked it. But one thing I never questioned was Bettany’s electrically charming performance.
A Knight’s Tale
Known as a Heath Ledger joint to most, this is the movie that made me officially fall for Paul Bettany after I was introduced to him by A Beautiful Mind. I recognized at the time that A Knight’s Tale wasn’t actually very good, but had a soft spot for it anyway. The contemporary soundtrack never sat well with me, but as a huge sucker for period pieces, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it, especially every moment of Alan Tudyk as Wat, James Purefoy as the Black Prince and of course, Bettany as Chaucer.
It took some convincing from cinephile friends before I was able to sit down and commit to this three-hour minimalist drama, but I’m glad I finally did. Bettany’s performance is top-notch and for better or worse, I couldn’t get the film out of my head for days. An absolute must for anyone looking for Bettany in a bridging-on-brilliant film — or, you know, anyone looking for a bridging-on-brilliant film, period.
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
I saw this movie when I was 17 and did not have a refined enough palette to properly enjoy it. All I really remember is people having ponytails and facial hair whilst on a boat. But the general love for this movie, enough to nab it a Best Picture nod in 2003, means it absolutely belongs on this list. And I vow to give it another chance one day.
This is where we get controversial. Did this movie kind of suck? A lot? Yes. But was James McAvoy in it? Also yes. Therefore it nabs a slot ahead of such Paul Bettany-but-no-James McAvoy gems as The Da Vinci Code, Inkhart, Legion, The Secret Life of Bees, The Tourist, and Creation. ESPECIALLY Creation.
True, Bettany isn’t actually IN Iron Man, only his voice is, but it’s as Jarvis, who is essential to Tony Stark, to Iron Man, to the Marvel Universe, and to the future when he is my butler. This movie is fantastic, we all know it, and Bettany’s smooth, calming, British voice bringing Jarvis to life certainly didn’t hurt.
The Young Victoria
I don’t actually think I remember Paul Bettany in this movie aside from some impressive sideburns, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing. Means he properly disappeared into the role of Lord Melbourne, no? I loved this movie way more than I suspected I would. It’s a lovely historical romance that didn’t get nearly enough attention, and though its role for Bettany may not be as large as others, The Young Victoria is hands down superior to all of the films he has starred in over the past five years and perhaps the ones he hasn’t starred in as well.
So where does this leave us? After Priest, the next film we can expect from Bettany is Margin Call, opening in October. With completely decent reviews and an intriguing cast, one can only hope the film falls more in line with Paul Bettany films of yore. Well, maybe don’t aspire to match Wimbledon, Paul Bettany, that’s only on this list for McAvoy. We need at least A Knight’s Tale level from now on, or I’m gonna stop caring.The choice is yours.
Categories: No CategoriesTags: A beautiful mind, Master and Commander, Paul bettany, Priest