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dir Jon Favreau
scr Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, Matt Holloway
with Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges, Leslie Bibb, Shaun Toub, Clark Gregg, Faran Tahir, Jon Favreau, Peter Billingsley, Bill Smitrovich, Stan Lee
release US/UK 2.May.08
The hand of God: Downey
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
They're few and far between at the moment, so when an action blockbuster comes along that actually bothers to create lively, memorable characters, you don't want to miss it.
Tony Stark (Downey) is a zillionaire playboy industrialist whose military inventions have helped make the American army invincible. While in Afghanistan to launch a new missile, he's kidnapped by thugs who demand he make one for them. With his cellmate (Toub), he instead builds an invincible armoured suit, which he uses to escape. But the experience changes him, and now he wants to perfect the suit so he can use it to stop violence. He's helped by his faithful assistant Pepper (Paltrow) and his old buddy Jim (Howard), but his company's manager (Bridges) isn't so happy.
The masterstroke here was to cast a terrific actor like Downey in the central role. He has the ability to make any scene spring to life with offhanded humour, real emotion and charismatic intensity. Not only does this create a snarky and memorable character, but it also gives weight to the film's subtly provocative jabs at the current state of the planet. And Paltrow is terrific as the loyal worker who has silently pined for her boss all these years. Their scenes together have a wonderfully electric charge.
Unfortunately, no one else gets much to do; Bridges' role gets increasingly ludicrous, while Howard just bides his time until a better role in the requisite sequel. Meanwhile, the villains are cardboard cutouts who seem to murder and pillage for no discernible reason, which kind of leaves a hole where the ostensible action plot should be. Happily, that's not what the film is about; it's a much more interesting journey for one man who, through adversity, discovers meaning in life.
Not that this is some sort of sophisticated message movie. We're here for blockbuster effects and big action mayhem, and they certainly don't disappoint. On the other hand, while the script pretends to undermine the comment that "whoever has the biggest stick is the one who can bring peace", that's actually what it affirms through its escalating brutality. But through it all, Favreau directs with energy, clarity and a tight focus on Downey, which is exactly right.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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