Tuesday, 13 September 2011

TIFF '11 - Edwin Boyd

Edwin Boyd was a decorated war veteran who struggled when he returned to Canada. Desperate for work and disillusioned with the treatment of veterans, he turned to robbing banks to provide a better living for his family. He was notorious for his theatrics and his rugged good looks, and his actions made him an early Canadian anti-hero celebrity.
In Nathan Morlando’s Edwin Boyd, the director works hard to keep his biopic entertaining, eliciting thoughtful performances within creative cinematography. Shot in natural lighting conditions, shadow play and softer expressions give the film a grainy, film-noir look. The film takes its time introducing its players, allowing its actors free reign to mold their characters and interact before accelerating the editing and the action. Scott Speedman as Boyd threatens to steal the film from his fellow actors.
There is an unspoken camaraderie between the haunted Willie (Brendan Fletcher), the brooding Doreen (Kelly Reilly), and the complex Joseph Cross. Each of these actors turn in moving performances, but the show belongs to Toronto's own Charlotte Sullivan and Kevin Durand. Used by Cross in a steamy affair, Sullivan turns in a heartbreaking portrayal of the ‘femme fatale.’ This archetype is often used in the film-noir and the crime thriller, but is rarely given this much compassion.  Durand uses his time onscreen to flex his theatrical background. The character actor utilizes the same forcefulness that scared audiences in the television series Lost, but also adds a tender side to a ruthless character.
Boyd’s action is tight and well constructed, but the picture shines when it focuses on its characters. The film’s final act is a slow study of emotions that treats its content with respect. There is a sense of humanity about this film that directors like Michael Mann forget to employ in films like the similar Public Enemies, about John Dillinger’s exploits around the same time period. Boyd is shot in cold winter grays, but its actors work to show depth rather than depression. Kudos must also be given to the film's soundtrack. Original pieces by Max Richter work to drive the drama along at a natural pace, while pieces by The Black Keys ramp up the heists.
With Edwin Boyd, Nathan Morlando has issued his first artistic statement. It takes as its subject a character of this city whose notoriety has dulled over time. It is a dramatization that uses real CBC footage and strong acting to illustrate an infamous, but ultimately important character in Toronto’s history.  


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