Jan 14, 2011

Tradecraft: Gray on Gray

Deadline reports that James Gray (Little Odessa, Two Lovers) has been tapped to direct The Gray Man, an international spy thriller based on a novel by Mark Greaney (the first in a series) that we first heard about last May, when Adam Cozad (who also took a crack at the forthcoming Jack Ryan reboot) landed the writing gig. Today's Deadline story gives a fuller logline than we had before: "Targeted by a powerful multinational corporation, a former CIA operative-turned ultimate assassin must fight his way across Europe and past special forces teams from around the world in order to save the life of his handler and the handler's family."

Gray recognizes that he's in Bourne territory, but wants to take a different approach to this sort of material than Paul Greengrass did on The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum (review here). Gray tells the trade blog, "What he did was a documentary-style objective approach, and he owns that style. I want to do the opposite." Rather than taking the man-in-the-street, cinema verite perspective that Greengrass famously uses, he plans to tell the story from the point of view of the assassin.  He goes on to describe a sequence in his film We Own the Night witnessed from Joaquin Phoenix's perspective in the backseat of a car. "Almost every shot was from Joaquin's point of view, inside that car, and I want to make a whole movie with that POV." He feels that approach is a good way to sympathize with a professional killer. "You humanize him by never distancing yourself from his experience. This story has emotional stakes that enable me to do that."

Hm. Like most people, I haven't seen We Own the Night, so I'm not quite sure what he's talking about here.  Does he intend to shoot the entire movie in a first-person style, like Robert Montgomery's Lady in the Lake (or Orson Welles' unrealized Heart of Darkness) so that we only ever see the lead actor in mirrors and whatnot?  Or does he just mean he'll keep the camera close to his protagonist?  I'm actually a fan of the subjective camera style in Lady in the Lake (and eager to watch Gaspar Noe's Enter the Void, which embraces it) and see a lot of potential for it in other genres, but I can't quite picture an entire action movie shot that way.  I also don't see it as being as opposite of Paul Greengrass's style as Gray does. There are occasions (especially in Green Zone) when Greengrass's camera appears to give viewers a nearly first-person glimpse of the action. Well, I'm certainly curious about this approach, and curious to see where Gray goes with it...

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