There’s a moment at Stephen King’s Half dark that demands to be portrayed on a big or small screen by Tom Hardy.
This is about a third of the book, which is about a writer who is overwhelmed by his own creation and becomes a murderous psychopath in a way that mirrors the murders in his works. The murderous alter ego is in the middle of a very unpleasant affair when the following exchange occurs:
Further down the hall a door opened and a man in blue pajamas with corkscrews hair stuck out his head and shoulders.
“What is happening?” he cried in a gruff voice that proclaimed he didn’t care if it was the Pope of Rome here, the party was more.
“Murder,” Stark said conversationalist, and for a moment his eyes shifted from the bloody, screaming man in front of him to the man in the doorway. Later, this man will tell the police that the intruder’s eyes were blue. Brilliant blue. And completely crazy. “Do you want some?”
From that point on, I got to see Tom Hardy and Tom Hardy on their own in that role in the adaptation * that we’re sure to have someday, given the recent successes of King’s adaptations. There are few other actors who could pull off this deadpan mania, a sort of charismatic, murderous glint in the eyes that freezes everyone onscreen, as well as everyone else. disabledscreen — right side up. You can just see Hardy’s head tilt a little, a half-smile flashing for a brief second even as the eyes remain dead as he asks the question:
“Murder, do you want it? “
Tom Hardy probably came to my mind since at the time I was watching his show Taboo, a program in which Tom Hardy did a lot of grunts, stares and murders. Nominally concerning the political, territorial and commercial intrigues between the United States and Great Britain (as well as the dreaded East India Company) which reached their climax as the War of 1812 raged, Taboo was much more interesting as a showcase for Tom Hardy and the various ways he can silently, or almost silently, express the threat.
Walking the mud-strewn streets of colonial America of yesteryear, a mid-length trench coat flaring out behind him like a cape more suited to a superhero, even Hardy’s walk expresses murderous intent. Fists clenched, one shoulder wobbling in front of the other, face scarred and partially obscured by a black top hat conveying both class status and a mockery of the class system from which Hardy’s James Delaney fled (and, indeed, is at active war with it), Hardy looks ripped from the pages of Gothic horror.
Taboo was created by Hardy and his father, writer Chips Hardy, with Steven Knight. Tom Hardy previously worked with Knight on the series Peaky Blinders, in which he plays a Jewish gangster, whose ferocity and brutality hide a lively intelligence and the sense of strategy of a great master. Well, its ferocity, its brutality and its mumbles; this is one of those best watched Hardy roles with subtitles. Not because her voice is obscured or altered, like in a Nolan movie – we’ll get to that in a moment – but because of her character’s accent. Hardy loves his accents; the best of them have been deployed for The ghost, an overrated film upon its release and during awards season, but one that is still eminently viewable thanks almost entirely to Hardy, whose mid-Atlantic accent was instantly recognizable to anyone who spent time with those who grew up in the triangle of land formed between Philly, Bawlmore, and Bowie.
The cut Welsh intonations of Ivan Locke de Hardy in Locke (another Steven Knight project) take center stage because the whole movie is just Hardy, in a car, monologue with the specter of his father and dialoguing with a family he leaves behind while driving towards his destiny: he is going to be at the birth of his bastard son, a responsibility which he cannot escape being born himself of an absent father. The film is claustrophobic, taking place entirely inside a car as the man’s life crumbles around him: his personal life, yes, but his professional life too. He’s supposed to be on site for the biggest pouring concrete (non-nuclear, non-military division) in European history; instead, he needs to tell his underlings about it. If you’ve always wanted to know more about concrete and its qualities and what it takes to make gray mud look beautiful, pure and strong, have I a movie for you: people talk about being happy to listen to them. actors read the phone book, but Hardy practically did it with Locke and the gray mud that underlies our skyscrapers.
Again, however, it’s Hardy’s eyes that sell the film as much as anything else, the way he constantly looks through the rearview mirror in the empty back seat of his SUV as he wrestles with the demon of his. absent father and the hole he left in his soul. His eyes are so lively and expressive that it feels like Hardy’s most accomplished creative partner, Christopher Nolan, is using them as a way to challenge not only himself but his actor.
How else to explain the decision to put Tom Hardy under Bane’s mask for the entirety of The dark knight rises, not only covering her face but also obscuring her voice? Next time you watch Gets up, watch out for Hardy’s eyes during the Blackgate Prison speech. It’s a brilliant comic satire in pitch black, the words of a populist politician spoken by a madman, his mouth hidden unable to demonstrate the contempt he has for the people he manipulates in riots. There is a physical side to the gestures he makes when speaking, a fluid force that Hardy has used to his advantage in moments as varied as the Vaudeville asides in Bronson or the MMA grappling of warrior. But if you look at the eyes – if you focus on them as they squint and roll – you can see how well Bane knows his words are absurd. How stupid he thinks those he implores to take over Gotham. How he sees their helpless greed and jealousy.
And then there is Dunkirk. Hardy – again masked, again confined to a tight space – brings as much drama to scoring fuel levels after his gauge is destroyed as he does to aiming and lighting the enemy plane passing through his cockpit. But these are the last plans of Dunkirk that sticks with me. The character of Hardy, having set his plane on fire so the Germans could not capture it, stands before the dark light and flickering flames as Churchill’s “We will fight on the beaches” speech is read offscreen : “And even if, which I do not believe for a moment, this island were subjugated and starved, then our overseas empire, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would continue the struggle. Until, at God’s right time, the New World with all its might and mighty power comes to the rescue and liberation of the old.
As words spread, Hardy is grabbed by Germans; the last time we see his eyes, they are lit by the flames that engulf his plane. There is sadness, but also mistrust, and as the film draws to a close – like Churchill’s reminder that the New World is the safeguard against the global threat of fascism; as the plane representing the Old World in the midst of a literal, figurative retreat burns – we cut off a pair of responding eyes, that of a young Tommy, thoughtful. You wonder when or maybe if– the New World will finally get its act together.
“You don’t have to be afraid to dream a little bigger honey.” Perhaps this is the time when most Americans, who have been slow to embrace Guy Ritchie’s production Diaper Cake and remains strangely cold in the face of the film directed by Guy Ritchie RockNRolle, which are both excellent and in which Hardy had small parts – were introduced to Hardy. I remember the line was in the commercials and trailers for his first movie with Nolan, but maybe it was so good I began to believe it. Either way, Hardy was never short of dreams and ambition.
Sometimes it pays off a lot, as it did in Mad Max: Fury Road, its nature reserve echoing the calm and cool calm of Mel Gibson’s Max. Sometimes it doesn’t work at all, like in the unfortunate action comedy It means war with Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon.
Venom– the 2018 Marvel movie which has a sequel this week – allows Hardy to do a couple of things he clearly enjoys: doing monkeys with vocals and accents, and doing some serious physical comedy. There is something deliciously absurd about the way he has conversations with himself, a kind of monologue-dialogue that makes vocal what we all experience internally on any given day. He is also clearly invested in the success of these films, earning writing credit on the sequel.
And yet, he feels slightly out of step. As if we are missing something important. It’s the big, white CGI eyes that he’s forced to wear for so many of these films, I think, an effect that robs us of a singular pleasure: being stared at by a murderous Tom Hardy.
And yes: we all want it.
* George Romero adapted the book originally in 1993 with Timothy Hutton in the lead role; director Alex Ross Perry was attached to a remake from 2019.