Giving In to ORIGINAL SIN
Overblown and implausible it may be, but Original Sin wins my vote as one of the yearís most watchable movies. Filled with romance, suspense, mystery, and colorful locations, this thriller intrigued me from beginning to end. Most of the credit for my interest goes to Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie. They sizzle on screen as a man obsessed and the femme fatale he desires.
Itís only fair to admit these two stars are among my favorite contemporary actors, so Iím not entirely objective. I also enjoy thrillers immensely Ė to the point of watching Hitchcockís Vertigo every chance I get. Hey, I even liked What Lies Beneath. So, the Original Sin co-star/genre trifecta worked for me, whereas most other critics are giving the film negative reviews. Still, I have to agree with criticisms about those nude sex scenes. (Have spouses Melanie and Billy Bob seen what Antonio and Angelina were up to?) Leaving a little to the imagination always makes things more interesting to me. Beautiful as they are, I would rather see Banderas (Spy Kids) and Jolie (Tomb Raider) bare more of their souls than their bodies in a movie like this.
But, ah, their performances in other scenes! Thatís what blew me away. Playing a wealthy Cuban businessman in the 1900s, Banderas exudes class and breeding in the early part of the film. He comes across as a man very much in control of his life, a man who thinks love is not for him. "Love should be left to those who believe in it," he tells a friend before going to meet his future bride, a woman he knows only by her letters and photograph. As a result of deception and betrayal by this mysterious woman he marries, Banderasí character is a different man entirely by the end of the film. (Because of the way our hero believes whatever his wife says, my husband thinks the title should be changed to Gullibleís Travels.) This role requires tremendous changes in temperament and physical appearance --- all accomplished quite convincingly by the versatile actor. His eyes are especially expressive here --- moving from surprise and tenderness to a murderous intensity.
As the woman who seduces and deceives Banderas, Jolie seems perfectly cast. She manages to make her character appear sensual and dangerous, even while pretending to be sweet and proper. What is her true identity? Is she a murderer? Does she love the man she married, or is she in love with someone else? Jolieís suspicious glances and enigmatic comments (like "you canít walk away from love") caused me to be very curious about the person she played. Granted, filmmakers did go a bit overboard by showing huge, unflattering close-ups of her famous lips, but thatís not Jolieís fault.
Competing for acting kudos in Original Sin, Thomas Jane (Under Suspicion) plays a detective who also kept me guessing about his true identity. I canít decide who he reminded me of the most --- William Holden or Richard Widmark, but he has such a chameleon-like quality thatís not surprising. Iíd like to see him in an update of Sunset Boulevard.
Standing in for Cuba, Mexico provided elegant location shots for Original Sin. Cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (Amores Perros) captured the sultriness of the landscape and included some haunting visuals I wonít soon forget. Two examples: a colorful Caribbean carnival spills from the street into a hotel lobby and onto my list of celebrations Iíd like to attend, and a beautiful white horse thunders across the lush countryside, imprinting an image of steed and rider in my memory.
Writer/director Michael Cristofer (Gia), who adapted Original Sin from Cornell Woolrichís novel Waltz into Darkness, must know something about comic relief. Although primarily a thriller, this movie includes humor at the most unpredictable moments, and some of it is intentional. I was particularly amused by scenes involving a rejected suitor and a young priestís confrontation with temptation. Nevertheless, the messages in Original Sin are deadly serious. Nobody is all good or all bad; each of us has a dark side; and behind every femme fatale is a gullible man.
(Released by MGM and rated "R" for strong sexual content and some violence.)