Emily Blunt is just about my favourite actor currently active. I find her as enjoyable as any of her contemporaries, possessed of an easy charisma and capable of a great acting range. She’s smart, funny and I would marry the shit out of her.
I haven’t seen nearly enough of her films, but there are three that stand out and that happily are all linked in unusual ways. They are all about Fate or Destiny, they all feature poorly-understood manipulation of space/time, and they all put Ms. Blunt opposite veteran male actors who are arguably at the tops of their respective games.
And she pretty much owns all three of them.
‘Looper’ is a tidy little time-travel film, starring Joseph Gordon Brandon Lee-Cooper-Smurfit and Bruce Willis. For some reason, they elected to add prosthetics to Jim Goon-Brown’s face to make him look more like Bruce. Probably wasn’t necessary, he kind of looks like a Bajoran now, and really not like Bruce Willis at all.
Weird Star Trek references aside, George Henry-Lee is on top form. He’s a great young actor. Bruce Willis is there too, and he’s fine and all, but this is no ‘Hudson Hawk’. Thank fuck.
Bruce and Joint Strike-Fighter play the old and young versions respectively of a low-level hitman/enforcer: someone who kills thugs from the future who get sent back in time for execution to avoid the murders being discovered in their original timeline. OR SOMETHING.
Look, the details of the plot aren’t important. Brucey even explains as much in a great diner-based scene between the two of them. What is important is Emily Blunt, in a relatively subdued role as a tough but struggling single mother who looks after her son on an isolated farm.
Just Add-Water’s quest to stop… Himself takes him to Blunt’s farm, resulting in what I found to be a relatively emotionally satisfying conclusion to the film. And Blunt’s performance is top-notch. She nails the role of an independent but vulnerable woman; she’s protective of her son, but manages to avoid defining herself simply by the other characters around her.
There’s a great, very intimate scene where she calls Justin… erm, Bieber-Wetwipe into her room, and straight up initiates the shagging. It’s great to see a female character acting in a sexually proactive way without it being a defining trait of her personality; she’s just a confident person who decides to pursue what she wants at that point in time, and the film doesn’t even make much of a point of it. We need more female interactions like this.
‘Looper’ is a good, solid film, made by people who knew what they were doing. It tries probably a little too hard to be the ‘Blade Runner’ of its age and falls short, but it never really takes a wrong step. And it’s certainly buoyed by some gritty, believable performances, not least by Emily Blunt.
‘Adjustment Bureau’ (2011)
One of my favourite films of all time, and definitely my favourite romantic movie, there’s simply too much for me to like about ‘Adjustment Bureau’. It’s clever, it’s well-written, it uses restrained, carefully-applied special effects to provide a visually striking journey, it’s just great. It makes ‘City of Angels’ look like… like a Fleshlight. Plus, it features Terence Stamp, which is always a plus.
It opens with Matt Damon as a politician who’s just lost an election. He stops by the mens’ room to get his shit together and practice his “I’m a loser” speech, only to discover a half-drunk Emily Blunt spying on him from one of the stalls.
The interaction that follows between them sets the tone for the rest of the movie. There’s a casual familiarity between them, and it’s great to see two actors achieving so much chemistry in a fairly mundane setting. Blunt’s loose, impetuous characterisation is immediately appealing, and there’s never a point at which the attraction between them is anything but obvious and relatable. This is no “Kili/Tauriel”. Thank fuck.
The main story of the film is viewed from Damon’s perspective. Not long after he meets Blunt we find out that there are Sinister Agents working to prevent him from meeting her ever again. They use neat little tricks and subtle powers to carefully manipulate Damon’s fate, all the while keeping their ultimate motivations mysterious and slightly otherworldly.
Anthony Mackie does a great job as a sympathetic antagonist, but Terence Stamp is where the money’s at – the man drips brutal menace and intellectual domination. He’s like the orphan child of Darth Vader and ‘Farscape’s Scorpius, raised by an erudite shark. He’s Darth Sharkius. And that’s terrifying.
The thing that really I really love about this film is that I find myself actually rooting for the leading couple. Normally the happiness of others causes me physical discomfort, so I usually back the villains in most movies. But here I’m left hoping that Damon and Blunt get to stay together. That’s a testament to a great performance by both of them and to a film that has been very well put together.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (2014)
I like Tom Cruise. I mean, I’m not saying that I know him very well, and certainly there are aspects of his personal life that I find… troubling. But he ends up in some great movies, and he invariably gives a solid performance. I’ll concede that he suffers a little from mostly just playing himself, and if you’ve read my ‘Gravity’ review then you’ll know that makes me a hypocrite. Blow me.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’ was, for me, THE movie of 2014, and it went up against some stiff competition, especially from ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, ‘Interstellar’ and ‘Nightcrawler’. Hell, even ‘Kingsman’ came out in the same year. It was a great year for movies, but it’s the Blunt/Cruise that wins out for me. It’s just so enjoyable.
Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t got the same emotional punch as Nolan’s sci-fi masterpiece, nor is it as bold as the intensely disturbing Gyllenhaal vehicle, but it does feature a smart script, memorable characters, fantastic action, and Emily Blunt in power armour. That last one really does it for me. She’s great. Did I mention that I want to be her husband?
Aliens have invaded Earth. Specifically, Europe, and very successfully at that. With supplies of decent cheese and overpriced wine quickly dwindling, and with no back-up reserves of olives, humanity stages a final, last-ditch, all-out assault to bring down the extraterrestrial menace.
Cruise finds himself, though every fault of his own, on the front lines of this attack, but luckily for him it doesn’t last long when he gets roundly annihilated after only a few moments. To his surprise, he sleeps off this nasty case of Death and awakens a day earlier, just before the doomed attack is about to start.
Naturally, he gets killed again pretty quickly, only to reawaken before the attack all over again. This loop continues for a little while, until he meets Emily Blunt, the harsh, brutal “Angel of Verdun”. She’s a legend in this war already, and she lives up her reputation. She’s just as convincing portraying the “Full Metal Bitch” as she is a captivating ballet dancer, and although the action takes place from Cruise’s perspective, for me at least Blunt is the real hero of the story.
Credit should also go to the supporting cast, especially Bill Paxton, who turns in a shining comic performance as a bible-thumping drill sergeant, and to all of Cruise’s ‘Kelly’s Heroes’-inspired military unit, who offer a fun and amicable squad of sidekicks. Throw in some flawless special effects and a fun take on the ‘Groundhog Day’ premise, and this becomes an outstanding action-adventure flick that deserved a lot more success.
There are lots of very talented contemporary female actors, of course. Emily Blunt is my particular favourite but my real motivation for highlighting her in this post is twofold: all three of these films are great, fun pieces of science fiction, and in all three Ms. Blunt plays characters not defined by their gender.
Whilst in ‘Looper’ her role is as the mother of a plot-relevant child, and in ‘Adjustment Bureau’ she’s essentially the Love Interest, in both cases she has a personality and character arc and interests that go beyond her relevance to the men in the story; her characters are portrayed as having a relatively complete existence outside of their appearances in the films, and this is wholly realised in ‘Edge of Tomorrow’, as the story progresses and more is revealed about her character.
This is a growing trend in lots of major releases these days, and I very much hope it continues. And it’s generally the mark of a superior story; Emily Browning’s role in ‘Pompeii’ exists purely to be the object of her male co-stars desires, her life beyond this context never explored or made relevant. But even great pieces of work, such as Netflix’s beautifully dark ‘Daredevil’ series, fall foul of underdeveloped female characters, with Rosario Dawson and Ayelet Zurer both playing satellite characters of their respective male partners.
It’s not my intention to jump upon a soap box on this matter, so I’ll simply advise that if you haven’t seen the three movies covered above, watch them as soon as you can. And, if you do have Emily Blunt’s phone number, if you could leave it in the comments section I’d be grateful.