The Woman in Black
It is no secret that iconic roles tend to kill the future career of the actor who plays in it. Nobody survived the Star Wars movies except for Harrison Ford, for example. But it’s possible. Look at the six actors that played in the sit-com ‘Friends’. They’ve all emerged with critically lauded projects, whether it be acting, directing, or any something else. But those six Friends probably aren’t as iconic as the Harry Potter. An entire generation throughout the world grew up with Daniel Radcliffe as the scarred wizard. And unless you saw his naked performance in Equus, you probably have never seen him act in anything else (unless you caught his hilarious turn playing himself in Ricky Gervais ‘Extras’). The fact that Radcliffe makes his performance in The Woman in Black so good, you kind of forget that Voldemort killed his parents, is a testament to the talent of the young actor.
Radcliffe stars as Arthur Kipps, a British widower, single father, and lawyer, who’s sent to a remote village on business. There he feels a sense of menace in the subtext of his dialogue with the locals. They’re distrustful, on edge, and he can’t figure out why. Their subtle efforts to get him to leave soon turn in to not so subtle efforts, and soon he’s blamed for a series of deaths among the children in the village. Kipps is sent to the village to put the affairs of a lavish, and run-down estate so that it can be sold after the recent death of its owner. This estate is haunted by a woman in black. And she may, or may not be the one responsible for claiming the lives of the villager children.
The Woman in Black is the sophomore effort of James Watkins. You may remember his first film that starred Michael Fassbender, called Eden Lake. The script was adapted from the book by Susan Hill, by Jane Goldman. Goldman is also credited with writing the scripts for Kick-Ass, The Debt, and X-Men: First Class–three fine scripts. I am a fan of all three of these films, but I like to think that Goldman has outdone herself with Woman. A feat very impressive considering several of the films longest and scariest moments are virtually without dialogue, and without much action. This compliment lends itself to the talent Watkins brought to the screen. His ability to create a claustrophobic, and terrifying atmosphere is fantastic, and chilling.
It’s especially interesting what Watkins accomplished in the confines of a film with a PG-13 rating. Made more so by the fact his first film, Eden Lake (rated ‘R), is most certainly one of the most graphic films I’ve seen in the past few years. In Eden Lake, Watkins talent for creating a dynamic atmosphere was clear, I just wish I hadn’t needed to watch a teenager swish a box cutter around in Fassbender’s mouth to get that point across.
With these two working behind the camera, and Radcliffe in front, the film really is a slam dunk. It’s unnerving, scary, and moving. The film is also held up by a small, but talented supporting cast which includes Ciarán Hinds at his finest. It’s best not to know too much about The Woman in Black, but you can be confident, this is a great, and scary film. It’s a fine moment in Radcliffe’s career.