Talented filmmaker Anton Corbijn sets his goals high with Life, a true-life tale about freelance photographer Dennis Stock seeking to snap 1955s promising star James Dean. Robert Pattinson delivers an excellent performance…
Robert Pattinson stars in this biographical drama of the ambitious freelance photographer, Dennis Stock, seeking to secure a photo shoot with 1955s most promising actor. This actor is none other than James Dean, played with a unique sensuality by Dane DeHaan.
It is clear to see why this role appealed to Pattinson as the character is both appalled and undeniably drawn by success. Pattinson is the main reason to seek this film out, he has purposefully chosen off-kilter and challenging work post his Twilight heart-throb years. He effectively portrays a tender fragility and professional ambition that sidelines personal relationships. Pattinson’s performance makes you forget you are watching a performance, you only see the character, unlike DeHaan’s James Dean.
Dane DeHaan is the more playful character against Pattinson’s central straight man. He purrs his lines as a tortured but self-aware artist. However, you are constantly aware you are watching a performance, almost a caricature of James Dean. Like Pattinson’s character he desires fame and success but is deplored by the Hollywood machine. The Hollywood machine is personified by the reliable Ben Kingsley as Jack Warner. The stereotypical Hollywood studio boss that recognises Dean’s star potential but struggles to make the artist tow the studio line and honour his press commitments. Meanwhile, Pattison is mentored by Joel Edgerton’s Magnum photographer, John Morris, who often gives his self-righteous belief the required grounding.
The film concentrates on the two young men whose ambition takes them out of their depth producing mixed results for the plot and the film as a whole. The quest for James Dean to pose for a photo shoot is the whole plot of the film and it does wear thin, especially combined with the leisurely pacing. The film often hints at a potential important message but never really settles on what that message is. The director Anton Corbijn, well known for his own photography work, does an efficient workmanlike job that is not without merit. This is a film about the pursuit and creation of some pictures that doesn’t hit the artistic heights it aims for, despite a sterling Pattinson performance.
Written by Lyndon Wells
Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Written by: Luke Davies
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Dane DeHaan, Ben Kingsley, Joel Edgerton
Released: 205 / Genre: Drama / Country: Various / IMDB
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LIFE is out now in the UK on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Download