HURT stellar in family drama
BY MICHAEL WILMINGTON
TRIBUNE MOVIE CRITIC
John Hurt, the
star of “The Climb,” is an actor with
an often staggering capacity for conveying human suffering. With his watery eyes and lean bony, tragic-looking face. Hurt can almost radiate pain. Yet there’s a sardonic side to his acting (in stories like “The Naked Civil Servant” and “Love and Death on Long Island”) that undercut any sentimental mush. He’s capable of making us laugh at the victims he portrays and their folly even to empathize with their entrapment.
Almost all Hurt’s skills and view in “The Climb” which is one of those sterling independent films that some times unfortunately slip through the cracks. Set in 1959 in Baltimore suburb (although it was actually shot in New Zealand. It’s an engrossing and sometimes wonderful little family drama, revolving around a young boy’s relationship with his reticent father (played by David Strathairn), a man falsely accused of cowardice, and with the dying old engineer (played by Hurt) who lives next door. The boy, Danny Himes (a very good, unsentimental performance by Gregory Smith) obsessed with the notion of proving his courage, partly because in a neighborhood dominated by Korean War veterans, his non-veteran father Earl (Strathairn), is a target to abuse and ridicule. Danny becomes fixated on proving his own bravery by climbing an abandoned TV tower high in the hills above the suburb, as one of his collaborators is Hurt’s, Chuck Langer a cancer-ravaged engineer who built many a bridge and road in South America.
All of the actors in this film are good. But, as Langer, Hurt is simply tremendous. Impending death has snuffed out almost all Langer’s inhibitions and turn him into a railing profane old tyrant. Yet, the warmth and the depth of his ties with Danny are always convincing.
“The Climb” is a little jewel well-worth seeking out - for its humanity, its humor and, most of all, for the brilliant hurting of Hurt.
June 24, 1999
Directed by Bob Swaim; written by Vince McKewin
Photography by Allen Guilford;
edited by Marie Sophie Dubus: Production designed by Kim Sinclair
Music by Greco Casadesus: Produced by
Mark McClafferty, Pamela Edwards McClafferty, Tom
Parkinson. A Panorama Entertainment
release: opens Friday at the Village Theater Running time:
1:34. MPAA rating PG-13
Chuck Langer . ...................John Hurt
Danny Himes............... Gregory Smith
Earl Himes.................David Strathairn
Jack McLaskin........Stephen McHattie
Ruth Langer..............Sarah G. Buxton
John Hurt gives a tremendous performance in an engrossing and sometimes wonderful Independent film, a family drama that revolves around a young boy’s (played by Gregory Smith) double relationship with his reticent father (David Strathairn), a man falsely accused of cowardice, and the dying old engineer, Hurt who lives next door.