Hoo-ah! I loved this movie. (Or, rather, the first hour and fifty minutes or so. After that, make it stop. More on that later.) I’d been quoting it for years, without ever knowing where the reference came from. Now I know, and I’m so glad I do. Al Pacino is magnificent, which is probably why he won that little golden statue or whatever. What else can be said? I’ll try to think of something.
Pacino is just so effortlessly surprising. I suppose he’s always Michael Corleone to me, and while I know how accomplished he is, I’ll still see him with that incredible ascot in my mind. Perhaps Tony Montana sneaks in there, too, but it’s mostly Michael. And so, for that reason, I’m still surprised when I see him transform into someone completely different, like Lt. Col. Frank Slade. This is man is a curmudgeonly enigma, if there ever were such a thing, and a true force to be reckoned with. Pacino plays blind so well, it’s hard to believe he actually kept his eyes open for the whole thing. But he plays blind well because he plays blind like a man who hasn’t seen for awhile and has gotten used to where they should be. He also layers sympathy on top of gruffness on top of loneliness, and the result is a storm of resistance, a person who does things only his way, a man no one understands who probably barely understands himself. Pacino turns Frank Slade into more than a three-dimensional character. Frank Slade is a real guy in this movie.
He’s funny, too. Amidst the tragedy of Frank’s inner turmoil, we have scenes like this one, which made me cry with laughter:
He’s also incredibly sweet, as is evidenced by the most famous scene in the movie (and maybe the only time he smiles, too):
Yeah. It’s really worth watching, even if Chris O’Donnell sort of bumbles his way through. He’s fine, even if his storyline is lame, and is the reason for the excessive, contrived, 40-minute tangent at the end. In essence [spoiler alert!], O’Donnell plays Charlie, a prep school kid struggling with a very prep-schooly should-he-or-shouldn’t-he-bail-out-his-asshole-friends moral dilemma, who watches over Slade while Slade’s family is away for the weekend. They end up in New York, and Charlie basically shows Slade that there’s meaning left in his life. Suffice it to say that Slade comes through in the end for Charlie by making a big important speech for him in front of the whole school (WTF?). It’s the least he can do for the boy who showed him around New York for the weekend, got him laid, and saved his life, but he really didn’t need to do it at all. Hanging out with Slade was the privilege in the first place.
P.S., Bradley Whitford is in this movie for a hot second, and that’s quite alright. Were Pacino not so magnetic, I’d wish for more.