The pen is mightier than the sword

penbluePicture this: you’re in a fight, possibly to the death, and you’re on the brink of losing. You’re scrabbling around to find purchase on something, anything to give you an advantage. Your fingers grasp a thin object. Dimly, through the red mist, you realise the tides are turning, your luck is in; for you have come into your possession a weapon mightier than most in the world of movies: the humble pen.

Many a movie fight has conveniently been won this way. I suppose this is typical of the cinematic world because we all know, in real life, you can never find a bloody pen when you want one. And the chances of one finding your questing fingers during a fight are next to nil.

But then, maybe that’s why it works. Fate is a cruel mistress and likes to throw us a lifeline when we least expect it. Anyway, moving on. To celebrate the pen (and pencil), let’s look at movie scenes where this unassuming little object has briefly taken the limelight.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Guy flies through the window with a machine gun then comes at you with a knife, what do you do? Calmly grab a pen and dispatch him, that’s what. Jason Bourne, still absent memory, demonstrates how lethal a biro can really be. Pen vs. knife? The knife stood no chance.


Liar Liar
(1997)

‘The colour of the pen that I hold in my hand is…ROYAL BLUE!’ Jim Carrey at his overacting best in the late ’90s, as a lawyer condemned to tell the truth as the result of a birthday wish made by his son. Silly, but entertaining stuff.

The Naked Gun (1988)

The Japanese fighting fish; beautiful, graceful and elegant. Quickly gets skewered with a rare Samurai pen by Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad! The pen in question being unbreakable, impervious to everything but water. Pure comedy gold.


Shaun of the Dead
(2004)

‘You’ve got red on you.’ Shaun’s pen leaks on his shirt early on in the film: a portent of things to come and an observant nod to the mindless and banal comments people say every day. Here’s a little compilation from the film. Ah, zombie-filled memories.

The Dark Knight (2008)

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull your head off? ‘How about a magic trick?'” Quite simply one of the best character entrances to a film in recent years. Heath Ledger’s Joker took us all by surprise. He begins with a simple pencil…


Batman
(1989)

Another entry for the Joker, this time Jack Nicholson’s flamboyant portrayal. Here he sports a wonderful feather quill pen, used to chilling effect to spear someone in the throat. Was Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight an update of this scene? Both dark and compelling with a macabre sense of humour.

The Faculty (1998)

Always considered this film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, a bit of a guilty pleasure. With slightly cringing lines like ‘Aliens are taking over the fucking school’ and Famke Janssen asking for something ‘cherry flavoured’. This pen-related scene sees Josh Hartnett’s character stab his teacher in the eye, then watch in horror as he visibly dissolves.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(1989)

You’re Dr. Jones (Sean Connery) and you’re trapped in the body of a steel beast, otherwise known as a tank. You spot a chance to escape and end up grappling with the nearest Nazi soldier. Victory comes in the form of a squirting ink pen, leading your companion, Marcus Brody, to exclaim ‘The pen is mightier than the sword!

Goldeneye (1995)

Click, click, spin, click, spin, spin…BOOM! The old exploding pen trick. A classic Bond scene, building to an explosive finish. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond held captive, watching a programmer attempt to break a guidance code before Sean Bean’s bad guy rocket plummets back to earth. Little does he know he holds an explosive pen in his hand.

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

charlie bronson

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork