Towards the end of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), mobster-turned-informant Henry Hill is confronted with the following statement from a contemptuous defence attorney in court: “People call them rats because a rat will do anything to survive. Isn’t that right, Mr Hill?” In Scorsese’s film, the viewer follows Hill across several decades of involvement with an Italian-American crime syndicate, up to the point that various complications of his Mafia career collide in a disastrous fashion. Convinced that he and his family are marked for certain death, Hill eventually decides to become an informant for the FBI, testifying against his former friends and then entering the federal Witness Protection Program.
“Rats” and informant characters are not uncommon in crime movies, though in cases where they may be the protagonist you will often find them serving the part of a double agent or mole. They may be an undercover FBI employee infiltrating the mob, such as in Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco (1997). In Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs (2002), and Scorsese’s subsequent American remake The Departed (2006), you even have informants on both sides of the law: an undercover cop, deep in the criminal underworld, trying to smoke out a mob mole lurking in the police department.
In mob movies where the lead eventually turns informant after some pressure, this will traditionally happen in the third act after a few hours of transgressive highs of the lifestyle leading to destructive lows. A rarer commodity is a film mostly set after the mobster’s choice has been made to spill the beans. After all, the derogatory term “rat” is used to denote that such a person is the lowest of the low in an environment that may posit the notion of honour among thieves. The perceived wisdom may be that audiences won’t want to follow such a character for a whole film; one that would, by its very nature, skimp on some of the glamour and success Mafia tales usually show before things go terribly wrong. But that is exactly what revered Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio has made with his subversive spin on the mob movie, The Traitor, in which the title character heads down the informant path within the opening half-hour…
Full feature for the Curzon Blog
A veteran performer who has worked extensively in his native Iceland, Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson is perhaps best known to British audiences as one of the leads of hit crime series Trapped, which has aired on BBC Four, and for the eccentric dark comedy Of Horses and Men (2013). His credits in international productions include roles in HBO’s Succession, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), Everest (2015) and Kathryn Bigelow’s K-19: The Widowmaker (2002).
The thrilling A White, White Day — which won Sigurðsson an acting prize in the Critics’ Week section at last year’s Cannes Film Festival — offers his greatest showcase to date. The sophomore feature from Icelandic writer-director Hlynur Pálmason, it explores how anguish and resentment can manifest in dangerous and disturbing ways.
Sigurðsson plays Ingimundur, a prickly widowed police officer who processes the loss of his wife in a car accident by focusing his attention on a labour-intensive building project to provide a new home for teenage granddaughter Salka (Ída Mekkín Hlynsdóttir) and her mother. When evidence suggests that Ingimundur’s late wife was having an affair, his quest for the truth begins to consume him and puts the safety of Salka in jeopardy.
Here, Josh Slater-Williams speaks to the actor about A White, White Day and the current state of Icelandic cinema…
Full interview for the Curzon Blog
Behind some of Canadian cinema’s most acclaimed films, Atom Egoyan is best known for a string of breakthrough independent features he made in the 1990s, including The Adjuster (1991), Exotica (1994) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997), the latter earning him two Oscar nominations. Regularly playing with the conventions of melodrama, his time-jumping narratives are characterised by their gradual teasing of information with the full nature of characters’ relationships never immediately clear.
Egoyan’s latest, Guest of Honour, is another tale about past sins and moral dilemmas of the present. It gives the great David Thewlis a rare leading role as a widowed health inspector, Jim, whose mind dwells on the incarceration of his adult daughter, Veronica (Laysla De Oliveira), for a crime she didn’t commit. In a parallel timeline, a now released Veronica discusses her father with a local priest (Luke Wilson) in order to compose a eulogy.
Here, Josh Slater-Williams speaks to the writer-director about his storytelling interests and the genesis of Guest of Honour…
Full interview for the Curzon blog