Friday, 1 June 2012

Top 5... Morgan Freeman Roles

Unbelievably, Morgan Freeman is 75 today! He is most famously known for his smooth, melifluous tones, making him easily the greatest narrator available for any story like to tug the occasional heartstring and culminate in an uplifting scene, but his lovable, greatest-grandfather-yoou-never-had persona has been perfectly suited to many other roles too. Let's have a look at the ones that fitted most perfectly.

5. Nelson Mandela, Invictus

As mentioned in my recent review, there was never any doubt that Morgan Freeman would play Nelson Mandela in this biopic, as Freeman was the driving force behind it's production. Whether this was because of a great admiration for the South African president or because he knew he'd be guaranteed an Oscar nomination if not a win (he lost out to Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart) is unclear, but either way there is no-one else that could have been considered for the role. I'd say they even look a bit alike, but I'd probably be accused of racism.

4. Sam, Unleashed
This underrated Louis Leterrier film (the director's best to date in my opinion) sees Jet Li as the fighting pet of Bob Hoskin's ruthless crime lord, but it's Freeman, as the blind piano tuner who takes in Li's Danny after he escapes his captivity. Freeman is trusting, kind and generally wonderful as Sam, his blindness allowing him to see past Danny's brutal martial art skills to the innocence and childishness inside.

3. Jack Doyle, Gone Baby Gone (spoiler)
As captain of the Boston police department, Freeman's Jack Doyle is a figure of authority much trusted in the community, so who better to play him than Freeman? He can lay down the law on Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan's detectives invesigating the case of a missing little girl, but he's also quite capable of showing a softer side too. That's why it's a bit of a surprise when you discover than Jack is at the root of the case, even if it is with honourable intentions.

2. President Beck, Deep Impact
Predating 24's President Palmer by 3 years and Obama by 11, Freeman's Beck was the first black US president, yet his authoritianism, serious demenaour and cool head in a crisis (there's a giant rock heading towards Earth to wipe out humanity) overshadowed any issues of race, so that it wasn't even mentioned or questioned. If he ran for President, it's possible that Freeman himself could well be nominated (as long as he didn't run against Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford).

1. God, Bruce Almighty/Evan Almighty
Well, that was obvious. If there were a God, looking down on us all the time, who wouldn't want it to be an old, twinkly-eyed, lesson-teaching prankster with a keen sense of humour - because if you were God, you'd dick around occasionally too. Inheritign the role of God from the likes of Gene Hackman in Two of a Kind and Dogma's Alanis Morissette, whose birthday is unbelievably also today, Freeman has to be the greatest incarnation so far. He is the most memorable part of the film - which is saying a lot, as Jim Carrey spends a fair amount of the time gurning and basically being Jim Carrey - and it's all down to his restrained yet comforting deity. It almost makes you want to believe.

Honourable mentions
Joe Matheson, Red
Carter, The Bucket List
Ned Logan, Unforgiven
Azeem, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Eddie 'Scrap-Iron' Dupris, Million Dollar Baby
Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding, The Shawshank Redemption
Detective Willaim Somerset, Se7en
Lucius Fox, Batman Begins/The Dark Knight
Hoke Colburn, Driving Miss Daisy 

In researching for this list, I realised there's an awful lot of Mr. Freeman's films that I've yet to see. I managed to watch Invictus and Driving Miss Daisy as preparation, but for all I know these films could have deserved a place on here too. Are they worth tracking down? Let me know.

Street Smart
Under Suspicion
Nurse Betty
High Crimes
Sum of All Fears
The Big Bounce

...and the worst:
Sloan, Wanted (spoilers)
There are two moments in this film that I'd never wanted to see and never want to relive again. One is an aged, greyed Morgan Freeman saying "fuck", and the other is him getting shot in the head with a sniper rifle. In Timur Bekmambetof's wafer thin action flick, Freeman pulls a James Cromwell and reveals himself to be the bad guy behind most of the film's injustices. There are some actors who just shouldn't play bad guys (hello Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers) and Freeman is the perfect example. He can play a grumpy curmudgeon, that's fine, or a reprehensible do-gooder (in Unforgiven, his Ned Logan has a woman at home but no qualms about using a whorehouse), but he can never be a film's all and out villain. Please don't do it again.


  1. Our lists would be very different. Somerset from Se7en, Ned from Unforgiven and Red from Shawshank would likely be my top three in some order.

    1. Se7en, Unforgiven and Shawshank would be top of my list if I were doing his best films, I just think the other characters I picked are more Morgan Freemanny. Somerset and Red would have been 6 and 7 probably.

  2. Amistad was hurt by McConnaughay (sp?) in the lead role. I honestly don't remember much about Freeman's performance in this.

    Under Suspicion is your basic, generic thriller.

    Nurse Betty was actually a pleasant surprise. It's a dark comedy. I would recommend this. Freeman plays a veteran hitman, with Chris Rock as his apprentice.

    High Crimes is another pairing with Ashley Judd. It was just okay.

    Sum of All Fears - the word "travesty" comes to mind

    Nurse Betty is the only one of these I would recommend.

    1. Amistad is on the List (Empire gave it 5-stars) so I'll be getting to it eventually. I've added Nurse Betty to my LoveFilm list. Thanks for the advice!