TIFF 2012: ‘The Iceman’ Shannon spellbinds with chilling focus and calculated brutality
Directed by Ariel Vromen
Written by Ariel Vromen and Morgan Land
Chronicling the complicated balance between work and family that prolific real life contract killer Richard Kuklinski carried on for decades, The Iceman paralyzes the audience purely with Michael Shannon’s unrelentingly intense performance. When cloaked in silence his unnerving stare speaks volumes more than any of the periphery characters who happen to drift in and out of scenes around him. He is a force of terror and subtle affection to behold. While Kuklinski claimed to have murdered over 100 people, the far more remarkable part of his story is how vehemently he insulated his family from his criminal underworld and true nature. Director Ariel Vromen conveys here how he didn’t use them as a cover but as emotional security against the monstrous people he was in business with, people seemingly less monstrous than himself. Iceman details the routinely abominable exploits of a killer who built a wholesome family life a top of a mountain of blood soaked deceptions.
Shannon holds the whole of the film together and doesn’t lose his grip unless you look away. While it could benefit from delving into his relationship with his family more than his underworld dealings, the concentrated tension from the killer’s eye movement and abrupt violence doesn’t let the viewer disengage. The role of Richard Kuklinski seems tailor made for Shannon, an actor who on the screen and stage has proven his absolute expertise with actualizing individuals verging on complete mental instability. In Bug, Take Shelter and Revolutionary Road he created masterfully manic characters whose sense of displeasure, unease and downright anger with life threaten to boil over at any moment. Here too Shannon possesses a quiet but on the edge air of fiery power. If provoked or leaned on for loyalty, he seems capable of absolutely anything. With his slicked back hair, remorseless stare and stiff demeanor- Shannon communicates an aptitude for destruction that is exacting and all consuming except when it comes to his family. In a quick flurry he deposes of people with machine like skill and a temperate expression. At home he does everything to be the most attentive and present father possible. Over time it is only his wife that notices he holds back certain parts of himself and doesn’t want to give up anything about his past. Winona Ryder plays his sweetheart Deborah, who seeks to affirm the best about Kuklinski. Her willful ignorance and minimal prying into his escalating lies is believable- no one wants to acknowledge their partner would be able to inflict such tremendous pain without regret. Ryder’s face carries the fear of someone who doesn’t want their idyllic world to come crashing down but still wishes to be close to whatever storm is raging inside her loved one.
How will Hank react to learning Walt is Heisenberg?
Gilligan: I have to be a little coy … but I can tell you this: It has been the subject of great debate amongst the seven writers, myself included … You run through every possible permutation … It’s hard to put yourself into Hank’s head at the moment… you’ve got to think, this probably the single biggest most horrible revelation he’s ever had in his life.