Filmmaking is perhaps the greatest collaborative artform in the modern world. It may take a village to raise a child, but it certainly takes an army to bring a film to the big screen. Despite the illusory apex of the auteur the very best filmmakers are those who embrace the ensemble, both in front of and behind the camera. Just as any artist will search the creative landscape for their muse, so too have film directors discovered leading actors with whom they spark, creating something truly special together.
Johns Wayne and Ford made soulful, searching epics together, the many films of Akira Kurosawa would have been far less luminous had he never met and cast the great Toshirô Mifune. When Pedro Almodóvar met Penélope Cruz did they know what cinematic electricity would fly when she appeared in front of his camera? Maybe not. But it is these collaborations between the perfect pairings which give us so much excitement.
To celebrate the home entertainment release of the action thriller Mile 22 we’re looking at these creative partnerships, and we start with…
Mark Wahlberg & Peter Berg
Mile 22 marked the fourth collaboration between Berg and Wahlberg. It was as hard-hitting and visceral as their three previous films (Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and Patriots Day), but it was not based on a real life event. Nonetheless it is as explosive and thrilling as their past movies, and they make great use of a fine ensemble including Lauren Cohen, Iko Uwais and everyone’s favourite new WWE star, Ronda Rousey.
Wahlberg brings his trademark Blue collar believability which is a strange asset for a man whose muscle-packed frame fairly bulges out of his various civic uniforms. Why it works is Peter Berg’s eye for the detail to create the illusion. He and Wahlberg work so well together on these films because, despite the fact that Wahlberg looks like a movie star, he is never invulnerable, never cartoonish. This is what often passes for ‘gritty realism’ but it is an essential component of why Wahlberg and Berg work so well together. We found much to enjoy in the film, praising the film’s “lithe, muscular production with blood and dirt deep beneath its fingernails“.
Berg has stated in an piece for Vanity Fair that he and Wahlberg work so well together because,
“What was shared […] was a feeling, somewhere back in our most formative of stages, that we were both underestimated, misunderstood, and as a result we both grew determined to change the narrative.”
It is a narrative that continues to impress and surprise with every new project they work on together.
Mile 22 is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, and the duo are already hard at work on their next film, 2019’s Wonderland.
Other 21st Century collaborations which always make us sit up and take notice include…
Kelly Reichardt & Michelle Williams
One of the most exciting pairings of recent years, Williams is undoubtedly one of the chief reasons why, despite being the world of film since the late 80s, Kelly Reichardt really made her mark with 2010’s Meek’s Cutoff.
Reichardt’s camera caught Williams’ profound sense of loss and isolation, deep within the Oregon Trail, with such a clarity that it became an iconic performance. That the two had collaborated earlier with Wendy and Lucy was evident, there was almost an unspoken connection visible through the camera lens which continued with Williams’ impeccable turn in Certain Women six years later.
David O. Russell & Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence seems to be able to do it all. Comic Book Heroine and Oscar-winner, she has made three of her more interesting films with David O. Russell. Lawrence was nominated for an Oscar for her work on Winter’s Bone in 2010 and would have to wait only two more years to win the statue for Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. She also made up part of the American Hustle ensemble for Russell before leading the titular role in Joy.
Russell said in 2015, just after the release of their third collaboration Joy, about their partnership:
“If you really have a soul connection with someone, you tend to reproduce it […] Sometimes you have a kinship with someone, and I respect it enough not to talk about it too much. We share a sense of humor. We share a sense of what we cry about. We share a sense about what we love. We like really each other and like to laugh together and have fun.”
David Cronenberg & Robert Pattinson
Following up a career breakout like Twilight may not have been the easiest of transitions for a young actor, however like his YA co-star Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson’s choice of collaborators has been of great interest. His recent turns in Good Times, The Lost City of Z and the forthcoming sci-fi from Claire Denis High Life, are signs of a definite move away from his previous work. However it is with the master of Body Horror (and so much more) David Cronenberg, that Pattinson’s true colours are starting to shine.
Cronenberg spoke in 2012 about the pragmatic casting of Pattinson,
“So I looked at everything I could find that Rob had done, including “Little Ashes,” where he plays the young Salvador Dali, and I thought, yeah, he could really do this. And I think he’s actually extraordinary. It’s ultimately intuition on my part, and casting is a huge part of directing that’s very invisible.”
What followed was a collaboration that was to propel Cronenberg into a vastly interesting latest stage of his career. The consuming of identity is a big part of Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars, albeit the second film has more of an ensemble feel to it. But the evolution of a YA Vampire pin up into something far more interesting and unexpected is perhaps the most Cronenbergian way to go. Here’s hoping there are a few more collaborations in the near future.