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Edward Norton and Why Laura Mennell is the 'Alphas' MVP

Brittany Frederick Brittany Frederick
August 24th, 2012 11:30am EDT

Brittany's Blog: This is my viewpoint, from the far end of the couch...and this week, I want to single out two truly talented individuals: The Bourne Legacy co-star and multiple Oscar nominee Edward Norton, and Alphas actress Laura Mennell, who's become that show's Most Valuable Player.

The Bourne Legacy

Just because I'm an entertainment journalist doesn't mean I'm always up on everything; sometimes I miss things. So, better late than never to say this: Edward Norton is freaking brilliant.

I went into The Bourne Legacy two weeks ago convinced I wasn't going to like his character, as the guy was trying to have Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross killed, and Renner happens to be one of my favorite actors. And I did, in fact, want to slap Ric Byer like he so richly deserved. Yet having seen the flick twice now, I've also got to admit that Byer is pretty compelling, for an antagonist.

(MILD SPOILER ALERT.)

For example, there's the fact that I really, sincerely loathed the guy...even though, factually speaking, he doesn't physically do that much worthy of my disdain. He's the government's man in charge, and he's giving the orders, as morally questionable as they are. He's not doing his own dirty work. Yet, I hated him like he was pulling the trigger himself.

I've avoided using the word "villain" here, and that's because of the second point that impressed me about Norton's performance: Byer isn't, by our typical expectation, a villain. He's not necessarily a horrible person. In another movie, one set several years earlier, he could've been the hero.

That's partly because of the above and partly because of what makes him tick. He's a man who's making the decision he believes is best for the greater good. Even though I disagreed with it, I understood his point of view. And I started to want to know more about him, and what had driven him to the point where I met him.

(END SPOILER ALERT.)

Those aren't thoughts one normally has when it comes to bad guys in flicks. They don't usually have as much depth, because unlike the good guys, they're usually not around for more than one movie. We want to see the good guys win and the bad guys lose.

But on that second viewing, able to step back from the experience of Bourne Legacy and able to examine it a bit more closely, I understood what Norton said in a recent Empire piece about Byer not being a villain. I saw the humanity in the character, which is an accomplishment considering that, again, we don't get too much time to be acquainted with him. For my money, Norton created one of the more memorable antagonists I've seen in years.

With this in mind, I was motivated to start taking a serious look at his resume. Over the last week, I've taken advantage of my insomnia to make up for lost time; I've marathoned a good dozen of Norton's films, from Primal Fear and Fight Club to The Painted Veil and even Death to Smoochy. I've watched him create a credible, serious bad guy and also entertain kids in a giant purple rhino costume. There's so much variety in Norton's choice of roles that it's ridiculous, and I have yet to watch him give a bad performance. I have, however, seen him play his own twin brother.

Here, too, is another actor who is also just interesting to listen to off-screen. I watched Keeping the Faith with the commentary track, and I enjoyed just listening to Norton and writer-producer Stuart Blumberg talk about the process of making the movie, which was Norton's directorial debut. Having heard that and Norton's recent interview with Charlie Rose for Bourne Legacy, he seems to be a very cerebral person, and I love actors who wonder what makes a script or a character tick as much as I do, who aren't just settling for what's on the page.

I'm still trying to figure out just how Norton does what he does, where the versatility and depth comes from, but I do know I'm vastly impressed by it. Given that he's been nominated for two Oscars, I know I should've been watching him a long time ago.

I'm aware the odds of him reading this are slim to none, but just in case, I feel like I ought to offer a public apology to Mr. Norton: I'm sorry I didn't take notice of you sooner, but trust me, I've learned my lesson. You've got a new fan in me. Although, I still have to take Renner's side in Bourne Legacy...

Now, for something I wasn't late to, click over.

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Photo Credits: Universal; SyFy


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