“A Dangerous Method” is the latest film in this year’s Michael Fassbender-blitz, when we’ve seen him previously in “Jane Eyre,” “X-Men: First Class,” and “Shame”. Some actors run the risk of over-exposure when they star in too many movies over a short period of time, but Hollywood’s recent fascination with Fassbender and the sudden frequency of his appearances are a welcome discovery of a multi-talented new leading man. In director David Cronenberg’s (“A History of Violence”, “Eastern Promises”) latest project, Fassbender plays psychology titan Carl Jung, who is in the midst of establishing his method of analytic psychology. Jung experiences a significant breakthrough in his studies when he successfully treats a new patient, Sabina Spielrein (played by Keira Knightley). Encouraged by the success of his work, Jung reaches out to fellow psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) in the hopes of collaboration. Freud’s unwillingness to budge from his own theories and incorporate Jung’s ideas leads to tension between them. Things become further complicated when one of Freud’s disciples, psychoanalyst Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), persuades Jung to give into his temptations and take Spielrein as a mistress. This true-story of history’s most brilliant psychology pioneers spins a tangled web of egotism, desire and deceit.
Written by: Christopher Hampton, John Kerr
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen
Though “A Dangerous Method” is occasionally bogged-down by the weight of Jung and Freud’s theories and work, the performances are really the saving grace. Knightley’s Russian accent is somewhat suspect, but her portrayal of a mentally-ill Spielrein at the beginning of the movie is riveting – she’s cringe-inducing and downright frightening but you can’t look away. The particular physicality of the illness is unique and the way she handles the difficult assignment is impressive. Michael Fassbender easily handles his role as Carl Jung, proving that he can tackle deep, emotional, complex roles just as easily as he can don a spandex suit and kick some ass in action flicks. By demonstrating his wide range, Fassbender has ensured that he’ll be in high-demand in 2012. And not to be overlooked are Mortensen and Cassel, whose turns as Sigmund Freud and Otto Gross are as reliable as ever.
But despite the impressive efforts of Fassbender and company, overall I found “A Dangerous Method” a bit lackluster. The characters and the way they interact and relate to one another is interesting, but it wasn’t enough to hold my attention. For someone who is mostly indifferent about the works of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud, the film grew tiresome despite being a short hour and 39 minutes. Instead of sparking my interest in psychology, the movie had me checking my watch. “A Dangerous Method” will probably be critically well-received, and Cronenberg did put together a decent movie, but for me it was no “Eastern Promises.”
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