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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Bettany shines in Amiel's 'Creation'

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Paul Bettany (Charles Darwin) and Martha West (Annie Darwin) star in Lionsgate Home Entertainment's 'Creation'.
(Courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment)
It would be easy to dismiss Jon Amiel's "Creation" as an agenda driven propaganda machine intent on shoving Charles Darwin's theory of evolution down one's throat. But, the film is far from that.

Perhaps no issue more quickly divides people than the mere mention of evolution. Both sides have passionate feelings, but ironically, evolution is only a minor subplot in "Creation".

The film is a character study, one which follows a man who is certain of his beliefs, yet is slowed due to his relationship with his deeply religious wife Emma (Jennifer Connelly) and the ramifications his findings will have on their lives.

Darwin (Paul Bettany) is dealt another blow when his eldest daughter Annie (Martha West) becomes ill in 1851 and subsequently passes away. Darwin's work and life come to a screeching halt due to the loss of his fondest child.

Annie's favorite story her father tells is the tale of Jenny, an orangutan from Borneo, who is brought to the London Zoo and who dies from pneumonia in her keeper's arms. It's a story that shows up early and is the one Darwin is recounting as his beloved daughter passes.

Hallucinations of Annie visit Darwin as his own health deteriorates and urge him to finish his book, which becomes "On the Origin of Species". Even an enthusiastic reaction from Joseph Dalton Hooker (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Thomas Henry Huxley (Toby Jones) can't pull him from his funk and get his writing.

In the end, he finally bears down and finishes the manuscript, leaving it to his religious wife whether or not he'll publish his book and unleash perhaps one of the most controversial theories in history.

Although the film is slightly uneven, as a whole it works. At times , it becomes bogged down with slow moving emotional scenes, but Bettany is able to engage the viewer enough to make them work.

Bettany is superb as Darwin. His joys as a father, his anxiety over his theory and his despair over the loss of his daughter are captured perfectly by Bettany. The actor once again proves he's a talent that's underutilized in Hollywood. We'll excuse him for "Legion" of course.

Connelly just so happens to be Bettany's wife and their chemistry is amazing. She's equally as strong in the role of Emma, which adds another dimension to the film.

Capturing the unbridled joy of Annie is newcomer West and what a joy she is. She doesn't have many lines in the film, but just her smile alone is enough to pull you in. She's a young actress who is able to do a lot without dialogue and that's a unique talent for someone just breaking into the business.

The disc has some interesting special features as well.

It features a nice commentary with the director, a making-of documentary and a seven-part "Digging Deeper into Darwin" set of featurettes, but it's the "Debating Darwin" that piqued my interest.

It has three persons -- a hard-core, God dismissing scientist, a Theistic evolutionist and a young-earth creationist -- who discuss the impact of Darwin's theory. It's nice to listen to the argument from varying points of view.

Final Cut: "Creation" is a strong film whose introspective quality was very unexpected, but welcomed. While evolution is of course an element of the story, it's the journey Darwin took to finish his book that makes the flick so interesting. "Creation" is a heartbreaking, emotional film with superb performances from Bettany, Connelly and West.

4 out of 5 stars


Starring: Paul Bettany, Jennifer Connelly, Martha West, Toby Jones, Benedict Cumberbatch

Director: Jon Amiel

Writer: John Collee

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense thematic material

Run time: 1hr. 48 min.

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment