Cyrano review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Peter Dinklage may deliver one of his finest performances in Cyrano. Here he is a role that asks a lot of an actor, showcasing abilities to fight, sing, and swoon with conflicted romance. Even after so many years playing a supporting player, Dinklage stuns in a charming and immaculate picture of historical pathos.
He plays Cyrano de Bergerac, a legendary swordsman and poet of the early 1600s. Despite his small height, he can handle his own in any fight, be it with words or swords. Though he would much prefer swords for the embarrassment of his poetry. It’s a matter that leads to him often ghostwriting love letters for those who can’t quite find the words. His eyes draw towards the lovely Roxanne (Haley Bennett), a beautiful woman who is due to be wed. Sadly, Cyrano finds himself unable to give her the letters he composes so beautifully for her.
It is only once Cyrano learns that Roxanne loves the newest soldier of Christian de Neuvillette (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) that Cyrano uses this opportunity to let his letters grace her eyes. He meets with Christian and offers his services to ghostwrite for him. Christiian certainly needs his help as he is terrible with communicating poetic declarations of love. This leads to a romance where Cyrano ends up pulling the strings to keep this love going, despite how heartbroken he feels that his true feelings will never be confessed.
The issues mount not just with Christian’s stumbling of words but the conspiring forces against them. De Guiche (Ben Mendelsohn) is a greedy commander who wishes for Roxanne’s hand in marriage. When he finds that he may not be granted such love, he sets to plot against Christian by forcing him into combat. Can romance survive during a time of war? More importantly, whose love will be properly confessed?
Director Joe Wright has a great exuberance in his direction. You can feel the musical energy radiate from the screen, from Bennett’s opening scene brimming with excitement to Dinklage’s fiery entrance onto a stage to protest a performance. Everybody delivers such fantastic acting that the few musical numbers present are real treats. It’s especially compelling to watch Dinklage sing with such passion and turmoil. Even the dance sequences have a real kick to them, as when Harrison laments around parading soldiers and Bennett steps lively among high-kicking dresses of the streets.
The staging is also quite beautiful, even the scenes that don’t feature elaborate costumes or warm interiors. The third-act’s battlefield scenes are particularly magnificent with how soldiers sing their last goodbyes with a somber refrain of heaven is wherever their heads may lie. The music by Aaron Dessner and Bryce Dessner holds a lot of power in these moments, making the expected moment of tragedy pack such a punch. It’s a mesmerizing sequence that I just can’t stop thinking about, with a melody that is sure to be trapped in my ears for quite some time.
Cyrano is a musical with guts, especially for Dinklage delivering one of his best performances as a lead, something he needs way more of for being so accomplished. It tells a story of love and war with all the grace, humor, charm, sadness, and passion that one would hope for out of such a picture. This was such a pleasure of a picture to partake in that always kept me engaged and left a heartfelt smile etched on my visage.