Monday, March 05, 2007

Helen Mirren in the movie 2010

Actress Helen Mirren won an Academy Award recently for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen. Critics have praised Mirren's performance as a monarch dealing with the aftermath of death of Princess Diana.

I remember seeing Helen Mirren in her role as the Russian Cosmonaut and commander of the spaceship Leonov in 2010: The Year We Make Contact in 1984. Mirren is playing similar roles in both The Queen and 2010: a woman who has to face a dire situation and adapting to a world (or worlds) threatening to overwhelm her.

Back then I though Mirren was a Russian actress. Most of the Leonov crew are played by Russians actors, but I was suprised when I found out that Mirren is British. I also had seen her in Excalibur and did not recognize her.

Helen Mirren has Russian ancestors, and her original name was Ilyena Vasilievna Mironova, but she was born in Ilford, Essex, now a part of Greater London.

Early on in 2010, Mirren is the classic stereotype of a Russian woman in the movies during the cold war era: a stern personality as steely as the ship she commands. She's harsh and snippy with the American crew on her ship, who are there to repair the lost spaceship Discovery.

There is a dual conflict in 2010: as an extra-terrestrial presence emerges in the orbit around Jupiter, a political crisis back on Earth could start a nuclear war.

Mirren's cosmonaut reveals her softer side as the tension grows, expressing her fears as an officer, a wife, and a mother. She realizes the events around Jupiter are escalating beyond her ability to comprehend them.

The mysterious monolith has plans to transform Jupiter into a cradle new life, while the Earth spins toward atomic doomsday. In the middle of this, a woman who is used to being in control of her destiny finds herself having to embrace ideas that shatter her familiar thinking and dwarf her authority.

Like the Queen of England dealing with the crisis of confidence in the monarchy in 1997, the commander of the Leonov has to face the situation or be consumed by it...literally.

While 2010 does look more melodramatic nearly two decades after the cold war's end, it is remarkable that a film that came out only a few months after Red Dawn and a year before Rambo II, featured a crew of sympathetic Russian characters.

Space itself becomes a character in 2010. This is not the space of the Star Trek films, where ships bounce between star systems with a push of a button. The giant Leonov (designed by futurist Syd Mead) is formidable looking, yet when the ship has to maneuver into the upper atmosphere of Jupiter, you see how puny and delicate human technology is compared to the vastness of space and the gravity of giant planets.

Helen Mirren has played more dramatic and recognized roles, but I still remember her from 2010, even as she became more well known for her roles in TVs Prime Suspect and now The Queen. 2010 took a beating from fans of 2001 and from critics for not being as cerebral as Kubrick's film, nor as exciting as the Star Wars epics.

As the actual year 2010 approaches, perhaps the success of The Queen will encourage a second look at this film and Mirren's performance.


AngryMan said...

She's pretty hot for a woman her age.

Charles G said...

She is. Her Oscar was well deserved.

AngryMan said...

I have not seen either 2010 or The Queen, but I did read and watch 2001. I preferred the novel better. I think missing out on its revolutionary film moment did not allow me to appreciate 2001. I will need to view and read 2010.

Charles G said...

Both are good movies. I suggest reading book of 2010 first...then seeing the movie. The scope of both 2001 and 2010 is wider in the books. There's only so much a movie can do.

Unknown said...

What is the name of the actress that played the young russian woman in 2010 , the person who hoped in to Floyds speeping pod, or capsule and went threw the Air Braking with him?