TIFF 2014: The Forger – Film Review

Director: Philip Martin
Actors: John Travolta, Christopher Plummer, Tye Sheridan, Jennifer Ehle
Writer: Richard D’Ovidio
Country: USA
Rating: 14A
Runtime: 92 min

It is always enjoyable to discover a young and promising actor and then to follow the rise of their career. My favourite up-and-comer of the moment is undoubtedly Tye Sheridan, star of the critically acclaimed hits Mud (2012) and Joe (2013). At only seventeen years of age, Sheridan is already producing professional, nuanced work that lights up a screen even when he shares it with actors such as Matthew McConaughey and Nicolas Cage. In director Philip Martin’s film The Forger (2014), Sheridan once again captivates, this time alongside seasoned professionals John Travolta and Christopher Plummer. This film may not be exactly what one expects from a heist thriller, yet I found it to be a highly enjoyable and rewarding movie watching experience.

The Forger

When convict Ray Cutter (Travolta) discovers that his son Will (Sheridan) has stage four cancer, he calls in a favour in order to be released early from prison. Now, art forger Ray must balance spending time with Will with his attempt to repay his debt and recreate a Monet masterpiece that will be used in a museum heist. Ray promises to grant his son three wishes, and Will’s first two simple requests – to meet his mother and to lose his virginity – do not produce surprise or present particular challenge. When Will asks to be a part of the forgery and heist, however, Ray must decide just how much involvement he can allow his son to take in his dangerous mission.

This role is the kind in which Sheridan excels, bringing an exceptional maturity as well as a certain level of vulnerability to his performance.  One cannot help but fall for Will as he attempts to live as a normal teenager dealing with extraordinarily unfortunate circumstances. John Travolta surprises in a role that forces him to exude mystery while demonstrating a love for his son and a great talent as a painter, and I was impressed by the level of emotion that he was able to bring to this hardened character. Ray and Will become closer as the film progresses, and the audience is able to watch their relationship develop as the painting takes shape. Christopher Plummer also stands out in the wonderfully crafted role of Will’s humorous grandfather who may be kind, but is also able to kick ass, standing up to thugs and assisting in the heist in a manner that is not only charming – it is also intimidating.

The Forger

The complicated dynamic between the convict father and terminally ill son provides the heart of this film, creating interest and engagement without the need for the heart-pounding action sequences that are often found in abundance in this genre. Scenes showing Ray dealing with brutal and relentless thugs are offset by those in which he tries to fulfill his promise to Will, so that this heist flick is combined with a father-son relationship drama and the ideal balance between the two is achieved. A surprisingly sensitive score accompanies each scene appropriately as well, allowing for some genuinely affecting moments throughout.

Although critics may complain about the lack of action and the mixed tone, these are elements that I believe to be what makes The Forger a unique and worthy film. Not every film in this genre must be filled with hardcore violence, and I enjoyed watching a touching family drama fill those gaps instead. Generally, it is the convict who is dying upon his release from jail, but this film throws in a twist that allows Tye Sheridan to shine and the film to stand out. Not at all what I expected, The Forger offers a pleasant surprise.