THE FORGIVEN — Review by Susan Granger

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Based on Michael Ashton’s play, “The Archbishop and the Antichrist,” this intense docudrama examines the (fictionalized) relationship between the iconic South African cleric Desmond Tutu and a notorious, white-supremacist murderer who is seeking clemency. In the mid-1990s when the Archbishop (Forest Whitaker) was appointed by then-President Nelson Mandela to head the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to confront the atrocities of apartheid, one of the defendants was Afrikaner Piet Blomfeld (Eric Bana), an unrepentantly racist psychopath. Continue reading…

To capture the Archbishop’s attention, Blomfeld wrote him an articulate letter, referencing Plato and Milton. And, according to compassionate Desmond Tutu: “No one is beyond redemption.”

Incarcerated in Cape Town’ brutal maximum-security Pollsmoor Prison, Blomfeld’s past is explored in flashbacks, juxtaposed with a larger investigation of Operation Hacksaw, a police conspiracy that resulted in the disappearance of a black teenager whose grieving mother (Thandi Makhubele) pleads for justice in a climactic courtroom scene.

Burdened by a distracting prosthetic nose, Forest Whitaker delivers a powerhouse performance that’s been enthusiastically endorsed by Desmond Tutu himself – and he’s matched by surly Eric Bana’s charismatic savagery.

In an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Whitaker expressed gratitude that he was able to meet Tutu before he took on the role. Noting, “I was trying to understand the man. I knew his laugh and sense of humor. I knew how his felt, his passion, his faith, etc… I was trying to capture the spirit of the man.”

Adapted by playwright Michael Ashton and director Roland Joffe (“The Killing Fields,” “The Mission”), it’s unfocused, slowly paced and overly earnest. In addition, its theatrical origins are obvious, resulting in stilted, overly talky confrontations.

On the other hand, William Wages’ cinematography captures South Africa’s imagery, particularly when it’s augmented by Zethu Mashika’s mournful music.

If the inflammatory subject matter seems familiar, somewhat similar situations were previously depicted in John Boorman’s “In My Country” and Tom Hooper’s “Red Dust.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Forgiven” is an overly formal 5, better suited to the stage.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.