Iron Man

2008, Movie, PG-13, 126 mins

Review

IRON MAN
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The suit is cool, but IRON MAN belongs to Robert Downey, Jr.: His effortlessly nuanced performance as Tony Stark, a heedless, billionaire playboy arms manufacturer cast into a brutal crucible that forces a top-to-bottom reassessment of his life so far, is a dark delight that combines pop-culture wit and genuine emotional depth.

Brilliant, hedonistic industrialist Tony Stark (Downey) inherited a clutch of companies invested in everything from medical research to alternative energy, but the pulsing heart of Stark Industries is weapons: The bigger and more destructive the better. Stark's sound-bite patriotism lies over a genuine, if not deeply considered, belief that Stark munitions are making the world safe for his fellow Americans, a position he's compelled to rethink after being wounded and taken hostage by Afghan terrorists during a mega-missile demo/photo op. Held in a mountain camp bristling with Stark products and tethered to a primitive device buried in his chest -- the only thing standing between his heart and stealthy shards of shrapnel lurking in his flesh – Stark is ordered to build his captors their very own super WMD. He instead forges an iron robo-suit and escapes; his first act back in the US is to make the startling announcement that Stark Industries is out of the weapons business until further notice. While Stark devotes himself to constructing an improved version of the suit that saved his life, rumors that he's suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome threaten to destabilize Stark Industries. The three people closest to him – loyal assistant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow); friend and military liaison James "Rhodey" Rhodes (Terrence Howard); and longtime right-hand Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges) – react in very different ways, both before and after they discover exactly what he's been working on and what he plans to do with it.

Downey, 42, gets under the skin of a character whose devil-may-care arrogance, born of lifelong privilege, is viciously ripped away, an experience that makes a better man of him, but not a different one. He's still cocky, self-centered and superficially imperious, but he knows he's not untouchable, which has as much to do with being obliged to ask Pepper to plunge her hand into the perpetually open hole in his chest and adjust the device keeping him alive as it does his newly awakened conscience. His performance grounds the film's fantastic trappings -- from the sleek Iron Man armor to Pepper's ability to sprint in strappy, sky-high heels – in emotional reality. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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