In years to come, film historians may well refer to 2004 as the Year of the Jude. With roles in Cold Mountain, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I Heart Huckabees, Closer, The Aviator and Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, he is one of the most prolific actors around. Amidst all of this is Alfie, a remake of the iconic 1966 film that established Michael Caine as an international star. With Law onscreen throughout, this film demonstrates how far he has progressed since his inauspicious beginnings in the short-lived daytime soap Families.
Law has made a made a career out of providing sturdy support in a broad range of films, from his breakthrough performance as the wheelchair-bound swimmer in Gattaca to his scene-stealing Dickie Greenleaf in The Talented Mr Ripley. Tellingly, his most accomplished performance is probably as Gigolo Joe in A.I., a robot created to be nothing more than suave and beautiful. His movements are balletic yet mechanical, his mannerisms mere functions of his programming, his good looks little more than a paint-job. That Law can so convincingly portray the artifice behind the charm makes him ideal for the role of Alfie Elkins. Everything he does is an act, a routine constructed out of playing up to the desires of the women he courts, but with little under the surface.
For Caine, Alfie represented that point in his career where his own identity and that of the roles he played became inseparable: Jack Carter in Get Carter, Charlie Croker in The Italian Job, Harry Palmer in The Ipcress File. He now finds himself in a peculiar position where his best known films are being remade, and those signature roles are being taken by younger actors.
So far, Law is the pick of the bunch of Caine-wannabes (not tough considering the competition includes Sylvester Stallone and Mark Whalberg…), and he seems to have even been given Caine’s seal of approval. There is even talk of the two of them remaking Sleuth, with Caine taking the part once played by Laurence Olivier and Law playing the part played by Caine.
It is unlikely that Alfie, or any of the other films of the Year of the Jude, will prove to be as career-defining as the original was for Caine, but that special moment can’t be far off. Law has proven himself to be a most versatile actor, projecting an old-fashioned air of Britishness missing from most other actors of his generation. If the trend of Hollywood reproducing Caine’s career continues, then it is inevitable that there will be a remake of Zulu made sometime soon. Who would be better qualified to fill Caine’s shoes than Jude Law?
Originally written for Picturehouse Filmnotes.