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Contender: ‘A Dangerous Method’

The Contenders 2011

The founding of psychoanalysis was begging to come to the screen. Christopher Hampton adapts his own stage play (as he did for his Oscar-winning script “Dangerous Liaisons”) with predictably pungent eloquence, while helmer David Cronenberg brings an unpredictably muted style to the triangle of Jung (Michael Fassbender), Freud (Viggo Mortensen) and the woman (Keira Knightley) each puts on the couch (one way or another). The impeccably researched sets and costumes should figure strongly in their respective races.

If Fassbender is one of the lead actor five, anticipate the triumph of id over ego as he’s tapped not for this, but for his soul- and skin-baring turn in “Shame.” Knightley acts her heart out as relentlessly as last year’s winner, Natalie Portman did in “Black Swan,” and even gets an opportunity to show her character in recovery. Not to be forgotten in the supporting category is Mortensen, whose Oscar-nominated thug in “Eastern Promises” was as vividly physical as his Freud is wittily cerebral.

In both pics, as in “The Lord of the Rings,” he commands full attention in every scene, and if nominated his chief competition is likely to come from … oops, sorry, our hour is up.

Release date: Nov. 23
Sony Pictures Classics
Read the Variety review

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