Death Defying Acts Review - For Love or Money

Death Defying Acts

I love historical movies so I knew going in that I was going to like Death Defying Acts, the Harry Houdini story.  I also am a big fan of Catherine Zeta Jones.  Written by Tony Grisoni and Brian Ward, and helmed by the first Australian female director Gillian Armstrong the show also features acclaimed actors as Guy Pearce , Timothy Spall and Saoirse Ronan..  

The  co-production of Third Rail, BBC Films , Macgowan Lupovtiz Nasatir Films (Marian Macgowan) and Zephyr Films (Chris Curling) created an amazing story done in combination with the Film Finance Corporation Australia and the UK Film Council was headed by Dan Lupovitz, Marcia Nastir, Kirk D’Amico, Lucas Foster and David Thompson as executive producers.

Death: Harry (Guy Pearce) romancing Mary

The romantic spellbinding story of Harry Houdini ( Guy Pearce) and the mysterious psychic, Mary McGarvie ( Catherine Zeta Jones) and her daughter Benji ( Saoirse Ronan) was photographed by Haris Zambarloukos with costumes, true to the time period,  designed by Susannah Buxton and production design by Gemma Jackson.  It takes place in Edinburgh where Harry arrives as a superstar.  Fascinated with the world beyond, he offers a reward of $10,000 dollars for anyone who can tell him the last words his mother said to him as she lay dying.  

Death: Mary McGarvie (Catherine Zeta Jones) and Benji (Saoirse Ronan) in their first interview with Harry

Performers of a spiritual  music hall act, the McGarvie girls decide to out con the great con man without realizing that the risk they face is falling in love with Houdini, a man whose denial of love had always held him in chains.  The essence of the story is that there is magic out there if you believe in it.  Maury Sugarman ( Timothy Spall) –Harry’s manager, convinced that the McGarvie’s are taking Harry for a ride and wanting to be rid of them, tells them some of the facts of Harry’s relationship with his mom.  Little does he know that young Benji, who has the gift, is able at the end to channel the mother at the end – or is she?  And does Mary love Harry or did she only want his monies.

As one of the world’s first superstars, Houdini stands out from the crowd and enthralls the audience.  Through out the story little bits of Houdini’s magic are revealed as well as tricks to the psychics.  

Death: Harry announcing he has a psychic challenger

The chemistry of the two stars is amazing as is the three way pull as to who gets to hang onto Houdini.  The genuineness of Spall and Ronan also stand out.  The young girl especially since she has to be both an adult and a child at the same time.  

Death: Harry catches Benji in his dressing room

Music by Cezary Skubiszewski eerily fit the film which was masterly edited by Australia’s Nicholas Beauman.  

While the story is a work of fiction, it is quite believable as the real history.

to see the trailer go to death- defying-trailer

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