His New Casting Breaks a Lot of Norms

Great news, Cumbersasses. According to Leo Barraclough at Variety, Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast in Blood Mountain as the leading hero. The Sergei Bodrov-directed military drama is currently being shopped around European markets and soon will be shopping for North American rights. Interested? Of course you are. It's promising news, after all. Here's a quick synopsis of the film:

[Blood Mountain] follows a private military contractor whose special forces team is ambushed and killed during a covert raid, forcing him to personally escort one of the world’s most wanted terrorists over hostile terrain in order to bring him to justice. With a bounty at stake and insurgents and rival mercenaries hunting them, the two find themselves facing not only their enemies, but each other in their fight for survival.

And while the Internet is surely busy Tumblr-ing reaction gifs and being all “Wow such British. So Cumbersassy” (self included), it’s a casting that is exciting for reasons well beyond tweed and cheekbones. Benedict Cumberbatch has became a rare breed of movie star. One who is versatile and likable and kind to fans, he still remains a private person, and has box office draw that does not compute with most industry trends.

When we think “Leading man in a war film” we think Jake Gyllenhaal, Channing Tatum, and Mark Wahlberg. Those guys are all solid actors, but casting-wise, Benedict Cumberbatch is a pretty far cry from them. And I think that’s a good thing.

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The problem I’ve had with a lot of war films (to make a grand generalization here) is that they’re so gruesome and violent that it toes the line between realistic and gratuitious (Inglorious Basterds) or that the script can be way too melodramatic (Pearl Harbor). By the sounds of Blood Mountain and the casting of Cumberbatch, it appears we’ll have a film that is as thrilling as it is thoughtful. Letters from Iwo Jima can’t keep carrying the flag for “war films that do something other than glorify war.”

And to pull the gender card here, it may actually change the target demo for these kinds of movies. There’s no denying that Mr. Cumberbatch has a huge female fanbase. And oh, I don’t know, it might be sort of nice to have a war film that can be marketed across genders. No, that doesn’t mean the posters need to all Magic Mike-* with a tagline like “He’s Got More Than One Kind of Special Forces” — what I mean here is that most movies are needlessly gendered in their marketing.

Sure, you’re less likely to see women in theaters for a movie that is a beer-soaked boob-fest with dumb sexist jerks starring in it, because those are just bad movies and women are annoyed enough on a day-to-day basis by that crap. No need to waste 12 bucks on a ticket. But smart thrillers like Blood Mountain, well, its story and its star have the potential to turn heads.

The film is also being produced by Lawrence Bender who was also behind Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. Sure, those movies are hyper-violent, but they're also highly-stylized and have some very funny elements to them. Cumberbatch's dramatic range and dry humor combined with this creative team could make for a war thriller we are truly excited to see.