Ambition can be exactly what makes an individual reach the greatest heights. It is a trait that can lead people to realize hidden talents inside themselves that they never thought possible. However, ambition demands a quest for power and wealth, and it is this quest that leads some to ultimately be brought down by the fame and fortune that they worked so hard to gain. Nina Sayers is ready to fight tooth and nail to prove that she is a good enough ballerina to make the coveted role of the swan queen her own, and she's ready to fight against anyone who gets in her way. However, it is her thirst for power that will transform her into her own worst enemy.
Nina (Natalie Portman) is part of a ballet troupe comprised of young, professional women who are ready to destroy each other in order to gain some credibility in the trade. They all seek to win the approval of their instructor Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel), who takes advantage of the girls' desires for advancement at every opportunity. Nina has been around the block a few times, and much to the dismay of her colleagues, wins the role of the swan queen, in an updated version of the classic play 'Swan Lake'. There are two sides to this character; the white and black swan, respectively. Nina has the unassuming, romantic and idealistic white swan down pat. It is the darker, shady and truly evil black swan that she cannot master. As Nina faces pressure from Thomas to spread her wings and evolve into the ballerina the role requires, she is hit with one more roadblock. The arrogant and mysterious Lily (Mila Kunis) has just come on the scene, and Nina is convinced the new girl is trying to take her spot from her, at any cost.
Nina is a conflicted character with a dark past, and Natalie Portman absolutely nails it. There is a sense of insecurity that hides behind Nina's confident exterior, and as intensity rises, she begins to come undone. To see the fall from grace, and the way Portman's go-for-broke performance captures every deep seeded fear that Nina holds inside is truly compelling. Portman goes from manic and repressed to enthusiastic and free within minutes, and brings Nina's inner battle out. This emotionally naked performance makes Nina Sayers one of the more memorable female characters in recent memory. This is Portman's greatest performance ever, and this examiner is almost certain this is her Oscar year.
While Portman is the stand-out, Mila Kunis gives her most mature performance to date, as the free spirit who brings out the deeply sexual other side of Nina to the forefront. Kunis has come a long way since 'That '70s Show', and with her devil's advocate role she shows she has some true dramatic chops. The Golden Globe nomination she received is getting her the attention she truly deserves. The two actresses make a dynamic duo, and the best scenes in the film are the ones in which they both appear.
'Black Swan' is a film being considered for serious awards attention, and with good reason. It is a deep, provocative sexual thriller that makes the viewer relate to their own insecurities, and the lengths they'd go to in order to get past them. Nina Sayers is a girl with her wings clipped, who so desperately wants to fly. It is not whether she succeeds that will astound you, but the things she'll do in order to soar above everyone else. 'Black Swan' is much more than a small ripple in this year's Oscar pool. It's a full-on tidal wave, and is not to be missed.