Jim Carter, who plays Downton Abbey's reserved and dignified butler, Carson, brilliantly interprets Santa Claus as a disheveled, on-the-edge shadow of his jolly old self in this striking British Greenpeace spot about the impact of global warming and oil drilling at the North Pole.
"Dear children, regrettably I bring bad tidings," he begins, his precise, cultured tones barely repressing his outrage—and rage—over his predicament. "Melting ice here at the North Pole has made our operations and our day-to-day life intolerable and impossible, and there may be no alternative but to cancel Christmas."
In a chilling closeup, a single light shines into his mottled beard and weary face as he reports, "I have written personally to President Obama, President Putin—all world leaders. Sadly, my letters have been met with indifference. Needless to say, these individuals are now at the top of my naughty list."
Carter delivers his sad soliloquy in a dank, cell-like room, and dripping-water sounds punctuate his pleas. His Father Christmas coat's grimy and undone, and he looks emotionally and physically exhausted. These details give him the appearance of a political prisoner, an appropriate metaphor given the subject, and the stark, intense direction by Rattling Stick's Ed Morris creates an atmosphere of unease and despair. Greenpeace always has trouble connecting with the average consumer, and it's hard to tell if this spot will melt some cold hearts or leave the group's image as doom-heralding extremists burned into viewers' minds.