Have you ever watched a movie and it just keeps running through your head for days or weeks? There’s an empty ache and you scour the Internet for bloopers and trivia. Fret not, this is common, especially when the actor has put up an outstanding performance.
Kevin Spacey in American Beauty
American Beauty was Sam Mendes directorial debut. The movie swept up 5 Oscar Awards, namely Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and, of course, Best Actor, won by Kevin Spacey.
Spacey plays Lester Burnham, a sexually frustrated suburban father facing a mid-life crisis. Lester is a typical middle class American, unhappy with all aspects of his life, unhappy with his job, unhappy with his wife, and, unhappy that his daughter has nothing to say to him. He eventually quits his job as a magazine writer and begins working at a fast food restaurant where he witnesses his wife making out with her business rival. Also, he smokes marijuana. Next, he trades in his Toyota Camry for his dream car, a 1970 Pontiac Firebird. In a turn of events, he becomes infatuated with his daughter’s best friend, Angela Hayes. His daydreaming of Angela in a bath of rose petals has become a classic icon of the movie. Mendes even admitted to getting Spacey high with cannabis for a key scene.
Spacey made Lester funny, sad and sympathetic all at the same time. Lester represents American urbanites who are trying to live a life of style. He tries desperately to make a statement by being defiant, smoking pot and falling for someone who is of his daughter’s age. Despite the unexpected ending and the trauma he goes through, he finds life meaningful and finds so much beauty in the world.
Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a steely WWII veteran turned detective in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island. He was so immersed in the role that he often left the set in a sombre mood. This was rare for DiCaprio who has admitted that he is an actor who is more than capable of switching off once away from shoot.
The story starts when Daniels is sent, along with his partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), to a mental institution on an isolated island to investigate the disappearance of a patient. Daniels constantly dreams of his dead wife, who has recently been killed in a fire by arsonist Andrew Laeddis.
DiCaprio plays the worn and beaten role so well that he keeps the audience guessing as to whether his character is trustworthy. In the final scene, he leaves the audience baffled declaring, "Which would be worse? To live as a monster, or die as a good man?”
DiCaprio said, “A few weeks towards the end of filming, I started to forget where I was. We kept pushing this character further and further. It was day after day of re-enacting a traumatic event that was either a dream or reality for this guy. I remember saying to Marty, ‘I have no idea where I am or what I’m doing.’” DiCaprio gave such an intense and compelling performance that he won rave reviews.
Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky
From a carefree wealthy bachelor to a charged murderer wearing a prosthetic mask, at one point, David Aames (Tom Cruise) wonders if what’s happening in his life is real or not. After his ex-lover, Julie (Cameron Diaz), tries to kill them both in a car crash because of his new romance, Sofia (Penélope Cruz), David survives with a badly disfigured face.
It’s easy to fall in love with Tom Cruise, especially with his dreamy blue eyes. Not only does Diaz’s character swoon over David, many female watchers do too when he flashes his signature grin. When everything falls apart, David returns with a grotesque half-paralysed face. He plays a character too difficult to forget.
Looking at the poster and synopsis, the unsuspecting might be led to think this movie as another chick-flick where the hero who has fallen from grace finds redemption through self-discovery and true love. The truth is, this film offers so much more and is one of those movies with mindblowing twists and turns. Keep watching, and soon you'll be begging for more.
Directed by the Coen Brothers, the movie starts with greed and ends with death. When a Nam veteran discovers $2 million from a Texas drug deal gone awry, his absconding of the cash sets off a violent chain reaction. Hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is hired to recover the money and the sheriff (Tommy Lee Jones) struggles to contain the rapidly escalating violence that seems to be consuming his once-peaceful Lone Star State town.
Before Chigurh kills, he likes to toss a coin to decide the fate of his victim. Bardem's portrayal of a cold-blooded killer won a lot of critics’ votes and is deemed as one of the finest performances. He explained his character as "a violent icon that represents a violent fate that you have called by your actions”. The character wears his hair in an overly clean and orderly manner which comes across as comical. He speaks few words as he feels little need to share. Perhaps it’s because his victims are going to die anyway, so why bother talking so much to them?
Whether gracious, lovelorn, handsome, violent, or grotesque, a character that is brought to life by a fantastic performance is one to cherish.