Cinema 2017 Half-Time Report: Performances 1/2

And so we move onto the performances of 2017 we’ve loved in the first half. Obviously we can’t cater for all tastes, but there are some real corkers here. See them for yourself if you haven’t already. Here are the first 9 to wet your whistle:

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Hugh Jackman in Logan

It’s fitting that the Aussie’s final turn in the role that made him a star 17 years ago in the first “X-Men” film just happens to be his best performance to date. The man they call the Wolverine isn’t the same as he was all those years ago: the adamantium that was pumped into his body when he was transformed into a weapon by Col. William Stryker is slowly killing him. His healing abilities don’t heal as quickly as they did in the past. He and the Professor hide out in an abandoned plant south of the border, away from the rest of the world which no longer worries about the mutant problem. And all the years of slashing and killing has finally begun to catch up with old man Logan, but still has one last battle to fight, caring for a young mutant girl who is to be captured or killed at all cost. You can see the ragged, wear-and-tear written all over him, the prospect of being the last renegade hero/cowboy around in an era that has no use for his kind anymore. Jackman handles these themes of mortality and fading away with resounding grace and panache. Well done, Wolverine – law down the claws, you’ve earned your rest. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

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Taraneh Alidoosti in Forušande (The Salesman)

I have no debate with Shahab Hosseini gathering his Best Actor prize at Cannes, but the shout-out to the superb Taraneh Alidoosti in The Salesman now comes with a much greater significance. While her husband Emad deals with the assault in his own way, Rana suffers much deeper than the scars that mark her body. Alidoosti’s anxiety-riddled figure is not just a victim, shadowing fear and resentment, Rana is still a strong woman, a mental state of clenched fists and gritted teeth, unafraid to show the inner bruising of her plight. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

James McAvoy in Split

An actor performing as 23 different people, in anyone else’s hands, would either be a gimmick or so over-the-top cartoonish that we just couldn’t take the rest seriously. The Scottish actor puts on an actor’s showcase by playing the character of Kevin, a man who has multiple personalities living in his head, ranging from “Hedwig” a nine year-old boy with yellow socks, to “Miss Patricia”, a British nanny with a dark edge to her, to “Dennis”, a disturbed pedophile who kidnaps three teenage girls to be sacrificed to the 24th personality, dubbed “The Beast” – completely straight. He treats each personality as if they were characters themselves: “Barry” represents the bridge as which personality gets their moment in the sun; but also is trying himself to be the dominant figure who gets to assume Kevin’s well-being; in contrast to “Dennis”, who wants to give into his voyeuristic, more violent tendencies and assume supremacy over Kevin’s body. It’s a terrific showcase of knowing how a character ticks and feels, and McAvoy does all of this while never forgetting his character is one twisted individual. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

Roland Møller in Under sandet (Land of Mine)

As the above opening scene of Land of Mine depicts, even at the end of war the pain lingers, manifesting itself in many different ways. For Danish sergeant Carl Leopold Rasmussen (Roland Møller), his post-war mission involves supervising a clan of young German prisoners of war, who are ordered to the Danish coast to remove in the vicinity of two million land resulting from German occupation. Rasmussen resents and cares not for these boys, but as the horrific task lasts and lasts, he finds himself standing their corner, and showing true heart in the face of adversity. Møller handles the transformation with grace and humanity. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Fan Bing Bing in I Am Not Madame Bovary

Possibly the unlikeliest scenario to beget such an entertaining film in Feng Xiao Geng’s I Am Not Madame Bovary, as a maybe-married woman perseveres for over a decade against the arcane bureaucracy of China’s political system to claim what appears to be merely an inexplicable sense of personal dignity. And many would argue an equally unlikely source for one of the year’s best performances in lead Fan Bing Bing, known to many as no more than a clothes horse at Cannes (albeit an astonishingly beautiful one). It’s a plum character for Fan, her best yet, and she responds in perfect form, finding space within a somewhat inscrutable role for the many minor modulations crucial to its identity, and then unleashing the devastating force of its pent-up emotion in the stunning closing act. —– Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

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Kika Magalhães in The Eyes of My Mother

Eerie farm houses in the middle of nowhere are formidable traditions of horror stories on film, and with Nicolas Pesce’s intoxicating, lurid The Eyes of My Mother, we also venture deep into the landscape of a grieving young woman. The withdrawn yet serene Francisca is played by Kika Magalhães with such a sinister poise, the chills come from the calm, and even suggested, motions and gestures. Through the faint but subconsciously over-powering way of speaking, and implying with the eyes. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Michael Fassbender in Alien Covenant

The only marketing Alien: Covenant needed apart from the inclusion of Xenomorphs was three words: two Michael Fassbenders. Sold you right? Fassbender plays both returning android David from Prometheus and also newcomer to the franchise Walter. David the ever devious and disputant to authority figures and Walter the strict and regimented leader of the Covenant crew come to a head in a two-hour slug fest of wits. A comparison of the two androids can be equated to the sides of our human brains. Walter represents the right side, facts, reasoning, and analytic while David is far more left side oriented, free thinking, intuition, and creative. As an audience member, this realization in the theater made me even that more engrossed. Slowly as the intentions of David are revealed your mind races to connect the subplots of Covenant and previous entries to franchise. David is far more mad scientist that one could’ve hoped and it is absolutely engrossing to see Fassbender and Scott take the character in this direction. —– Mike Austin @MuzakWeeWoo

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Alice Lowe in Prevenge

Writing, directing, and playing the lead role herself, Alice Lowe has achieved a one-of-a-kind with Prevenge – a no-holds-barred revenge movie that is genuinely funny. Darkly funny, sure. And I say revenge, Lowe’s pregnant protagonist takes it upon herself to lash out at various characters that make her detest list (no spoilers here, go see for yourself). The motives for such hasty acts may even ring a bell with all of us. Lowe is terrific throughout, be it deadpan, attempts at being scary, or simply questioning the strange procedures life throws at us. Bizarre, very funny, and a riot in all. —– Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Dafne Keen in Logan

We see the young actor early on casually eating cereal and looking at the title character as if he’s an alien from another planet. At the end, she’s quoting the last lines from “Shane” as she’s saying goodbye to a friend and establishes herself as a star on the rise. As I stated before, this is Jackman’s show, but Keen matches him beat for beat as an orphan mutant who, like her predecessor, has rapid healing abilities, adamantium claws and a skill for killing. She, like Logan, is looking for peace from what the powers-that-be made her into, but succumbs to her violent nature by way of being a kid who’s just starting to see her place in a world that thinks mutants are all gone. The tandem between her and the title character plays like a road movie between a parent and a child who are struggling to connect with each other, and Keen, in her debut role, plays off Jackman’s weary renegade by giving him something to fight for after so much bloodshed while trying to come into her own. —– Jonathan Holmes @MisterBrown_23

The second lot of actresses and actors coming shortly, so in the meantime why not share your star turns this year in the comments.

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