There have been so truly outstanding performances this year. I have had no end of struggle whittling down the leading men to just five. Some performances just impressed me at the start of the year and I’ve been unable to forget about. Others swooped in at the very end. I am sure that this, perhaps even more so than the Top 5 Films, could be the most controversial of my lists. Read on to find out my opinions on the male actors of 2017.
5 – DANIEL KALUUYA – GET OUT
Get Out is the dark horse of the year. It has been storming through the Golden Globes and Bafta categories, winning a surprise amount of respect. The best thing about Get Out is that it never tried to be an award-winning movie. It was simply a horror movie about a subject close to Jordan Peele’s heart that struck a chord with audiences. And Daniel Kaluuya, dependable yet hardly international British actor, has found himself the face of the project. It is another subtle yet effective performance. He is easy to relate to, a twenty-something struggling with the issues with dating a white girl in a secretly racist society. However, there is more to the performance than first meets the eye with a great understanding of conveying sheer terror and frustrated emotion. You root for Kaluuya throughout the entire film and with such a left-field horror, you are unsure if he is going to make it to the end of this movie. It makes Get Out all the more gripping.
4 – MARK HAMILL – STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Mark Hamill getting a spot on my Top 5 list for performing as Luke Skywalker in a Star Wars movie is something I would never expected myself to be handing out years ago. In the original trilogy, Hamill is pretty shoddy. I am willing to blame this on George Lucas’ script and direction, Hamill looking both confused and annoyed throughout the whole saga. It is disheartening for newer fans to go back through the older films and discover that this whole story started with a spoilt teenager rubbing shoulders with galactic heroes. No, Hamill was never worth writing home about, but there was talent there. Anyone familiar with him voicing the Joker in the animated Batman series knows that Hamill can act, when the occasion calls. It makes the thought of Last Jedi very promising indeed.
And Hamill makes up for a slow start by delivering a worthy performance here. It is great from the very first moment. Hamill beautifully mocks the cliff-hanger from the last movie with a throwaway gag. It just gets better from there. Star Wars is played too fast for a true character piece, so Hamill has to make the most out of single scenes. I cannot wait for a second watch to remind myself of just how Hamill handles certain lines. The reunion with Artoo and the droid’s cheap trick to get Skywalker on-side is simply beautiful. Then there are his interactions with other characters. A simple eye raise to C3-PO, a dialogue with Leia, an argument with the Cameo of the Year… Hamill is one of the best things about a very good film.
3 – VINCE VAUGHN – BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
Vince Vaughn totally broke his trend of goofy comedy leads with this shocking indie thriller from S. Craig Zahler. It is a film that needs a strong lead actor to keep the whole thing ticking over. Zahler has always featured a lot of dialogue that needs performers capable of holding a slow-burning film for a long period of time. Vaughn seems like a totally foolish risk, but as the film opens up it turns out to be the casting choice of the year. From the bulky physique the actor has piled on to give the role justice to the Southern drawl, Vaughn is a sight to behold. But that cheapens the sheer talent of Vaughn here. In a single scene, where he destroys a car with his bare hands, all memory of him being a silly comedy star is forgotten. What follows proves that point with bloody kills not for the squeamish, stand-offs where Vaughn conveys presence without dialogue and a constant sense of bad-assery. Let’s hope that Vaughn doesn’t backslide into family Christmas films anytime soon.
2 – HUGH JACKMAN – LOGAN
Hugh Jackman is easily the best Marvel comic casting decision. Ever since he first tore into the role, he has been the best thing about the X-Men franchise. His understanding of what makes the character tick is extraordinary, nailing that reluctant hero figure. But while his roles in the X-Men films have given Hugh Jackman great material to work with (Jackman saved The Last Stand with his characterisation of Wolverine), his solo films have been severely lacking. The less said about Origins the better and The Wolverine, while better, is missing the movie we truly want. Enter Logan.
Hugh Jackman is given his dream script and allowed to tear into Wolverine as he never has done before. It is the rediscovering of the character, old age and loss reducing him to a shadow of his former self. Mangold directs a superhero movie that gets to the core of what makes a hero better than any film that has come before it. Never before has the side effects of being the hero been explained so brutally. And Jackman works his heart out for the role with several moments that just break your heart. Experiencing all the emotions he has been running from for all these years and eventually deciding that he needs to do the decent thing anyway. Beautiful…
1 – JAMES MCAVOY – SPLIT
However, in terms of pure acting talent, an early January performance from James McAvoy deserves its top placing. What a turn from McAvoy! The actor truly blows away the viewer with a piece of actor that simply gets better and better. Actors have done dual roles before. I can name two examples from this year off the top of my head right here and now (Hugh Jackman and Tilda Swinton), but McAvoy takes onboard one of the most interesting character creations in a long time.
McAvoy’s kidnapping villain is a sufferer of a supernatural identity disorder, that acts as a heightened strain of schizophrenia, where McAvoy’s mind is game from a dozen or so different personalities. As his body becomes a turf war between religious extremists and well-meaning heroes, we are given endless performances from the actor. See McAvoy portray a gay artist or a 9-year-old boy. But then the performance gets even more impossible with the different personalities pretending to be each other to fool the other characters. It is difficult to keep up, but you are still left undeniably marvelling about such an incredible performance. The movie races along too. You would appreciate a three hour Split just to see what else McAvoy has up his sleeve. There is more to this story to be told and the audiences cannot wait to see it.