Top ten performances of Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks BigI’m somewhat regretting starting this – I mean, TOM HANKS! The consistently high standard of films in which he’s starred, where do I start?

In terms of cinematic living legends he has to be in the top ten right? It’s worth noting that – as of 2012 – his films have grossed over $4.2bn in the US and $8.5bn worldwide, making him the highest-grossing box office star of all time.

Furthermore, with 73 films on his CV to date, this list is going to be a challenge to whittle down. Let’s get started!

  • Big (1988)
    His whimsical dance up and down the piano left a lasting impression for many and represented Hanks at his frivolous and comedic best, during his rise to stardom in the 80s.
  • Forrest Gump (1994)
    hanks forrest gumpQuestion is, did he seek out Downey Jr for advice on not going full retard? If so, it paid off, resulting in an epic performance which won him a second Oscar.
  • Apollo 13 (1995)
    Hailed as both a critical and commercial success, this film was a high point for director Ron Howard. Hanks delivered a stand-out, yet understated performance as astronaut Commander Jim Lovell.
  • Toy Story (1995)
    As puppet cowboys go, Hanks convinces on every level, with an outstanding performance. Following a string of dramatic roles, this represented a triumphant return to comedy.
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998)
    hanks saving private ryanHaving successfully carved a career as the titular everyman, here he gives a masterclass in a subtle performance, as a normal guy dealing with the horrors of war as best he can.
  • The Green Mile (1999)
    Another film elevated by an unerringly good Hanks performance. Here he plays death row prison officer Paul Edgecomb. The dynamic between Edgecomb and the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s John Coffey was the heart-wrenching soul of the movie.
  • Castaway (2000)
    Can I just shout ‘Wiiillsonn!’? Does that mean enough? For those of us that have watched a blood-stained volleyball float agonisingly further away, it means a lot. Hanks deserves huge credit for building our sympathies with his fight for survival.
  • Road to Perdition (2002)
    hanks road to perditionPlaying a little against type as Irish mob enforcer, Michael Sullivanan anti-hero of sorts – Hanks teams up with director Sam Mendes and screen legend Paul Newman, to deliver a moody, sobering gangster flick.
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002)
    Hanks and Spielberg – has there been a more profitable partnership in modern cinema? Throw in DiCaprio and you get an enormously enjoyable cat-and-mouse tale of FBI man Hanratty chasing elusive fraudster Abagnale. 
  • The Terminal (2004)
    Aaah, fictitious Krakozhia. A bit of a leftfield offering with Hanks playing an Eastern European, trapped in the airport terminal. The touch of naivety and optimism in his portrayal of the character was masterful and surprised many.

So what’s next?
By his own standards he’s been fairly quiet in the last few years. However, he’s back soon with the forthcoming Cloud Atlas. A massively ambitious tale, taken from a complex yet popular book by David Mitchell. Featuring multiple plots across six different time periods, the theme being how actions of individuals have great impact across the world and throughout the past, present and future. Here’s the trailer:

Buckle up for a Flight with Whip Whitaker

whip whitakerHow time flies! It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 years since Robert Zemeckis last directed a live-action movie in Castaway. A film that involved a monumental plane crash in the first act and had a compelling male lead wrestling with his mental demons. Loneliness and survival in the case of Tom Hanks, alcoholism and addiction in the case of Denzel Washington.

In those terms, both Castaway and Flight share similarities and perhaps represent a return to form for Zemeckis. That’s not to say he’s been idle in the past 13 years. As a Director, he’s been one of the strongest advocates for motion-capture, with The Polar Express, Beowulf and A Christmas Carol. Those films paving the way for more expansive film-makers to embrace the medium. I’m thinking Cameron, Jackson, Spielberg and so on.

What goes up must come down

There’s a short version of the plot knocking around the internet, which basically says that airline pilot Whip Whitaker (Washington) saves a plane from crashing with some astonishing skill and bravery, flight1but an investigation into malfunctions on the plane reveal mysterious and troubling news.

This is misleading. Within the first 10 minutes it’s clear the story revolves around addiction, particularly alcohol in the case of Whitaker. You could argue the fact the film kicks off with a spectacular action sequence on a plane is merely a device to frame Whip’s struggle with alcoholism and addiction. That said, it makes for a more compelling setting for our anti-hero. Someone responsible for hundreds of lives.

Washington and the dark side

Ok, let’s cut to the chase. This is hands-down, Washington’s best performance since Training Day in 2001. Granted, Man on Fire and American Gangster were good, but his performance here fully justifies the Oscar nomination he received.

flight hearingEarlier I mentioned similarities between Castaway and Flight that, no doubt in part, drew Zemeckis to the script. If we continue to look for patterns it’s safe to say Washington must have drawn a few parallels between corrupt Detective Alonzo and alcoholic pilot Whip.

It’s clear Washington figured out some time ago that anti-heroes are far more fun to play and come much easier to him as characters. There’s something about his natural charisma and screen presence, combined with his darker nature, that really sparks on screen. So much so that he’s quietly become an expert at tapping into these characters, firmly seizing the parts when they come around.

Come fly with me

In terms of supporting cast: Whilst in the hospital recovering from his plane crash, Whip befriends a beautiful woman, Nicole (Kelly Reilly), who is also an addict. whip and nicole flightReilly as the love interest/friend plays her small part well, reminding me a little of the type of characters Amy Adams plays from time to time. Diamond-in-the-rough types.

In a film that’s perhaps a little weighty (understandable given the subject matter) it’s lifted by lighter moments, particularly any scenes involving Whip’s dealer Harling (John Goodman). Lumbering in at key moments like a doped up leviathan, he steals every scene. Following Argo, it seems Goodman is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, revelling in those slightly-longer-than-cameo parts.

All in all, Flight is a commendable return to live-action from Zemeckis, with a towering, captivating performance from Washington. A little long in places – like so many movies these days – but with a heady mix of drama and action that should more than satisfy.

[Interesting links]
Total Film’s 50 greatest movie anti-heroes | Denzel Washington and Aaron Paul – drunk talk