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:

Skyfall, Mendes, Bond and badass Bardem

Bond team assemble! Ok, I’ve slightly mixed up my franchises but seriously, hats off to Sam Mendes. Or should it be hats off to Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson? The producers behind Bond in the Brosnan and Craig eras. Maybe we should also doff our caps to Daniel Craig? Not just for his performance as Bond so far, but for his recommendation for Sam Mendes to direct. His influence is clear to see.

What he’s done is strip Bond back, not just to the visceral, gritty feel we got in Casino Royale, but on an emotional level, to a point where he’s fallible, broken, hell-bent on resurrection and proving that, whilst he may be a bit of dinosaur in the modern age of espionage, he’s still a necessary tool in MI6’s arsenal. Let’s look at the factors that make this Bond one of the best we’ve had in a long time.
james bondSam Mendes
Many of you will know him as the Director of American Beauty in 1999, however the best reference point in terms of why he got the Bond gig is probably Road to Perdition in 2002, his first film with Daniel Craig. But then, he’s always had a common theme running through his work – family roots and close ties. From American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, through to Jarhead and Skyfall, his films have first and foremost been about relationships and the bonds between certain characters.

For those that doubted his ability to handle action, Id like to point out the opening sequence in Skyfall – an exhilarating rooftop motorbike chase, culminating in a fight on top of a train and kick-starting the film’s events. The whole sequence is tense, dramatic and thoroughly exciting – pitched perfectly between realism and fantasy, which is precisely what we expect from Bond.

There’s plenty of other scenes I could use as examples of why Mendes was the man for the job. Suffice to say he balanced action, drama and classic Bond moments with quiet, tender scenes that really gave the film weight and characters depth – particularly the relationship between Bond and M, which I’ll come to later.

Roger Deakins
Simply put, the man who makes Mendes look good! Deakins was Cinematographer on this film, the person who plans and coordinates the actual shooting of the film, capturing the Director’s vision on screen. Relationships between Directors and Cinematographers vary. In this case, Deakins has worked with Mendes before and also extensively with the Coen brothers. He’s been nominated for stacks of awards, including winning a lifetime achievement award in 2011.

In terms of Skyfall, there’s a veritable plethora of beautifully shot scenes: Bond staring over the grey London skyline, coffins draped in the Union Jack, the opening chase sequence in Turkey, a yacht sailing towards an abandoned island when we first meet Bardem’s Silva, then there’s the whole of the third act in Scotland.

If you want to capture the rugged, majestic beauty of a wild landscape, Deakin should be on your speed-dial as a Director. He’s the man behind No Country for Old Men, True Grit, Jarhead, Shawshank Redemption – I could go on, check out his body of work.

bond skyfallJavier Bardem
What a villian! Bardem seemed to position him as the perfect blend of deranged, menacing, calculating and camp, or at least sexually ambiguous. His first scene is a classic and up there with Heath Ledger’s introduction as the Joker in The Dark Knight.

In fact, there are a lot of similarities to be drawn between Bardem’s Silva and Ledger’s Joker. In terms of physical looks, chilling back-story and meticulously planned acts of terrorism. In Dark Knight, the Joker spends about a third of the film outwitting Batman and Gordon, similarly Silva runs rings around Bond and M from his introduction up until the closing act.

That said, I’m not suggesting Ledger’s Joker would fit in Bond’s world. Bardem’s Silva still remained very much his own creation in that sense. His motivation – a deeply felt vendetta towards Judi Dench’s M – drives his actions. You’ll have to watch the film to find out why – I’ll just say that Bardem gives Silva’s motivation for vengeance against M believability. So often in action films I’ve not got on board with the villian and his or her motivations to kill someone/take over the world. In this case Bardem makes it work, giving Silva a tortured soul and fire in his eyes.

Bond and M
When talking about Mendes and themes in his work, I mentioned relationships and bonds between characters. In this case, a key driver of the film is the dynamic between Bond and M. Whilst some might feel screen-time for stunning Bond girls has been somewhat sacrificed, you could argue Bond charging around with a beautiful girl in tow doesn’t give us anything new.
judi dench
Of course you get Bond girls here, but more time is devoted to M, arguably the ultimate Bond girl in the Broccoli/Wilson era. From her casting as the first female M in Goldeneye in 1995, through to Skyfall in 2012, she’s become progressively more influential with each film, particular in Daniel Craig’s time in the role.

There’s a scene where she’s deciding whether Bond is fit for active duty and Mallory – played by Ralph Fiennes – says to her, ‘You’re sentimental about him’. Mendes lets this relationship unfold superbly, culminating in a tender, elegant and heartfelt moment in the third act.

50 years of Bond
I’d like to finish with a musical clip below by A. Skilz and Krufty Kutz, submitted to Annie Mac’s show on BBC Radio One in the UK. They created it to celebrate 50 years of Bond. If you’ve forgotten what’s so good about the character and this franchise, remind yourself now. I guarantee you’ll be giddy with excitement at the end. Proud to be British.