So continuing my long delayed best of 2011 lists, I am now onto the best performances of 2011. Again the rules will be that it had to be released in the UK in 2011, so again expect films like The Fighter and True Grit to make the list and there can only be 1 performance per film. Let’s dive in then:
10. Michael Fassbender – X-Men: First Class – This is the first of many times in which it was hard to decide on just one performance from a film, I mean along with Fassbender, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult give fantastic performances but I chose Fassbender for one reason, he makes you sympathise with Magneto. Even after he does horrific things to try and find Sebastian Shaw and gives Shaw the most painful death I saw in a film last year you still feel sorry for everything Magneto went through in the Holocaust and you completely agree with his ideas that humans should die to save mutants. It takes a brilliant actor to make you feel sympathy for a character like this and Fassbender’s voice and face make you feel this, along with the character just being cool. The only reason Fassbender isn’t any higher is due to the random Irish accent he puts on in the last 10 minutes of the film.
9. John Hurt – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – This is the film in which it was hardest to choose just one great performance, just look at the cast, Gary Oldman, Tom Hardy, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, the list goes on and on. But the slightly mad performance of Hurt as Control was the best. He played Control as an eccentric old man who didn’t know if he could trust anyone, even his closest friends with the voice of Hurt really exemplifying this aspect with the grouchy, croaky nature of his voice and the tired expression behind Hurt’s eyes making you feel the tiredness of Control and the stress the work and the mole is putting onto Control with all this putting Hurt’s performance at number 9.
8. James Cromwell – The Artist – Now this is a great chance to talk about one of my favourite underrated actors in Cromwell. While Jean Dujardin gives a fantastic performance as George Valentin, Cromwell gives a much more quiet and reserved performance as Clifton. Out of all the characters in the film, Clifton was the one I felt the most sorry for, sold through Cromwell’s performance. He just acts like any other person would, supporting his friend in the awful situation and having to accept that he cannot provide the support needed, which Cromwell does through his facial expressions in the film. Putting Cromwell at number 8.
7. Joel Courtney – Super 8 – Now I know that when I first reviewed Super 8 I said that Elle Fanning gave the best performance in the film, and I still stand by the fact that Fanning’s performance was amazing, upon watching Super 8 again on DVD, I have to concede that Courtney gives the best performance. He provides the heart and soul of the film and if his performance wasn’t up to scratch, the entire film would fall apart around him and thankfully Courtney does a great job. The scenes when he just stands alone, mourning the loss of his mum are beautifully done and we really see the friendship Courtney has with the other actors in the film, putting Courtney at number 8.
6. Ben Kingsley – Hugo – This was another film in which it was so hard to choose just one of the performances. Asa Butterfield, Chloe Grace Moretz, Helen McCrory and Sacha Baron Cohen all gave excellent performances and all are deserving of being in this list. Without a doubt though, Ben Kingsley gave the best performance as Georges Melies, you feel so sorry for the character and you feel it just through the tired expression of Kingsley and when he does finally become happy with life again, you feel that happiness as well. It also helps that Kingsley has a great chemistry with Butterfield, Moretz and McCrory and this helps sell the bitterness of the character and his redemption, particularly the scenes between Kingsley and Butterfield. All of this puts Kingsley at the number 6 spot.
5. Christian Bale – The Fighter – Now here is a performance in which Bale poured all of his effort. The mannerisms, the voice, the whole way he does everything as Dicky Ecklund is brilliant and you feel like you could have a laugh with his character. But it’s when he tones all of this down when he is in prison that Bale makes the performance great, the expression on Bale’s face when he watches the drug documentary is beautifully subtle and this, combined with the loud, bombastic character seen earlier in the film puts Bale at number 5.
4. Alan Rickman – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 – Now this was no contest, even though there were many great performances in the Harry Potter series, only Alan Rickman could make it into this list, mainly for one scene, Snape’s backstory. We see everything that put Snape in his current position and the real sorrow we feel for Snape, despite the fact that before this scene you hate the character, comes through in Rickman’s performance. The bit in which he hold’s Lily’s body is a symbol of real grief and loss and we see the pain Snape feels over not being able to save Lily through the look of pain on Rickman’s face and the pleading nature of his voice when confronted by Dumbledore. All of this puts Rickman at the number 4 spot.
3. Jake Gyllenhaal – Source Code – Now here is another really overlooked performance. Gyllenhaal is able to sell the confused nature of the film simply through his facial expressions and the manic nature of his voice when he is in the Sean Fentress side of the character. It’s also great that he is able to make the audience sympathise with him enough so that you want him to have a better life through the Source Code once the film ends placing Gyllenhaal at number 3.
2. Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit – Like last year, only one actress has made this list and the actress in question is a young actress, last year it was Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass, this year it’s Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit. There is a real intensity to the performance of Steinfeld and you feel the drive of the character through her face and actions. Plus, she is able to stand out when most of her scenes are her playing opposite to Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon, two of the best actors out there, and any young actress able to do that has to go near the top of this list.
1. Andy Serkis – Rise of the Planet of the Apes/The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn – Who else could have the best performance of 2011 than Serkis. He delivers so much heart and passion in Rise of the Planet of the Apes with only a few lines of dialogue and you still feel incredibly sorry for his character due to the strength of Serkis’ performance. Plus, in Tintin, he was having so much fun as Captain Haddock that the fun transcended onto the audience, making Tintin a much more fun film as a result. All in all, there is no performance from 2011 that I liked more than these two performances from Andy Serkis.
Honourable Mentions (again one performance per film):
- Tommy Lee Jones – Captain America: The First Avenger
- John Boyega – Attack the Block
- Tom Hiddleston – Thor
- Stephen Fry – Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
- Simon Pegg – Paul/Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol