I hope that everybody has had a good Christmas and are celebrating their respective holidays this season. For this post, I wanted to celebrate the best performances this year. I’ve been thinking about how I want to do this particular one, because there were a huge number of standout performances in 2017. I didn’t get to see every movie this year, because quite frankly, that’s a lot of movies, and more than I have time for. Sometimes, a performance can elevate what is otherwise a mediocre movie and make it worth watching. With that in mind, let’s go over some of the best performances that I’ve seen this year.
Gal Gadot – Wonder Woman
Before Batman V. Superman was released last year, it was announced that while Wonder Woman would be a part of the film, the stand-alone Wonder Woman film was also being produced. Gal Gadot was cast as the Amazon princess, and at first, I was unsure of her ability to carry a role of that magnitude. When her character showed up in Dawn of Justice, all doubts were erased. Gal Gadot IS Wonder Woman and she really does carry the stand-alone film on her shoulders. She’s absolutely phenomenal. Not only can she handle the role physically, but also emotionally as well. We see the character go from a super-hopeful optimistic woman to a battle-hardened warrior. The transition is absolutely natural and Ms. Gadot has that natural charisma that wins you over, despite all your doubts.
Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Daphne Keen – Logan
This one was somewhat difficult for me to decide. The acting in Logan is beyond stellar. Instead of just one performance, I decided to include three in this one. Why? Because they are all amazing. Hugh Jackman turns in his best performance as Wolverine, a character that has been beaten down by the world and being slowly poisoned by his adamantium skeleton. This is a broken man who forgot what it meant to be a hero. Over the course of the film, he realizes he has a chance at redemption. Patrick Stewart is just as compelling as the ailing Charles Xavier. I have to say, seeing Xavier drop f-bomb after f-bomb is rather hilarious, but then you peel back the layers and understand what is wrong with him psychologically. It’s heartbreaking. The real surprise of the film goes to young Daphne Keen as Laura a.k.a X-23. She comes across as this adorable little girl, but then you see her claws come out and she’s just as vicious, if not more so, than Wolverine. Her connection to Wolverine is one of the best highlights of the film as you see the two characters grow closer. It’s absolutely remarkable at how these characters come to life in this film. It’s worth watching for the acting alone.
Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan – The Foreigner
Jackie Chan has been a staple of the action film genre for over 40 years. His experience in the genre is almost unrivaled. While most of his roles have been infused with his Buster Keaton-style of physical comedy, every once in a while he gets a role that allows him to flex his acting muscles. The Foreigner is one such film. Chan plays a former special operations soldier whose daughter is killed in a terrorist attack in Ireland. Broken and angry, the character confronts Pierce Brosnan’s character, who may or may not have ties to the Irish Republican Army. Chan’s performance is one of a kind. His delivery isn’t the strongest, but his performance comes through in his face. Don’t get me wrong, he still has what it takes physically, but it’s not your typical Jackie Chan film. It’s more of a political thriller than anything else. Bring Pierce Brosnan onto the project was sheer genius. Brosnan’s performance is just as compelling as Chan’s. The way the two characters react to each other really shows the chemistry that the two actors actually have. Honestly, this is one of those movies that would have been pretty mediocre if not for the cast.
James McAvoy – Split
James McAvoy was going to end up on this list for one reason or another, so it may as well be for Split. This was a movie that surprised me for all the right reasons. Not only was the film sharply written, but it was incredibly intense and surprisingly intelligent. James McAvoy plays a character that has well over a dozen split personalities, with a new one about to emerge. It would have been very easy for McAvoy to just switch voices and go from there, but he doesn’t. He plays each personality as if it was a completely different character. At one moment he’s a nine year-old boy and the next he’s a proper English woman. One would think that would lead to some sort of camp or cheesiness, but it doesn’t. These personalities each have their own unique quirks. James McAvoy is a chameleon here. His performance is utterly unique. I’ve seen actors try the whole split personality thing on screen, but none of them have done it as well as Mr. McAvoy.
Ok-Bin Kim – The Villainess
While I feel that The Villainess was a bit of a problematic film, the one thing that it wasn’t lacking in was a compelling female lead. We have that in Ok-Bin Kim who plays Sook-hee, a young woman who has been trained as an assassin. She wants to live the rest of her life with her daughter, but she has to complete certain assassinations in order for that to happen. While the action in the film is certainly spectacular, Kim’s performance really stands out. The emotional roller-coaster that her character goes on is very effective and pays off in a very big way. The level of physicality that she displays on the screen is almost second to none. She throws herself into the role and it’s surprisingly really good.
RJ Cyler – Power Rangers
Power Rangers was a very surprising superhero film. I was surprised at how well thought out the characters and the story were. The acting across the board is awesome, but the one that really stands out is RJ Cyler as Billy, the blue ranger. RJ Cyler’s portrayal of Billy Cranston is really good. His character is a little autistic, but as the film goes on, we see Billy progress the most out of all the kids here. He goes from this introverted nerd/outcast to someone who is willing to put his life on the line for his friends, and Cyler really infuses the character with his own brand of humor and humanity. I loved this movie anyway, but RJ Cyler really stood out for me among the others.
Michael Fassbender – Alien Covenant
Michael Fassbender has always been a fascinating actor for me. He’s just one of the best actors out there today. He’s also part of what made Alien Covenant not as bad as it could have been. Michael Fassbender plays two roles in this film, both of them androids: Walter and David. David is the android from Prometheus and Walter is the new droid. On their own, the two characters are pretty good, but when the two droids actually spend time together, that’s when Fassbender is at his best. His portrayal of David is vastly different than that of Walter. David has developed a sort of god complex while also being a rogue droid. Walter is a little less….idiosyncratic, but still very believable. Michael Fassbender’s performance in Covenant is nothing less than amazing.
Vince Vaughn – Brawl in Cell Block 99
I gotta be honest here, I’ve never been a huge fan of Vince Vaughn. At least, not his comic roles. But when he flips the switch from comedic to serious, we have ourselves a very different kind of actor. He’s extremely talented. I’ve been paying attention to his more dramatic roles like in Hacksaw Ridge. His dramatic performances are through the roof. His performance in Brawl in Cell Block 99 is quite possibly his best and most memorable performance to date as Bradley Thomas. I haven’t reviewed the film yet, but I’ll get to it. Brawl is a very character-driven action film and Vince Vaughn just throws himself into the role. His immense size really gives him a serious physical presence. But it’s what he does with the character that really stands out. He does nearly all of his own stunts and the smaller more dramatic moments are just astounding. I haven’t paid attention to Vince Vaughn for years, but I am now.
These are some of my favorite performances of the year and I hope that some of you will agree. If you don’t, that’s fine too. This year had some of the best acting I’ve seen in a long time, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring. I’ve got more stuff about the films of 2017 coming, so please stay tuned for those.