Hello and welcome to another addition of the Seattle Cinema Survey, where I lob inquires about the world of movies to the area’s critics, bloggers and snooty snoots.
In this addition, with the criminally talented Viggo Mortensen getting praise for his turn in Captain Fantastic, I asked our crew; Who is the most underrated actor working today?
There are a host of excellent options, some of which are highlighted below, with Viggo being my initial thought. However, I wanted to pick an actor with zero major nominations to their names for his film work. As such, I went with Ben Whishaw, he of so many strong performances. He has been cruelly funny in things like The Lobster, heartbreaking in a project like Cloud Atlas, romantic in Bright Star, brainy in the Bonds and whatever else you need. He has the chops to lead a film and the ability and lack of ego to support a scene without chewing his way through it. For my money, he could be the best actor of his generation.
Matt Oakes of Silver Screen Riot @SSRdotcom
Per usual, there’s a handful of selections I’d like to tip my hat to (Paul Dano, Ben Mendelson, Oscar Isaac, Michael Shannon, Jason Schwartzman, Michael B. Jordan) but I will rather target someone who’s lingered on the periphery of the public sphere for the past 15 years, getting the rare spotlight turned upon him. A figure who is ignored far more than he ought to be: Idris Elba. The London native cut his teeth on HBO’s celebrated ‘The Wire’ and ever since been the focus of a cult petition to land him as the next 007. He’s appeared as a secondary character on a number of big budget blockbusters (The Thor franchise, Prometheus, Pacific Rim) and more recently has lent his voice to a number of animated projects (Zootopia, Finding Dory, The Jungle Book) but it’s his dramatic work that makes him the undervalued thespian brute he is. Elba missed out on a much-deserved Oscar nomination for his outstanding, complex work in Beasts of No Nation but his best work (and that which makes him such a prime candidate for Bond) is on the BBC’s outstanding series ‘Luther,’ which Elba leads with dramatic gravitas and boiling fervor. He’ll next appear in Star Trek Beyond encased in latex before leading the long-awaited adaptation of Steven King’s The Dark Tower and both seem like further potential waste of his talent. We’re hoping that even if he doesn’t nab the Bond suit (he won’t), Elba’s path will cross an exponentially greater number of toothy dramatic roles.
Erik Samdahl of Film Jabber @Filmjabber
Tom Cruise. I’m sure ther are other actors that are extremely talented and not getting the mainstream attention they deserve, but Tom Cruise is one of those guys, especially in the last decade, who elicits more hate and complete dismissal than anyone else working today. Yes, he has had his cooky moments, and yes, he belongs to a baffling, how-can-I-take-him-seriously religion, but not only is Cruise a very talented actor, he is arguably the most consistent actor when it comes to being in quality films. Seriously, look at his filmography.
Brent McKnight of Cinema Blend/The Last Thing I See @BrentMMcKnight
To be fair, Ben Mendelsohn likely won’t be flying under too many radars for much longer, especially as he has lead villain roles coming up in both Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One. The Australian character actor has been churning out strong work since the mid-1980s, but those two roles are easily his biggest yet.
Though he’s been around and was already familiar to many cinephiles, it was 2010’s Animal Kingdom that made a lot of folks sit up and say, “Holy fuck, this dude rules.” And with good reason. Since then he’s shown up in Killing Them Softly, The Dark Knight Rises, Slow West, and more, gathering up momentum with each role. (Let’s agree to pretend Exodus: Gods and Kings doesn’t exist, that strategy has worked out for us so far.) If you haven’t watched ‘Bloodline, on Netflix yet, rectify that at your earliest convenience and get ready for Ben Mendelsohn to take over your life.
Tim Hall of The People’s Critic @peoplescrtic
Mine would be Brendan Gleeson. From The Guard to Edge of Tomorrow, he always delivers. He even shines in that Taylor Kitsch movie The Grand Seduction. Gleeson may not be a guy who sells movies by being on a poster. He will always be a guy who sells movies by what he does on-screen.
Brian Taibl of Brian the Movie Guy @MovieGuyBrian
For me, ‘underrated’ means that a particular person doesn’t seem to get enough credit for almost exclusively delivering an intriguingly offbeat or superbly intense performance to the big screen (independent of the quality of the film they’re currently in).
With those parameters in mind, I’ve narrowed it down to my five standouts:
Michael Shannon (99 Homes, Premium Rush, Take Shelter; most recently in Midnight Special)
Ben Mendelsohn (The Place Beyond the Pines, Killing Them Softly, Animal Kingdom; most recently in Mississippi Grind)
Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog, Lone Survivor; most recently in Warcraft)
Scoot McNairy (Argo, Killing Them Softly, Gone Girl; most recently in Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice)
William Fichtner (Heat, Go, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; most recently in Independence Day: Resurgence).