Favorite Thespians #4 – Michael Fassbender

Favorite Thespians 2

As always Favorite Thespians contains three separate sections: one section on the first film I saw the thespian in (“On My Radar”), another section on 5 films you need to see to know the thespian (“Homework”), and a section on my favorite performance from him/her. This month I’m focusing on one of my favorite actors right now, Michael Fassbender.

Michael Fassbender has somewhat quietly turned himself into one of the best actors out there. Just a few years ago, I only saw him as Lt. Archie Hicox from Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I’ve come to realize, however, that he didn’t just turn up in great films over night. For example, I didn’t remember him from Band of Brothers, nor did I recall that he was the husband in Eden Lake. Today we know him as somewhat of a chameleon, as he has a tendency to turn into the characters he plays, and completely disappear, while delivering top-notch acting. He is a star.

ON MY RADAR:
Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006)

The first time I saw Michael Fassbender was in Zack Snyder’s historical war epic 300, wherein he played the Spartan soldier, Stelios. Now, truth be told, I am not the biggest fan of this film, nor do I think it in any way, shape, or form shows the true talent that Michael Fassbender has. However, this film did give him an opportunity to deliver one of the more memorable lines of dialogue in the film:

Persian Emissary: “A thousand nations of the Persian empire will descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!”

Stelios: “Then we will fight in the shade.”

It did take a while for Fassbender to truly break through, though. He was recognized on the independent film-scene with Hunger and Fish Tank, but Inglourious Basterds was the film that really gave him the mainstream attention. X-Men: First Class, however, gave him the final mainstream push.

HOMEWORK:
Steve McQueen’s Hunger (2008)
Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class (2011)
Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011)
Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave (2013)
Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (2015)

Chances are that if you call yourself a cinephile, then you’ve definitely seen Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Therefore I left it off the homework-list, and gave the first spot to a film that gave him an opportunity to shine. Since there are three Steve McQueen films on this list, I’ll start by only focusing on them, and address Vaughn and Boyle’s films at the end.

Michael Fassbender has starred in every feature length film that the very talented English director, Steve McQueen, has made. They’re all very different films, but Fassbender is great in every single one of them. Hunger was McQueen’s first film, and it is, like every other film he’s done, extremely tough to watch. Fassbender plays Bobby Sands, a prominent member of the 1981 hunger strike, in a very transformative role. It is very tough to see Fassbender go through the strike, but he does a really good job of showing determination in his acting. It is one of the first performances of his that truly put him on the map.

A couple of years later on, Fassbender would star in McQueen’s second film, Shame. Now, I’ll warn you immediately, while Shame is on the homework-list, don’t make the mistake of seeing it with your family. This film is full of nudity, so you definitely don’t want to experience how awkward a family viewing of it could be. At the time of writing, McQueen has made no bad films. Shame is another great film, and Fassbender is really good in it, as a sex addict trying to cope with his sister returning to his life.

12 Years A Slave is the best film he’s ever been in, at the time of writing. I’ve previously called it a near-masterpiece, and Fassbender has a lot to do with that. The ensemble cast in this film is magnificent, and Fassbender probably gives the best performance outside of Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Had it not been for Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club, then Fassbender would have been my top pick for Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars that year.

X-Men: First Class, however, made him a household name. Fassbender plays, perhaps, the best Marvel character ever. Magneto is a complex character, and one you can see yourself supporting and understanding – in spite of his violent tendencies. This film gives us his origin, and shows the character’s relationship with the Xavier. It is an excellent film.

Steve Jobs is a remarkable film containing a great look at the person the co-founder of Apple was, and, thankfully, Michael Fassbender is great in it. If you only get to watch one or two of the films on the homework-list, then go watch Steve Jobs and 12 Years A Slave.

FAVORITE PERFORMANCE:
Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (2015)

As you may have noticed, I rushed past Steve Jobs on the homework-list. The thing is, there was no doubt in my mind that this film was my current favorite performance of Fassbender’s. One of the challenges that Michael Fassbender had, when he signed on to play the titular character in Steve Jobs, was that he looks nothing like the late Apple co-founder. What is really great about his performance in Boyle’s Steve Jobs is that you forget about his appearance in the film pretty quickly. His performance just is so real and captivating.

Seeing his eyes light up when he realizes that Lisa may be somewhat like him stands out as one of the best sudden changes in character I’ve seen these last few years. He can go from being this egotistical rebel, to an approving parent and leader in an instant. What’s really marvelous about Steve Jobs is that even though Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue is very ‘wordy’, Danny Boyle’s stylistic approach, as well as Fassbender’s performance, makes the film thrilling from start to finish.

I’m Jeffrey Rex

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