The final stop in my look back at the best performances from 2015 in the Lead Actor category. While I believe the women were the highlight of the year, there were still several top-notch performances from the gents. Once again they represent a wide and diverse range but each are deserving of recognition. So here are my five favorite lead actor performances of 2015.
#5 – Tom Hanks (“Bridge of Spies”)
Regardless of the movie, regardless of the genre, regardless of the role, Tom Hanks is always going to give a good performance. This year he once again teams up with Steven Spielberg to play a character so perfect for him. His performance in “Bridge of Spies” could be called expected, maybe even a bit routine for him, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fantastic work. Hanks is able to take the common man approach that he is so perfectly in tune with. He doesn’t hit a single false note and every conversation and interaction feels incredibly true. That’s one of the great things Hanks brings to every role he takes on.
#4 – Jean Dujardin (“The Connection”)
Jean Dujardin earned global attention back in 2011 for his phenomenal Oscar-winning work in “The Artist”. But prior to that and since then he has starred in a wide assortment of roles mainly in his home country of France. His latest came in “The Connection”, a wonderfully dense period crime thriller. Dujardin is superb as a naïve and enthusiastic head of an organized crime task force who is eventually burdened by the weight of his mission. The Frenchman is suave and confident but his performance isn’t one-sided. He also reveals a frailty and vulnerability that I absolutely loved.
#3 – Mark Ruffalo (“Infinitely Polar Bear”)
Mark Ruffalo is such an intriguing actor. He is always solid and dependable, but his performances are often recognized as relaxed and fairly safe. “Infinitely Polar Bear” offered Ruffalo a deep meaty role that required him to expand himself beyond what he has been known for. It’s tricky material that could have been completely undone if the performance was too big or too small. What we get is a perfectly modulated performance from Ruffalo. One moment it’s energetic and aggressive while being charming and gentle the next. And it is all done while capturing just the right tone for his character. Such strong and versatile work from Ruffalo.
#2 – Abraham Attah – “Beasts of No Nation”
There has been a long-standing debate when it comes to child actors. How much of their performance is true acting talent and how much is step-by-step directions from the filmmakers? It’s a valid question but by no means does it lessen the impact of what many of them do on screen. That’s why I have no problem putting Abraham Attah on this list. Attah was only 14 years-old when making “Beasts of No Nation” and he had no prior acting experience. That’s hard to believe after watching his gripping performance. The subject matter is incredibly intense and he’s asked to convey a brutally disturbing transformation from a young, innocent boy to a scarred, indoctrinated child soldier. He does so flawlessly.
#1 – Leonardo DiCaprio (“The Revenant”)
Leo’s quest to get that elusive Oscar is hard to wrap my mind around. In a career plump with fine performances its surprising that he still hasn’t taken home a statue. I think that streak ends thanks to “The Revenant”. In what was his most physically demanding role, DiCaprio dives headfirst into the blood, mud, and muck of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s violent frontier western. The amount of intensity Leo brings to his character is astonishing and watching him make his way through Iñárritu’s violent and depressing world clearly reminds us of the type of actor we are talking about. Leo could have easily won a couple of Oscar’s by now. But that aside, the Oscar should be his for the taking after this riveting performance.
That wraps up this year’s look at the best acting of 2015. Anything glaringly missing from this list? Agree or disagree? Please take time to share your thoughts in the comments section below.