by Nate Hensley
Christian Bale is one of the best actors in the business, and has been for several years. He’s known for playing dark, brooding characters full of intensity. Recently, he won his first Academy Award, for Best Supporting Actor, for his searing performance in “The Fighter.”
It’s time to put the acting to the test — is this really Bale’s best performance? Or he continuing down the downward spiral he began with “Public Enemies” and “Terminator Salvation”?
Well, let’s organize things in list form and see how it goes…
The Top 5 Best Christian Bale Performances
5. “American Psycho” Bale is a faceless New York executive named Patrick Bateman. He is shallow, money-hungry, obsessed with status symbols… and is also a psychopathic serial killer. This is a movie that is sour dark and dour that most people don’t even realize its a comedy. But the reason it works so well is because of Bale’s performance. He never once breaks character,never once gives any indication that he is not acting in a serious drama. He plays it completely straight, which in turn is what
makes the movie clever.
4. “The Machinist” is a dark, brooding psychological thriller. Bale is a machinist who hasn’t slept in a year, and is quickly losing his grip on reality. The movie is well acted, and well directed by Nateflix fave Brad Anderson. But honestly, its far from Bale’s best overall movie. What puts it on this list is the dedication he showed to the craft of acting, the how far he was winning to go for the character. Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role, making him disturbingly gaunt and haggard. He looks literally like a dead man walking, and makes it very easy to believe he hasn’t slept in a year.
3. “Harsh Times” Bale has played a lot of characters in his career, but none of them as dull, thick, and thuggish as he is here as Jim Davis. A former Army Ranger, Jim is a dangerous man because of his skills as a soldier, and because of his intelligence — he is just stupid enough to be extremely dangerous. Them ovie follows Jim and his best friend as they kick around LA, getting into trouble and trying to get Jim a job with the LAPD.
Stark and grim, very dramatic yet punctuated with some side-splitting moments of humor, “Harsh Times” is a very underrated movie. And Bale shines playing a type of man he hasn’t played before.
2. “The Prestige” Directed by Christopher Nolan in between “Batman” movies, “Prestige” stars Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival stage magicians in turn of the century London. They begin as associates, until a tragic mistake pits them against each other. From then on, their careers are nothing but a series of one-ups, each man pulling out all the stops to be the top draw… and to sabotage the other and ruin his career and hopefully life as well.
“The Prestige” is one of my all-time favorite movies, for the intricate story and the plot twists that are nothing short of genius. It is because of these twists that I can’t expound specifically on WHY Bale is so good. That’s what makes his performance here so deceptively amazing — it isn’t until watching it the second time that you realize how profoundly good it is.
1. “The Fighter” Well what do you know, this movie really did top the list.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Mickey, a blue-collar palooka training to be a great fighter, and struggling to escape the shadow of his older brother Dickie (Bale), a good fighter who fell just short of making it big. Dickie has fallen on hard times, and is now a hard-drinking crackhead. Mickey is so dedicated to his extensive family that he still doesn’t want to work with anyone else. Begrudgingly, at the behest of his new girlfriend, Mickey takes new trainer and starts trying to rebuild his career. In prison, Dickie starts to clean up his act, and realizes he needs to put his family first.
“The Fighter” is a boxing movie, yes, but more than that its am ovie about family. Everything builds up to a Big Fight, as it always does in boxing movies, but the real crux of the movie is the relationship between the brothers. That isn’t to dismiss the remarkable acting work put into this film by actresses — Melissa Leo won a Supporting Actress statue for her work as Mickey and Dickie’s mother, and Amy Adams is excellent as Mickey’s girlfriend. But the story here, the essence of the film, is the story of these two brothers.
Wahlberg is terrific, as he can be whenever he applies himself. But Bale is the show-stealer here, making his supporting character unforgettable and threatening, at times, to just steal the whole movie. And part of what makes his performance so great is that he doesn’t steal the movie — he never tries to steal the spotlight from Wahlberg. Although he very easily could have.