A lot of actors come on screen and fade to black, but then there are those rare ones who can keep the mind and heart engaged persistently through myriad different characters in myriad different stories. For example, Tom Hardy.
Hardy possesses a very rare and rather contradictory quality of being charismatic whilst in character, no matter how small or big, as well as being able to blend in and become so unnoticeable that the character sort of lives on in your head afterwards as an independent entity. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t exhaust his mental and physical faculties after repeatedly giving his all in every film of his. It’s also more to do with the fact that you suddenly view him as a character rather than an actor who is capable of multiple roles. This is not just a pretty way of lauding his skill as an actor but a personal observation where I was misled myself.
The first movie I ever watched of his (or so I thought) was Stuart: A Life Backwards, a television film based on a true story of a homeless, mentally unstable addict, whose life is portrayed backwards, starting from adulthood to his childhood years. He played the role so well and so convincingly, that it was to no one’s surprise that he got nominated for a BAFTA that year.
I looked him up, as I wanted to watch more of his films. Imagine my shock when I go through his list of films to see that I’ve already watched five of his films. Yes, five!
Maybe it’s more to do with the fact that I was unobservant, but on further research I found that I was not the only one who found him unrecognizable in most of his roles. It’s not that he looked different per se; it was more to do with the immense changes in his body language, accent, and demeanor that he underwent to suit the nature of his characters.
The fact that he played Bane, from The Dark Knight Rises, would surprise anyone who didn’t know about it because the guy wore a huge mask and looked like he belonged in the WWE. So this lapse can be easily overlooked.
Tom Hardy as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The second film where I did not recognize him was Inception, where I remember thinking that the actor was good but never followed up on him. The third was Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a detailed little drama on espionage that takes you in little by little, the pacing so slow that when the inevitable twist arrives, you feel like you’d been hit by a sledgehammer, because boy, you were not prepared for that. It’s ironic really how well he played the part; a chameleon, who fools you through his acting in a story about the lives of spies in the Cold War era.
Hardy as Ricky Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
The fourth was RockNRolla, one of the funniest and most honest crime films I have ever seen, one that is hugely underrated and as such deserves more traction amongst viewers who just genuinely enjoy a good laugh along with an intricate plot. Hardy plays a smaller role, that of Handsome Bob who awkwardly comes out to his friends and partners in crime, and is, in turn, awkwardly and hilariously accepted by them. Gerard Butler mostly carries the film, but Hardy brings in his own unique formula that adds to the landscape of the film as a whole, thus making it more enjoyable.
Hardy as Handsome Bob in RocknRolla (2008)
The final movie in which the actor but not the performance escaped my notice was This Means War. I don’t want to accept censure for this primarily because one doesn’t usually think that the big, burly guy who put the fear of all things unholy in Gotham could also play the lovable Brit, full of charm and wit in a romantic comedy.
Hardy as Tuck Henson in This Means War (2012)
One just does not.
However, this is only a testament to his versatility as an actor because what makes half the films fun to watch is watching actors branch out and experiment with different roles and situations. Yeah, the story and the direction play a big part, but to see an actor grow and slip from character to character is quite satisfying in itself and it adds to the whole cinematic experience.
Tom Hardy has now caught on to the mainstream and has already received his Oscar nomination. Gone are the days when he was a newbie, acting in Band of Brothers and Black Hawk Down.
In Warrior, another one of his underrated movies, he plays the restrained boxer who communicates more through his body and face than through written dialogues.
In Locke, a film that is unique in more ways than one, he carries the entire story in a one-man show as it starts and ends with him in a car, driving. The entire film revolves around conversations he carries on with people through a cell phone in the car — a script like this risks being boring and pointless, but it’s breathtaking how you become so involved in his life and affairs with so little input and video imagery.
Hardy as Ivan Locke in Locke (2013)
Being the dynamic actor that he is, he portrayed the twins Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, in Legend, while simultaneously winning hearts with his performance in The Revenant.
Be it playing the part of a member of the Russian military police in Child 44 or the rebel Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road, he has done justice to all his roles and has certainly bulked up his oeuvre of exceptional films and what’s more? He’s only getting started.
Be sure not to miss Dunkirk, which promises to be worth the wait and the hype, starring Tom Hardy in all his glory, directed by Christopher Nolan who has never delivered a bad movie to date. You can’t miss the film with these two at the helm.
So, if you ever want to watch a good movie without going through the tedious process of sifting through recommendations and reviews, just pick a one starring Tom Hardy. You won’t regret it.