We’re imminently due to reach the half-way point of 2018, and while it perhaps hasn’t been a banner year of five-star masterpieces yet, the last six months sure haven’t left audiences wanting for quality movies both big and small.
More to the point, some of the world’s finest actors have delivered some of their best work to date, from veteran actresses topping themselves once again, to a sports star making a name for himself in the comedy arena, and a certain actor delivering the goods as a certain purple supervillain.
There’s still half the year to go, so it remains to be seen how many of these performances will remain on our lips by the end of 2018, but given the deep impressions they made, the chances are strong.
Combing through everything that’s hit cinemas this year – including any 2017 festival releases which didn’t actually release until 2018 – these are the performances to beat so far…
15. Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2)
Though you can argue that Deadpool 2 suffered from feeling a little too familiar, it was still a damn fun time, with Ryan Reynolds once again delivering a riotously entertaining performance as the Merc with a Mouth.
Deadpool 2 gives Reynolds a little more to do with the character from an emotional standpoint, and while not all of it clicks perfectly into place, Reynolds’ performance is still pretty much pitch-perfect. At once vulgar, charming and totally insane, it’s exactly what Deadpool needs to be.
Plus, Reynolds technically pulls triple duty here by also providing the voice for Juggernaut (which was then pitched-down in post-production), and of course, playing himself in that mental post-credits scene.
In every frame of the movie you can tell Reynolds cares deeply about the character, and hopefully he’ll successfully recall that passion for the inevitable third movie.
14. Martin Freeman (Cargo)
Martin Freeman might best be known for his comedic roles, but the Netflix-distributed Cargo was immaculate proof of his incredible dramatic chops.
As a father desperately trying to keep his one-year-old daughter safe in the middle of a zombie pandemic, Freeman feels positively out of his element in the best way possible.
Rising firmly to the challenge and aided by a script which skirts around zombie movie contentions, Freeman does a marvellous job imbuing this tragic tale of survival with more than just the bare minimum level of emotional resonance.
It’s a deeply committed performance that should hopefully earn Freeman more genre work in the future.
13. John Cena (Blockers)
Look, not every great performance needs to be worthy of an Oscar, and to that end our card-carrying comedy slot goes to John Cena for his hysterical performance as an over-protective father in Blockers. It was either him or Jesse Plemons in Game Night, but Cena just about clinched it.
Can you name another WWE superstar who has ever “butt-chugged” beer on screen for our amusement? His fearless, shameless performance cleverly subverted audience expectations that he’d be playing a stereotypical meathead dad, bringing surprising sweetness to a character who could so easily have been a cardboard cutout.
Cena hasn’t had an easy time establishing himself as a movie star – at least compared to, well, The Rock – but he’s definitely carving out a fine niche for himself as a terrifically entertaining player in R-rated comedy fare.
12. Claire Foy (Unsane)
Though most of Unsane’s headlines revolved around Steven Soderbergh shooting the entire thing on an iPhone, really the most impressive element of this low-fi psychological thriller was Claire Foy’s splendid performance as a woman committed to an insane asylum while dealing with the advances of a stalker (Joshua Leonard).
Foy does a great job keeping the audience on their toes with both the general ambiguity and more specific little tics of her performance, enhancing the unease of Soderbergh’s direction all the way through to the rather bonkers third act.
She’s in practically every shot of the movie and has to carry it above and beyond the rather basic visuals, firmly proving her to be one of the most compelling on-the-rise actresses working today.
11. Nick Robinson (Love, Simon)
No longer destined to be remembered solely as “the creepy teenager from Jurassic World”, Nick Robinson did a wonderful job playing closeted gay high schooler Nick in this deeply affecting and ludicrously entertaining coming-of-age comedy.
Robinson at once conveys the youthful anguish of burgeoning sexuality – something seen all-too-rarely in mainstream cinema – with poignant humanity and ably argues that, shockingly enough, Simon’s ultimately just like everybody else.
It’s a thoroughly charming performance that’s suitably subdued for the most part – and almost every performance in the movie is pretty great, actually – though Robinson knows when to swing for the fences too.
10. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Come Sunday)
This Netflix drama about the real-life excommunication of preacher Carlton Pearson (Chiwetel Ejiofor) following his assertion that Hell doesn’t exist is a classic case of a central performance proving far better than the movie around it.
Come Sunday is an intriguing if fairly unassuming drama for the most part, but in Ejiofor’s ferociously righteous performance it finds true brilliance. With a stronger script, he probably would’ve ended up in awards contention later in the year.
Still, as a depiction of a man wrestling with his own issues of faith, his commitment to his family and also to his church, it’s a fantastically nuanced performance that helps bring sense and emotion to a complex issue.
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