Friday, July 20, 2012

Top 5 Films Featuring Christian Bale






This list is in no particular order. These are just some of my favorite films that Christian Bale, the actor and one of the stars of the new film The Dark Knight Rises has been in over the years that I enjoyed either based solely on his performance or it was just a generally well made and enjoyable film that he happened to part of in a supporting capacity.

Christian Bale will always be that kid from Empire of the Sun for me. It was the first time I saw him and it was the first real grown up movie my mother took me to see in the theaters. Spielberg is known for picking the best child actors for his films but I don't think he has ever topped the casting of Christian Bale and that is saying something when you look at the talent he has had in his other films. But Bale is an actor who never really came into his own until almost 15 years later. He did what most child actors never do, which is to have a career long after he has grown up. His filmography may not be filled with crowd pleasers but he almost always tackles a role with everything he has (have you seen The Machinist?). In recent years he has unfortunately gotten this reputation for being very short tempered due to some leaked on-set recordings but none of that has tainted his body of work or his immense talent. It's sort of a shame that his most popular films (Nolan's Batman trilogy) are the only films that he doesn't really have a whole lot to do acting wise. I'm sure that we have many more great films to look forward to from him well after he has hung up the cape and mask and I for one can't wait. There were a couple of films I found very hard to omit from this list (The Fighter and The Prestige) but I believe these remaining 5 films to be the best examples of his extremely varied career up til now.

1.



This is something of a forgotten Steven Spielberg classic. It was released around the time when the legendary director was trying to do more serious films but still wasn't getting the noteriety he deserved. Empire of the Sun is one of those films from my childhood that just mesmerized me. I understand now the power Spielberg had when it came to casting children, but Christian Bale was already showing signs of greatness even at such a young age. I remember thinking even then that this kid was one of the best actors I had ever seen. The range of emotions he was put through during the long epic journey he undertakes while trying to survive the Japanese invasion of China is exhausting at times but always enthralling. The film has that signature Spielberg touch with just the right amount of humor to keep the story from getting to grim but it never once sacrifices a dramatic moment for a quick laugh. Even now when I look back on it, Empire of the Sun works because of Spielberg's direction and Bale's star making performance. This is a film that any fan of Bale must have in their collection and is a must see for anyone interested in seeing how talented he was from this early on in his career.



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2.



I have never seen the original, but I can't imagine it being much better than this incredible remake. Yes, a remake has finally made one of my lists but it is a film of impeccable quality. The cast, the locations, the straight to the point story and one of the most complex character studies in a western since Unforgiven. On its surface this is a movie about an ill-equipped posse trying to get a hardened criminal to the legendary Yuma prison and it works surprisingly well on that level alone with some great characters and plenty of dangerous situations they must work their way out of. But what sets this film apart from most other westerns is the relationship between its two stars, Christian Bale and Russell Crowe. I would have to give the advantage here to Crowe simply because his role as the baddie is just so dam juicy but that just means Bale is that much better when he is able to take such a simple character as a rancher looking to provide for his family in any way possible and make him twice as intriguing. Make no mistake about it though, both Crowe and Bale carry this movie on their shoulders and do it amazingly well. It just so happens the movie they are carrying is also something quite special.


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3.



Here is a film that was released with very little fanfare and became an instant cult hit. It always surprises me when an independent film made on a shoestring budget can create a futuristic dystopian world so flawlessly when so many big budget Hollywood fare gets it all wrong. Christian Bale plays a Cleric, an enforcer of a law that prevents people from feeling emotions. But these aren't your ordinary clerics, they are an elite task force with an impressive skill set in a new style of fighting called Gunkata, a mixture of martial arts and gun play. The film does a remarkable job of creating its world and Bale is at his usual best as this man who was raised to believe one thing and then has his world shattered up learning the truth behind the lie. I still remember the first time he is off the suppressants and feels the sunlight coming through his bedroom window for the first time, it is an astonishing scene and a powerful bit of acting. This movie has it all, it's smart, sleek and has a pretty neat twist on your typical action sequences. This may not be Bale's best movie but it certainly is one of his most underrated and under appreciated ones.



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4.



Alright, Christian Bale is not the best thing about The Dark Knight. He has joined the ranks of just about every other actor who has worn that famous cowl by being the least important thing in the movie. Once again the villain(s) steal the show with Heath Ledger turning in the performance of a lifetime as The Joker and Aaron Eckhart pulling double duty as Gotham's White Knight and the fractured mess of a man called Two-Face who aims to set the score straight after sacrificing his life and everything he cared for to a city that just isn't worth it. Bale gets the short end of the stick though, much has been made of his Batman voice which is sad since there are plenty of other more positive things to focus on. He plays the billionaire playboy type to perfection (shades of his American Psycho personality certainly shine through) and he is appropriately menacing while suited up and fighting evil. I think he was given more to work with in Batman Begins but The Dark Knight is the superior film and that is why it is on here and not the other.



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5.




I was late to the party on this one. I had heard plenty people lavishing praises on Bale for his disturbingly charming performance as Patrick Bateman, a rich yuppie who gets his kicks by killing and torturing anyone that lets him get close enough. This is yet another shining example of how Bale can take a film and just make it his own. His enthusiasm in the role and sheer giddiness towards how he dispatches his victims is both alarmingly brutal and fascinating to watch. Just the complete madness of some of the death scenes is enough to make most people laugh out loud or cringe in disbelief in what they are witnessing. My personal favorite moments is when Patrick is explaining his love for the 80's music group Huey Lewis and the News just before he puts on a rain coat and buries an axe in someones head. But by far the image that will forever be imbedded in my memory is that of a buck naked Christian Bale running down a hallway covered in blood and wielding a chainsaw while chasing down one of his victims with this devilish smile on his face. This movie is just as insane as his character is but it is also one of those performances that is unsettling in all the right ways.





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