There are very few actors working in Hollywood today that have the ability to do literally anything. Most become synonymous with a particular genre, and coast along in their comfort zone. Some occasionally dip into new material, but soon retreat to the familiar. Then there’s two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks.
As a performer, Hanks has successfully hopped between comedy, drama, thriller, and sci-fi; he’s skipped between time periods, and has played multiple roles in the same movie. In his 36 year career, he has reached the status of ‘Go-to true story lead’ – which means that we can hardly imagine any biopic or cinematic rendering of heroism or drama, without Hanks in the notable role. Of course, Tom Hanks is the man to play Jim Lovell – stoically leading an ill-fated mission to the moon. But, he’s also the man to play the alcoholic, womanizing Texas congressman Charlie Wilson – manipulating U.S involvement in the Soviet-Afghan war.
It is the breadth of his experience, his willingness to swim in uncharted waters, and the uncanny ease with which he connects with the audience that makes Tom Hanks a force to be reckoned with onscreen. Regardless of the nature of the role we find him in, he draws us in and carries us along with him – through the twists and turns; through the laughs and tears; through the nail-biting tension and the waves of relief. This is only possible for a thespian that exudes an innate trustworthiness. We are happy to follow him down any narrative path, because we know are in the safe theatrical hands of an actor that can deliver the goods.
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For Hanks, 2016 appears to be the year that perfectly demonstrates all of these points. While he showed us an impressive range in 2013, with two lead performances based on real people – Saving Mr. Banks (in which he plays Walt Disney) and Captain Phillips (in which he plays Captain Richard Phillips) – his output in 2016 is proving to be much more prolific and varied.
We have already seen the release, earlier this year, of A Hologram For The King. This comedy-drama sees Hanks play a failed businessman, desperately and anxiously casting about to find a new sense of balance and personal ease. October 14th will see the arrival of Inferno – his third outing as Da Vinci Code hero Robert Langdon, in a sci-fi thriller that sees him racing around Europe, solving clues to save the world.
Finally, and most interestingly, December 2nd will see Sully land in theatres worldwide. This is the very real story of Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger – who safely landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in New York City in January 2009, saving the lives of 155 people. The casting of Tom Hanks in this lead role is an obvious but welcome choice, because he has spent his career embodying the very reliability and steadfastness displayed by Captain Sullenberger throughout his.
So, in the space of one year and three films, Hanks will have explored themes of failure, anxiety, global politics, culture clashes, conspiracies, religion, professional and personal responsibility, corporate machinations, media bias, and mental and emotional trauma. That’s quite something for the actor that made his first onscreen appearance in an episode of The Love Boat. He can do it, though, because he is Tom Hanks – and here are ten performances that prove he is the greatest actor of his generation.