Scarlett Johansson continues to prove her action hero chops with “Ghost in the Shell”

There are two types of Scarlett Johansson roles that we’ve been getting over the past few years. One is affecting work in things like Her or Under the Skin, while the other is in action films, both of the Marvel ilk, as well as things like this week’s release Ghost in the Shell. I don’t mean this as an insult though. Johansson is possibly the best actress out there at transitioning between tugging at your emotions and entertaining you by kicking some ass. As such, this new release should continue raising her star wattage, paving the way for one of her future dramatic outings to finally get her that elusive Academy Award nomination.

Ghost in the Shell is a science fiction / action film based on a very well regarded Japanese comic book. Set in the near future, it follows Major (Johansson), who is is the first of her kind. She’s a human who was cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier after being saved from a devastating crash. Now devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals, Major is their worst nightmare. Rupert Sanders directs the film, which is adapted by Jamie Moss and William Wheeler. Besides Johansson in the lead role, the cast also includes Pilou Asbæk, Juliette Binoche, Takeshi Kitano, Michael Pitt, and many more. Clint Mansell contributes the score, along with Lorne Balfe, while Jess Hall handles the cinematography.

Here’s a bit that I wrote about her in a previous Spotlight on the Stars article:

To some, she’s merely a pretty face, but when I look at her, not only do I see a beautiful woman, I also see a criminally underrated actress. From her early days as a child star of sorts to her wonderfully complex leading role in the aforementioned independent film Under the Skin that probably is her best turn so far to date, Johansson has way more to offer than some realize. Folks also don’t always catch on to why she’s chosen some of the projects that she has, but one look at the filmmakers that she’s acted for will give you some clue as to her decisions.

Johansson has worked with directors like Woody Allen, Sofia Coppola, Cameron Crowe, Brian De Palma, Jon Favreau, Spike Jonze, Christopher Nolan, and Joss Whedon. You can argue that one or two of the movies she did with these auteurs aren’t particularly great, but she’s certainly got an eye for working with talented people. That’s usually the mark of a strong actress with a good head on her shoulders. No one makes perfect decisions all the time, but even when the project might be misguided, usually there’s an A-list director that’s been a part of the decision to sign on.

Just as an actress, she’s got more range than a lot of people give her credit for. Compare her performances in Her, Lost in Translation, Match Point, and more recently with Under the Skin, and it’s as if there’s a different actress on display each time. Those four Golden Globe nominations didn’t happen by accident, even if sadly it never translated into an Oscar nod. The Academy in particular missed the boat on a nom for either Lost in Translation or Match Point in my eyes, and don’t even get me started on how they barely considered her this past time around for Her.

Here is how I would rank Johansson’s ten best performances to date:

10. Girl with a Pear Earring
9. In Good Company
8. The Horse Whisperer
7. A Love Song for Bobby Long
6. Vicky Cristina Barcelona
5. Don Jon
4. Match Point
3. Her
2. Lost in Translation
1. Under the Skin

Honorable Mentions: Ghost World, A Good Woman, Hitchcock, Scoop, and We Bought a Zoo

Be sure to check out Ghost in the Shell, in theaters everywhere this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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