Christian Bale brings his A-list talents to “The Promise”

Given the right role, it’s distinctly possible that there’s nobody better in the business than Christian Bale. He can just own the screen and dominate a film. There’s a reason why he’s an Academy Award winner and slowly becoming someone that voters seem to look for a reason to cite. Oscar aside, he’s simply a throwback method style actor and that’s compelling for audience members. This week, he co-stars in The Promise, while also being rumored as the choice of filmmaker Adam McKay to play Dick Cheney in a biopic set for 2018. Even as a big time A-lister, the sky remains the limit for Bale.

The film is a period piece, centered on a love triangle during the final days of the Ottoman Empire. Michael (Oscar Isaac), a rather brilliant medical student, is wooing the beautiful and highly sophisticated Ana (Charlotte Le Bon), but so is a well renowned American journalist based in Paris named Chris (Bale). Drama ensues. Terry George co-writes with Robin Swicord and directs here. The cast, in addition to the aforementioned trio includes the likes of Shohreh Aghdashloo, James Cromwell, Tom Hollander, Jean Reno, Angela Sarafyan, Michael Stahl-David, and more. Initially scheduled to hit in 2016, this was delayed into 2017. Not an amazing sign, but hey, the talent sure is there for this to be something worth seeing. Maybe it won’t be awards worthy, but it seems like it’s still solid adult fare as the summer blockbuster season quickly approaches.

This is how I would rank Bale’s ten best performances to date:

10. Batman Begins
9. The Prestige
8. The Big Short
7. The Dark Knight Rises
6. American Hustle
5. The Machinist
4. The Dark Knight
3. Rescue Dawn
2. The Fighter
1. American Psycho

Honorable Mentions: 3:10 to Yuma, Empire of the Sun, Harsh Times, and Out of the Furnace

Here is a bit from a past piece on Bale:

Bale got started briefly as a teenager in television movies, but for most, the first real exposure to him came in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, as well as a few years later in the musical Newsies. Throw in his voice work in the Disney flick Pocahontas and he was making his first bones with what often was family friendly entertainment. That would change in a hurry, but his beginnings were much more mainstream than where he would go from there. He first teased at a more mature future with Velvet Goldmine, but it would be a certain book adaptation that really showed how extreme he could go.

American Psycho is not only one of his more out there roles, it’s also one of his best performances to date. He was able to take author Bret Easton Ellis’ character Patrick Bateman and find the theatrical quality in him. It’s both a gonzo and very restrained performance, which is hard to do. Bale really nailed it, and it got the attention of Hollywood. He would no longer be an up and comer…he’d be a star in the making. Roles in bigger films like Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Equilibrium, Laurel Canyon, Reign of Fire, and Shaft followed, though many of those still had that independent spirit he gravitated to.

Bale next wowed people with a physical transformation for his part in The Machinist. He lost a disturbing amount of weight, giving an already strong performance an extra layer of power. It was impossible not to look at him and feel the agony of what the weight loss must have been like, which in turn makes the insomnia that the character is suffering feel all the more troubling. It’s the first time that the actor was really snubbed for awards attention, but it wouldn’t be the last. One great thing did come of it though. He would get to play a superhero, and not just any superhero either…

His portrayal of Bruce Wayne/Batman has become iconic, starting of course with the franchise reboot Batman Begins. Getting down and dirty with the character, he really changed the way you looked at both sides of the caped crusader coin. Obviously filmmaker Christopher Nolan was the mastermind, but Bale did top notch work in getting that character off the ground again. From there, he appeared in 3:10 to Yuma, Harsh Times, I’m Not There, The New World, The Prestige, and Rescue Dawn (again being snubbed for an Academy Award nomination while losing a ton of weight), always managing to impress along the way.

Bale has really become an A-lister from that point on. There was of course two more Batman outings for Nolan with The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises (where he upped his game as Wayne/the crime fighter each time), plus Public Enemies and another would be franchise starter in Terminator Salvation. The two Batman films were the highlights of this period, but he was still doing interesting enough work. Little did we know though that another incredibly fruitful creative period was headed our way.

The man would finally get his first Oscar nomination, and wind up winning the Best Supporting Actor prize, for his scene stealing turn in The Fighter. Bale is aces there, delivering a performance that cake walked its way to the Academy stage, and rightly so. It’s powerful and humorous, showing all sides of his talent. Filmmaker David O. Russell helped bring it out of him, but it was clearly already there. Good thing voters took notice, at long last.

Since then, he starred in The Flowers of War, as well as a few years ago’s one-two punch of Russell’s American Hustle and Out of the Furnace. The former got him his second Academy Award nomination, this time in Best Actor. Much like with Nolan, working again with Russell spurred Bale’s creative juices in a big way, resulting in a lower key turn from him than usual, but one full of style at the same time. It’s an underrated performance in a career full of incredible work to pick through.

Following that, he starred in the biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. Though perhaps not as exciting a choice as he’s been making of late, Bale still brings a screen presence to the part that’s all but demanded when you sign on to play Moses. Even if many have issues with Ridley Scott’s tale, Bale isn’t one of them. As you might notice with some of his less successful projects, he’s never the reason they don’t succeed. He gives it his all each and every single time out. Just look at Knight of Cups and especially The Big Short. He’s just aces.”

Be sure to check out Bale in The Promise, beginning its theatrical run 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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