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“The Hero” is phenomenal and the best work of Sam Elliott’s career

It’s always a pleasure when the best new release of a given week also happens to be the best film of the year so far. This week, just such an occasion is upon us with the release of The Hero. A truly wonderful flick, this is the sort of picture that reminds you of the power of cinema, especially when a central performance anchors it all. Here, that performance belongs to Sam Elliott, who will absolutely blow you away. This is work that goes beyond awards worthy. It certainly is, but it’s also something that marks a high water mark on an already impressive career. Prepare to be stunned by Elliott and The Hero in a big way.

This film is a character study of the highest order. Lee Hayden (Elliott) is an aging movie star with his best work behind him. He was once the star of a western called The Hero which made his career, but now he mostly smokes pot and does lucrative voice over work, mainly in commercials. Some bad medical news makes it a priority for him to try to reconnect with his daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), though when his drug dealer, the former actor Jeremy (Nick Offerman), introduces him to Charlotte (Laura Prepon), Lee sees something else that makes life worth living. It’s a gentle tale that defies expectations at all turns. Brett Haley co-writes with Marc Basch and directs, while the rest of the cast includes Katharine Ross in a welcome supporting turn, among a few others. Cinematography is by Rob Givens, while the compelling score is from Keegan DeWitt. Everyone is at the top of their games here, making for something truly special.

The movie is my favorite of 2017 so far, as previously stated. Elliott gives the performance of the year and quite possibly of his career here. He’s funny, sad, and supremely real. There’s not a drop of artifice to be found. Offerman, Prepon, and Ritter are great too, with the former two sharing top notch chemistry with Elliott. There’s no comparing though. Elliott is in a class by himself. It’s a credit to Haley that he saw fit to give him a starring role to sink his teeth into. He stole the show in Haley’s prior film I’ll See You in My Dreams, and here, he does him one better. Bravo to all involved here.

Oscar needs to take notice of Elliott. A campaign in Best Actor has to happen, but hopefully The Orchard goes all out. Best Picture, Best Director (for Haley), Best Actress/Best Supporting Actress (for Prepon), Best Supporting Actor (for Offerman), Best Supporting Actress (for Ritter), and Best Original Screenplay (for Basch and Haley), and Best Original Song might be harder sells, but Actor for Elliott shouldn’t be. Not only is this performance good enough to get nominated, it’s good enough to win too. With the right campaign, Elliott can position himself as the overdue veteran and potentially do some damage during the precursor season. Fingers crossed, at least. This is a candidacy worth keeping an eye on.

On Friday, audiences can check out the best performance of 2017 to date when The Hero opens in select theaters as part of a platform release. Again, not only do I think Elliott’s work stands tall, the film itself is the best one of the year right now. That mix is impossible to beat. You owe it to yourself to seek this one out. It’s going to roll out over the coming weeks and really start blowing people away. Elliott alone would make this a must see. Everything else just helps to make it the special movie that it truly is. See it and you can thank me later. Trust me on this one folks. You won’t regret it…

*Special notice to those who live in New York City. I will be moderating opening weekend Q and A events after certain screenings of The Hero. They’ll be after the 7pm and 8pm showings at the Angelika Film Center and AMC Lincoln Square. Friday will be with Elliott and Haley, while Saturday and Sunday will be Haley and Prepon. Check it out if you’re in town and support a great film, as well as this writer!*

Be sure to check out The Hero, in theaters beginning 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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