The 7 Best Ben Mendelsohn Roles
Ben Mendelsohn may not be a household name, but he is instantly recognizable on screen. The Australian’s trademark lisp and gritty, earthy handsomeness make him a unique figure in Hollywood. In spite of working actively in television and film since the 1980s, he has only risen to prominence for American audiences in the last decade. In recent years, he has begun taking on significant roles in massive hundred-million-dollar productions like Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ready Player One. He’s given performances in period pieces like Darkest Hour and retellings of classic tales like Robin Hood. Regardless of the scale or even the quality of the film, his idiosyncratic style of acting is always a welcome addition. Below are seven of his best to date.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
As The Walt Disney Company relaunched their newly-acquired Lucasfilm property Star Wars, they sought to continue the main storyline — that of the Skywalker family — but also add to the universe with complementary anthology films. The first of the anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, tells the story of how a band of rebels stole the plans to the Galactic Empire’s crowning achievement, the Death Star. Felicity Jones and Diego Luna play Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor, respectively, the leaders of this ragtag band. Mendelsohn, on the other hand, gives a great turn as Director Orson Krennic, the Imperial overseer of the Death Star, which is nearing completion. The film is a marvel of special effects, nearly bringing back to life the late Peter Cushing’s Governor Tarkin as Krennic’s superior officer — with Cushing’s estate’s permission, of course.
Ready Player One (2018)
Ready Player One is certainly not Steven Spielberg’s best film. It is not as tense as Jaws or as uplifting as Close Encounters of the Third Kind or as heartbreaking as Schindler’s List. Ready Player One is, however, the culmination of his legacy as a filmmaker. Bombastic, colorful, absurd. He has little reverence for film as an untouchable medium, instead using the popular culture of recent decades as his sandbox. It may not be a great film, but it is an endlessly stunning watch. In a world where virtual reality is perfected and everyone hangs out there, the fight for equality has been taken to the internet. Ben Mendelsohn plays the big baddie, Nolan Sorrento, who seeks control of cyberspace for himself. There, online, he comes into conflict with Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan), a hardcore gamer, and his band of misfits, who seek to keep their virtual playground free.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
After more than a decade, Andrew Dominik is still best known for his neo-western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His later film, Killing Them Softly, is less discussed but no less worthwhile. Based on the novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, Brad Pitt plays the titular mob enforcer Jackie Cogan. Dominik cleverly sets the film in the midst of the American financial crisis which occurred in 2007 and 2008. Jackie must find and dispense with three petty criminals (Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy and Vincent Curatola) who steal from the mob for which he works. It is a cool, tense crime flick with great performances (including the late James Gandolfini) and solid direction from Dominik.
Slow West (2015)
For any fan of the modern western, Slow West is a cannot-miss. Kodi Smit-McPhee gives one of the best performances of his young career as Scottish immigrant Jay Cavendish. Jay comes to the American West in search of Rose Ross (Caren Pistorius), the woman he loves. He gets more than he bargained for with his paid protector, Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender). Silas seeks Rose for his own personal gain as she is a wanted criminal. Their paths cross with Payne (Mendelsohn), a man from Silas’ past who is also interested in the reward for Rose’s capture. It is a sturdy western which sadly fell under the radar upon release.
Lost River (2014)
Lost River is above all else, best known as Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut. In the film, Christina Hendricks plays Billy, a struggling single mother to two sons in Detroit. Mendelsohn plays Dave, a banker who exploits Billy’s precarious financial situation for his own gain. Some dismissed the film as vapid, but Gosling’s first project nonetheless shows promise though he has yet to direct another film. At the very least, it is remarkably interesting to look at with its wild neon hues.
Bloodline (2015 to 2017)
Bloodline was a gripping series which follows the well-to-do Rayburn family in the Florida Keys. Mendelsohn fills the fitting role as Danny, the oldest of Sally and Robert) Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard, respectively)’s adult children. Danny’s return home sends ripples throughout his family, from his parents to his siblings John, Kevin, and Meg (Kyle Chandler, Norbert Leo Butz, and Linda Cardellini). The emotional unbalance of the Rayburn family due to his homecoming is the raison d’etre of the show. As his role in the third and final season dropped from main to recurring, so too did the quality of the series. It is more than likely the two are related.
The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)
The Place Beyond the Pines is a drama with no shortage of great performances from great actors. With Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper in starring roles with supporting performances from Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne, Mahershala Ali, and Ray Liotta; Mendelsohn is in great company. Gosling plays Luke Glanton, a man struggling to care for the mother of his child (played by Mendes, Gosling’s actual wife). Before long, he finds himself committing robberies to support them with his boss Robin (Mendelsohn). That is until Luke’s life collides with that of a young cop named Avery Cross (Cooper). It is assuredly not Mendelsohn’s biggest role, but it is a notable one.
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