At this point, it’s flat out trite to look back on Tom Hanks’ greatest roles. He’s a man who went from America’s favorite son to America’s dad over the course of a decades-long career. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who hasn’t been moved by at least one of his legendary performances. However, when you have a performer who is defined by a few classic roles (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Big to name a few) there are many gems that get lost in the shuffle. As such, to celebrate the release of Sully, let’s look back on a few Hanks performances that you might have missed.
Sure, Hanks’ most notable ‘stranded in one place’ performance is in Cast Away, but he may be even better in The Terminal. He plays Viktor Navorski, a man trapped in JFK Airport when a military coup renders his country invalid. When he arrives, he hardly knows any English, spending the whole film learning the language and culture of America through the airport. While this may seem like an odd role for Hanks in concept, he pulls it off masterfully. He brings such a genuine sweetness and mischievous energy to Viktor that we fall in love with him even when he’s not speaking. Despite having a very odd concept, Hanks’ amazing turn ensures that the film never feels like a gimmick. The fact that this absolute gem from Stephen Spielberg is so often looked over is an absolute tragedy. It’s a masterful showcase for his penchant for amazing production design (the airport is one massive set), and sentimental storytelling.
Catch Me If You Can
Yet another collaboration between Hanks and Spielberg, Catch Me If You Can places Hanks in an interesting position. The antagonist. Sure, he’s the straight and arrow police officer chasing Leonardo Dicaprio’s Frank Abagnale Jr, but he’s undoubtedly the stick in the mud. Hanks’ deadpan delivery perfectly complements Dicaprio’s charismatic criminal. In their few scenes together, they create fireworks in what is already a very high energy film. There’s even a strange father/son bond that grows between the two of them. This is the type of role I wish Hanks would take more often. A character that isn’t particularly showy, but exists to complement a great story.
Road To Perdition
In Sam Mendes’ Road To Perdition, we see Hanks in a rare mode that of an action star. Granted it’s in a more would weary, Liam Neeson-esque way, but he wears it well. He plays a man who’s already committed the worst acts of his life, looking for redemption in ensuring that his son does not do the same. Bringing a maturity and gravitas to the role, Hanks is the anchor point for an incredibly stylistic and intense tale. Mendes’ direction is the icing on the cake, bringing the 1930s to vivid life with extraordinary cinematography by Conrad L. Hall. This is one of the most underrated crime films of the last decade, it’s absolutely worth a shot.
Saving Mr. Banks
This performance was largely overlooked due to Hanks’ equally fantastic turn in Captain Phillips that same year. Hanks’ portrayal of Walt Disney, while certainly a bit more jolly than the real man likely was, is spot on. His soulful desire to please perfectly offsets P.L. Travers’ (Emma Thompson) equally strong aversion to making anybody happy but herself. We see why people found Disney to be such an inspiration, but we also understand Travers’ suspicion of him. Something seems just a little too perfect, and there’s no man who can play endlessly earnest like Tom Hanks. Watching them collaborate to create what ultimately becomes Marry Poppins is a joy. I’m not even that big of a Disney fan, and I found this film to be an absolute pleasure.
Now before you pull out the nails and cross, hear me out. Cloud Atlas is nowhere near a good movie. It bites off far more than it can chew, and only a few of the several stories prove interesting. However, out of all the confused-seeming performers, Hanks holds his own handily. Particularly in his scenes with Halle Berry, he does a brilliant job of conveying the film’s message of interconnected lives. We can tell that he not only recognizes her but has deep rooted emotions for her that even he can’t understand. With that said, nobody can save a film so convoluted and occasionally flat out offensive, but Hanks grounds it into something a bit more human.