The reviews are in and it seems, much to everyone’s surprise, that Split is a genuinely enjoyable genre film. What’s more, it would seem that actor James McAvoy delivers one of his finest, trickiest performances to date. Due to this we decided to look back at his filmography and pick out his strongest performances to date. Having always possessed a natural, oozing charisma as well as a roguish, mischievous quality, directors haven’t always known what to do with his particular range of skills. How
ever, when the director/writers manage to bottle his unique charms, his performances are immediately memorable.
Read our list below and comment to let us know which performances you would’ve added to the list.
7. Starter for 10
In one of his earliest roles, McAvoy was already beginning to demonstrate his off kilter charm that could appeal to a mass audience in the comedy Starter for 10. In a role that demanded of him to play the comedic and romantic lead while also relying on him for the heavier, more heartfelt moments, it may not be his most often remembered film role, but it certainly is one where his range of talents was first fully on display.
Scoff as much as you would like but Penelope is both a solidly entertaining love story as well as a nice spotlight on McAvoy’s ability to play the love interest. While he isn’t the lead in the film and his character doesn’t go through the emotional storyline as Christina Ricci’s does, he has a magnetism that draws eyes when he’s onscreen and is completely convincing as someone Penelope would year for.
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Out of his three turns as Charles Xavier, there’s little doubt that X-Men: Days of Future Past gave him the greatest amount of emotional moments to languish in. His Xavier is damaged and broken following the fall out after First Class, a far cry from the character we’d come to know in the past. Every line he’s given he’s wrings out every possible emotion and throughout the course of the film we get to see as he learns to rely on his good nature once again, finding the hope that he’d so clearly lost sight of at the start. Sometimes selfish, bristling with anger and resentment but still able to play the hero, McAvoy’s performance showcases just why this big budgeted genre films will always succeed greater if they have a great talent behind their pivotal roles.
I did not like Trance. I almost fell asleep during Trance. Despite this it would be absolutely foolish to overlook the wonderful work McAvoy does in the Danny Boyle film. While not quite the actors showcase some might’ve hoped upon first watching the trailer, it was at the very least a character that McAvoy could sink his teeth into and obviously did so with unfiltered glee. Delivering a performance that centers itself on the tricky notion of duality, as he’s forced to play someone who is both completely out of control while also pulling all of the strings, McAvoy makes it so that we’re never quite sure where his character is coming from, what his motives are and if he’s ultimately as trustworthy and blindsided as he’s letting on until the very last moments.
3. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him
While much of the hype around the indie darling The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby films (Him, Her and Them) was Jessica Chastain’s devastating performances, not enough has been said about McAvoy’s soulful turn as a grieving father and husband who desperately wants his wife to return home. He and Chastain share a brittle, intimate chemistry and while he doesn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve in the same manner as Chastain, there’s a deep sorrow that permeates in every facet of his performance that makes him just as affecting. It’s a quite, internal performance and one where we’re left wanting more but the power is immense.
McAvoy is this film and all of its success is due to his transcendent performance as a man who’s a royally rotten human being and yet still worthy of our empathy. A piggish, bigoted misogynist, there’s very little to root for regarding this character yet McAvoy manages to spin our expectations but demonstrating the vulnerabilities that lie dormant underneath his projected, towering persona. He’s a mess, physically and psychologically and McAvoy makes sure that the audience knows this from the first second he appears onscreen, keeping us wondering what’s real and what’s put upon. Physically abrasive in one turn and then able to present him a cowering mess in the next, Filth showcases that emotional duality that he mastered long ago.
Robbie Turner is a fascinating character on paper and becomes an even greater one through McAvoy’s devastation laced portrayal of the character in Joe Wright’s movie adaptation. The embodiment of the loss of innocence, McAvoy goes from love struck heart breaker to broken down image of a soldier whose seen too much horrors of war to ever be put back together again. From his facial expressions that go from light and flirtatious to drawn tight and sorrowful, to his boyish physicality to a stance perpetually standing as if being bogged down by the weight of the world, McAvoy’s performance is all encompassing, nailing each and every moment throughout his characters heart-wrenching transformation. The film was already one that bled grief and regrets and he only enforces the idea of loss through his tremendous performance.