The Oscar nominations aren’t announced for another fortnight but, after Sunday’s Golden Globe win, the odds on Casey Affleck walking away with the Best Actor little gold man are as short as Mary Berry’s pastry. It can’t be long before the books close.
Both he and older brother Ben – there’s almost exactly three years between them – have films released in the UK this week. From the reviews so far, it’s probably kinder to pass over the older Affleck’s latest offering. For Casey, small parts in the ’90s paved the way for supporting roles in the Ocean’s series and, ultimately, the film that brought him out of Ben’s shadow, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford.
After that, there was no looking back, and subsequent appearances proved he was no one film wonder. Here’s just some of them, including the one that arrives in UK cinemas this week.
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Affleck’s breakthrough performance earned him Oscar, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nominations, among others. He may not have turned out to be a winner, but his unsettling turn as the obsessed and creepy Robert Ford left an indelible impression on everybody who saw the film. Despite having more on-screen time than co-star Brad Pitt, all his nods were in the supporting actor category, re-igniting the age-old debate about where a leading role ends and a supporting one begins. The extra attention wasn’t unwelcome but ultimately, despite sharing the screen with the likes of Pitt, Sam Rockwell, Jeremy Renner and Sam Shepherd, his was the outstanding turn in Andrew Dominik’s lyrical western.
Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (2013)
Before making Pete’s Dragon for Disney, director David Lowery teamed Affleck with Rooney Mara in this Bonnie And Clyde style indie – minus the sharp duds – about a couple separated by one single deed.
Affleck brought what was now becoming his trademark intensity to the role of a likeable but hapless bad boy, one with plenty of charm but equal amounts of anger simmering just below the surface. Lowery’s screenplay was lean to the point of sparse, so every single expression and movement had to count. And the result was pure class.
Out Of The Furnace (2013)
Hard on the heels of Ain’t Them Bodies Saints came a film which could easily be dubbed Intensity Central. What else do you expect from a Casey Affleck/Christian Bale partnership? Under the direction of Scott Cooper, the two played brothers, Affleck the younger, irresponsible one who gets tangled up with local crime lord Woody Harrelson – never a wise move.
Three months of dedicated training gave Affleck the wiry physique of an ex-boxer that he needed. With his appearance sorted, he went on to create an edgy, despairing character that more than made his mark on the film, despite being surrounded by a cast of alpha males. He was more than a match for Bale.
Manchester By The Sea (2016)
So, to the role that’s made him the actor to beat in this year’s Oscar race. He’s swept all before him in a career best performance, a role with his name written all over it and which plays to his strengths. Stuck in a dead-end job and with the grief and guilt of the world piled onto his drooping shoulders, he finds his life overturned by a double whammy: the death of his much-loved older brother, and the bequest of becoming his nephew’s legal guardian. His taciturn exterior makes him unlikeable, yet sympathetic because it conceals a tragic past. Despite the restrained quality of Affleck’s acting, it’s crystal clear throughout what his character is feeling and thinking underneath.
However the Oscar nominations pan out later this month, the Best Actor category could be one of the tightest in years. But, barring fire, flood or act of God, Affleck’s name will be on the list, making it almost inevitable that he’ll join DiCaprio as being the highly predictable winner – by miles. Except this time it’s not a case of being his turn: his performance is truly a knock-out.
Manchester By The Sea is released in cinemas on Friday 13th January and you can read our verdict here.