The Best Male Film Performances of 2010

by PopMatters Staff

4 January 2011


15 - 11

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Director: Rodrigo Cortés
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Ivana Miño, Robert Paterson, José Luis García Pérez, Stephen Tobolowsky


Ryan Reynolds

One man + one coffin = one riveting thriller? That equation would never add up for Buried had it not been for Ryan Reynolds’ incredible turn as Paul Conroy, a trucker working in Iraq who’s kidnapped and held for ransom six feet underground. Director Rodrigo Cortes’ camera roams up and down the 7x2 foot prison (providing plenty of flattering shots of Mr. Reynolds much touted physique), but it never finds its way out. It doesn’t matter. Reynolds’ is more than up to the challenge. By varying his reactions only slightly and keeping his character in an appropriately consistent state of panic, Reynolds commands the screen and makes Buried worthy of being anything but. Ben Travers



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Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast: Javier Bardem, Blanca Portillo, Maricel Álvarez, Rubén Ochandiano


Javier Bardem

“You see yourself disappearing more and more from what you know you are, and becoming more the person that you created. That’s not to say that I was suffering what Uxbal suffered. I’m not him. But it is to say that there is no room for something else. There is no room for anything else other than being him and because you’re portraying somebody in a movie like this, who goes through so many personal journeys, emotional, heavy ones there’s no way that you can escape, to be honest. So the transformation was from being an actor and trying to pretend to be someone else to becoming that person for a good three months. I’m not him. Thank God I’m not him. But there is no way—or I don’t know the way—to portray that without putting yourself in that place. But that’s what we do. That’s our job. Some characters are easier. Eat Pray Love. You go there and you have fun and you do a tone. Others are the ones that really leave some marks on your skin and this is one. Uxbal is for sure the hardest [role] that I’ve done. “
Javier Bardem, December 2010  Matt Mazur



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Never Let Me Go

Director: Mark Romanek
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Sally Hawkins, Charlotte Rampling, Nathalie Richard


Andrew Garfield
Never Let Me Go

It’s not hyperbolic to say that Andrew Garfield’s performance as Tommy in Never Let Me Go is transformative, heartbreaking and more moving than entire films as a whole. The fact that this brilliant performance is at the center of such an artistically successful film is just icing on the cake. Towards the end of the film, when a twitching Tommy, crestfallen beyond all description, leaves a car to run into the road and let out a primal scream, it’s as if Garfield threatens to tear apart the film reel, and cinema as a whole, with this one display of emotion. With his anguished cry, his too-real tears and the powerfully honest feelings behinds the words he speaks, Garfield is poised to become a star of the highest order. When that happens, it would do people well to remember this standout performance. Kevin Brettauer



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Blue Valentine

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Mike Vogel, John Doman, Ben Shenkman, Faith Wladyka


Ryan Gosling
Blue Valentine

There are many moments of complete romantic rapture and grace throughout Derek Cianfrance’s intimate, bruising film, but one memory will no doubt linger once you’ve left the theater after seeing Blue Valentine: Gosling, as Dean, plays a love song on a ukulele for ladylove Cindy (Michelle Williams) on their first official date. In this scene, the actor has several challenges, all of which he approaches with a gusto that is breathtaking to watch. The singing, the playing, the romancing, the puppy dog eyes, the sensuality, the strength, and most importantly, the vulnerability are all present within the sequence, contained in Gosling’s beautiful immersion into the working class antihero he is so gamely and so adeptly portraying. Dean is not all cocky bluster, smart-mouthiness, and physical transformation gimmickry, there is, in fact, a deep radiance emanating from within his burning heart, a deep desire to be loved for who he is and not for what he can be. With a flash of his smile,  his hang-dog expressions, and lanky, sexy swagger, its not only Cindy that falls for this complicated man, but the audience as well. Gosling truly evokes some of the screen’s greatest actors with his haunted, assured work here: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, and even a little touch of Marcello Mastroianni. Matt Mazur



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Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh


Jonah Hill

Thanks in large part to Judd Apatow, audiences know that Jonah Hill is a skilled, natural-born natterer. Hill’s most notable roles to date, in films such as Knocked Up and Superbad, are defined by their talkativeness. His characters rarely think before they speak, but they can be guaranteed to speak. In Cyrus, however, Hill changes his game. As Cyrus, the 20-something son of overly accommodating mother Molly (Marisa Tomei), Hill is often silent. He is especially so in his passive aggressive response to the threat posed by his mother’s romantic relationship with John (John C. Reilly). As the romance grows, Cyrus finds a variety of subtle ways to act out, most of which involve testing the patience of his mother’s paramour. The brilliance of Hill’s performance is the intensity of the silent menace he becomes. That which initially seems like a case of arrested development appears as something much more sinister, and by the climax of the film, we understand the weight of his anguish and the lengths to which he will go to put his world back together. His reactions might be irrational, yet Hill finds something real and honorable in Cyrus’s battle for his mother’s affection. Thomas Britt


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