4. A Guide to Recognising Your Saints (Dito Montiel, 2006)
In a memoir drama based on the life of the director himself, Shia Labeouf plays the younger Montiel during his flashbacks of living in Astoria, New York in 1986. The fact that the older Montiel’s part is subscribed to Robert Downey Jr gives Labeouf a big Hollywood name to work up to, triggering a great performance.
And indeed a great performance is required in order to convey the difficult early life of the director, as he was going through the hardship of trying to leave home as well as witnessing and being involved in the troubles between gangs, having his own friends killed and another sent to prison for killing a person for revenge against an attack on the protagonist himself.
The movie portrays growth and development of characters as we go from present to flashback, as he reconciles with both his father who holds a grudge on him for leaving, as well as with other people from his past, including the imprisoned friend with whom they now can share deep conversations in regards to life, having been through so much. Labeouf puts on a convincing performance in terms of on-screen relationships and the evolution to become the older Montiel we see as Downey Jr.
3. Fury (David Ayer, 2014)
Labeouf proves pure dedication in the war action drama Fury with his role as Boyd ‘Bible’ Swan. He is one of the five soldiers under the command of sergeant ‘Wardaddy’ (Brad Pitt) during April of 1945, when they take part in an extremely dangerous and deadly mission, despite the odds not being in their favour as they have few men, even fewer guns and an inexperienced young Norman Ellison (Logan Lerman) on their team as they try to defeat the Nazis.
The actor went to the extreme in order to get into character, prepare an incredible performance and to make sure the movie is as realistic as Ayer intended it to be. Labeouf not only joined the US National Guard and spent an entire month living on a base in order to really feel the grip of war and to become closer to soldiers, but after reuniting with the rest of the cast, in order to really fit the boots of Swan he cut his face with a knife, pulled out a tooth and stayed dirty for four months.
2. Nymphomaniac (Lars Von Trier, 2013)
In the controversial film of Lars Von Trier, Shia Labeouf brilliantly plays the protagonist Joe’s husband and only love interest (emotionally at least), Jerome. The movie revolves around nymphomaniac Joe who tells the dramatic tale of her life after she is rescued, wounded, from an alley. The movie focuses on different themes, including loneliness, love and of course sex.
Despite his slightly random accent that makes him sound like a character from Oliver Twist, Labeouf creates a complex and perceptive character of Jerome with whom Joe experiences her most hated emotion – love.
As Jerome, Labeouf is confident and assertive, at the same time perfectly pulling off the inner conflict of his character as he tries to keep his loved one, knowing he will never be able to satisfy her forcing himself to make a sacrifice that pushes him out of his comfort zone as he lets her go with other men.
He plays a convincingly emotional performance portraying the necessary tension between the couple but never over-doing it.
1. American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
This role couldn’t be more suited for the eccentric Labeouf; in some way one could say that he is playing more or less himself even – or at least the self that we come to know through his media outbursts – even though this doesn’t take away from his brilliant performance as Jake.
In the movie, Star (Sasha Lane) decides to make a new life for herself by becoming the newest member of a travelling magazine subscription sales group made up of teenagers from troubled homes, including Jake. As he begins to pass his selling skills onto her their relationship builds as the two begin to fall in love despite the difficulties between them.
Labeouf maintains his part throughout as the self-assured and slightly crazy at times young man, who although is very tight and manipulative during sale time, becomes quite vulnerable and emotional when he is himself. These layers that Labeouf convincingly builds with his character really prove him to be an artist of performance.
Author Bio: Polina is an aesthete and cinephile, devoted to using the arts to revive “sex, drugs and rock’n’roll” in hopes of loosening up the world by defying the unnecessary social restrictions. When taking time off her edgy crusade she can be found soaking in a bubble bath with a Dostoevsky novel.