So often in cinema, great performances are taken for granted and quality acting is not recognised highly enough. A big-name star is expected to give a good performance, but often it is those supporting actors and new faces that go under the radar. This list will look at the performances of this year that have not gotten the credit they deserve.
*All films release in UK cinemas in 2017
15. Sam Riley – Free Fire
Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire is a film that uses plot merely to give characters an excuse to go to a single location where an extensively choreographed shoot-out can take place. The script is primarily a set of wickedly-funny one liners for two set of arms dealers to spit at each other during the firefight.
Sam Riley plays Stevo, whose assault on a young woman is the spark that sets off tensions and eventually violence between American and Irish gun dealers in a Boston warehouse. All the narrative flows through actions committed by or aimed at Stevo and Riley pulls it off excellently.
What makes the performance even stronger is that Stevo is the most reprehensible character of the 12 players; his arrogance, drug addiction and leering attitude towards women is portrayed in a deservingly unsympathetic way, but Sam Riley is so confident in his delivery that he is the standout performer in the film.
14. Ansel Elgort – Baby Driver
Edgar Wright’s heist-musical is such a tightly created film that the slightest mistake would put several things out of place. Such is the importance of music in the film, timing is everything.
At the wheel of Baby Driver is Ansel Elgort’s Baby, the getaway driver who just needs to complete “one last job” before he can start his own life. Baby is a shy, awkward young man who continuously listens to music to drown out the tinnitus he suffers from, while also playing as a motivational soundtrack to drive to.
Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s film, his creative control is perfectly deployed in every aspect of the it, but the main cog in the works is Elgort, and once seen, you cannot imagine anybody else in the lead role.
13. Katherine Waterston – Alien: Covenant
As soon as the first trailer for Alien: Covenant premiered, it seemed that Katherine Waterston was doomed to fail. At a glance, it seemed that Ridley Scott had simply chosen a Ripley replacement, even Daniels’ appearance and role in the Covenant crew were reminiscent of Sigourney Weaver’s iconic look over three decades earlier.
What a relief therefore, that Katherine Waterston made Daniels her own character, a woman who is stricken with recent grief from the very outset, who arguably has the least to lose when confronted by the Xenomorphs.
Such was the lukewarm reception to Alien: Covenant (plus that stomach-churning final sequence) that it seems difficult to imagine Waterston will return in any future Alien ventures, which is a great shame as she had the potential to become a great science fiction heroine.
12. Allison Williams – Get Out
Jordan Peele’s horror satire is a wonderful narrative and character driven horror in a time where most films of the genre simply resort to gore and jump scares.
While the majority of the film focuses on Chris’s experiences visiting the Armitage family, Allison Williams delivers the most interesting and surprising narrative arc of the film ranging from Chris’ whiny, protective girlfriend during the opening act to the Rose of the final scenes where an altogether more terrifying reality sets in.
Williams is best known for her work on the television series Girls, in which she portrays Marnie, a compulsive perfectionist riddled with layers of insecurity. To see her in such a contrasting role demonstrates the quality of Allison Williams, and her versatility as an actress.
11. Kim Tae-Ri – The Handmaiden
Park Chan-Wook’s sprawling epic adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith is an epic tale of love and deception in Japanese-Occupied Korea. Kim Tae-Ri plays the handmaiden of the title, formerly a pickpocket, hired by con artist Count Fujiwara. Her new position finds her in intimate proximity with love interests and dangers alike.
Kim Tae-Ri’s role is astonishingly full on, and she acts throughout the film with the gusto expected from an experienced actress. She adds an extra layer of physical sexual tension to the script that is already brimming with ideas, a promising start to a bright career.
10. Melanie Lynskey – I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
The chances of you having seen I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore are slim, as it was released by Netflix early in 2017, with sadly little buzz. The film is the directorial debut of Macon Blair, star of Blue Ruin and Green Room, a nihilistic suburban thriller.
The story centres around Ruth, a depressed woman whose house is burgled, who teams up with her vulgar neighbour to take the fight to the criminals; their methodology is highly amateur and questionable yet the pair form a strange and unbalanced alliance, their awkward chemistry generates a weird sense of empathy.
Melanie Lynskey is excellent as a woman who is certain of her motives, and yet the execution of her plans could not be shoddier. The tension is generated by the expectation for something to go wrong, and Lynskey can spawn fear in her eyes in a heartbeat.
9. Alice Lowe – Prevenge
Alice Lowe first made her mark in British cinema in 2012’s Sightseers, a black comedy about caravanning serial killers, in which she co-wrote and starred. Prevenge is Lowe’s feature debut, which she shot while heavily pregnant. The story follows Ruth, a recently bereaved woman who is being instructed by her unborn child to carry out a series of murders.
The brilliance of Lowe’s performance is drawing together elements from different genres (drama, horror, comedy, tragedy) to create a character in a film that is truly difficult to categorise yet it never feels unoriginal. Delivering this quality of performance, while also directing, while also six months pregnant is a superb achievement.