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Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of Michael Fassbender (So Far)

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Michael Fassbender is perhaps the most talented, fastest rising international star. Originally born in Germany, Fassbender has grown rapidly from being primarily a television actor into a worldly thespian of staggering proportion, garnering ecstatic praise both in Europe and the United States for his unflinching, intense performances in roles that are often controversial and extraordinarily demanding. Fassbender has received some of his breakout roles in genre films, a cinematic place that only rarely produced tremendous genre-spanning talent.

In honor of this tremendous new acting force, we’ve compiled our list of Top Ten performances from Michael Fassbender. His latest role may prove to be his most stellar, even controversial one yet. Appearing in his second film directed by Steve McQueen, SHAME has Fassbender portraying a sex addict. SHAME is opening soon, with dates varying depending on your location.

Honorable Mention: CENTURION

In Neil Marshall’s CENTURION, Michael Fassbender portrays Quintus Dias, a member of a small band of Roman soldiers cut off from their legion and trapped behind enemy lines. They must fight to survive while making their way out of hostile territory in what is now known as Germany, fending off brutal guerrilla warfare from the formidable Germanic tribes who resist the Roman Empire. Fassbender leads his men against all odds, determined but well aware of the truth of their mortal scenario. Primarily an action/adventure role, Fassbender adds an unspoken depth to the character that gives far more detail to the performance than your average action movie star.

10. BLOOD CREEK

Professor Richard Wirth is a Nazi intellectual, obsessed with the occult and supernatural. Sent to the United States by Hitler to embed with a specially-selected rural German-American family, he seeks ultimate power through the use of an ancient Nordic rune stone which lay on the family farmland. Fassbender embraces this genre role, something we rarely see fine actors do, giving the film a much needed boost in credibility. On its own, the film is average supernatural horror fare, but with Fassbender’s involvement, Wirth becomes something more, like a Freddy Krueger or a Pinhead. Fassbender delivers two versions of his character; Wirth pre-transformation and Wirth during the final stages of his transformation into something inhuman, powerful and potentially unstoppable. Aided by quality special effects (including man-eating zombie horses) and genre-experienced work from Dominic Purcell and Henry Cavill, Fassbender leads this otherwise forgettable film into the ranks of being a somewhat unknown, hidden gem of occult horror.

09. EDEN LAKE

EDEN LAKE is more than just a violent horror movie about a young upper-middle class couple who find themselves terrorized instead of relaxing in the woods. This is a film, not unlike LORD OF THE FLIES, that paints a moral message about youth and rebellion as well as survival and the nature of human evil. Fassbender plays Steve, a good man and boyfriend to Jenny, played by the freckled beauty Kelly Reilly. Steve practically drags Jenny into the woods to enjoy a relaxing weekend together, but has the ulterior motive to pop a particular question. What ensues is a seemingly harmless run-in with a band of disrespectful teens, which ultimately turns shockingly violent. Fassbender plays the educated, well-mannered type with ease, but his skill emerges as Steve’s life hangs in the balance and Jenny must fight both for hers and Steve’s lives against the merciless teenagers. His pain and fear come alive in his performance, a step far beyond the average horror movie victim’s onscreen charisma.

08. 300

Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006) is a film with lots of violent, high-octane stylized action for the guys and lots of sexy ripped actors with airbrushed abs for the ladies. The cast is nearly as massive as the film’s epic scale, each playing their parts. Michael Fassbender was one of those parts, portraying the valiant Stelios, one of the leading warriors of the 300 that took on insurmountable odds. Fassbender, in perhaps his most physically demanding “action” role holds up both as eye candy for the girls and a believable ass-kicker for the dudes. Fassbender’s Stelios is a confident, glass-is-half-full type of soldier, as the following exchange of dialogue definitively illustrates…

Persian: A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun!
Stelios: Then we will fight in the shade.

07. X-MEN: FIRST CLASS

In the previous X-Men films, Sir Ian McKellan had made the role of the intelligent, determined mutant villain Magneto his own. When the prequel to the first X-flick was cast, Michael Fassbender was given quite a challenge in playing a younger version of this iconic baddie. The relative screen newcomer was more than up to the task. He added something new to the character: a sexy, bad-boy “vibe,” a considerable task with Kevin Bacon giving a similar feel to the film’s main villain, Sebastain Shaw. In the film after several scenes involving his harrowing years as a boy in captivity, we meet Fassbender as Erik Lehnsherr in his mission-hunting down and killing the agents of Hitler that destroyed his family (one online blogger suggested a great TV spin-off, “Magneto, Nazi Hunter”). One tense scene set in a South American bar is quite memorable. It isn’t long before he crosses paths with James McAvoy’s altruistic Charles Xavier. In their quest to locate more mutants the two form quite a great team. Some reviewers have suggested that a repressed romance between the two is hinted (check out the deleted scene as they recruit Angel). It isn’t long before Charles and Erik finally clash over their views of humanity and the men part ways (shortly after Erik is surprised by Raven in his bedroom). With his dapper 60′s duds, Erik’s almost an super-powered Bond, who’s more compelling than Charles and his “groovy” mutant pick-up lines. Around the time of the first Wolverine spin-off, there was talk of a Magneto solo flick. Let’s hope that if this comes to fruition, Mr. Fassbender will agree to don that Cerebro-blocking helmet once more.

06. ANGEL

What may be one of his least known roles, Fassbender portrays the avant-garde artist Esme in ANGEL (2007). A British film about the rise and fall of an eccentric young 20th century writer named Angel Deverell (Romola Garai), ANGEL has a decidedly high brow appeal, despite the somewhat unlikable main character. Fassbender is surrounded by tremendous talent, including Sam Neill and Charlotte Rampling, but doesn’t allow this to overshadow what he has to offer the film. Fassbender takes on a clean, proper British appearance which is in contrast to the moodiness of his character, with whom Angel falls in love. Fassbender’s performance amongst a great cast is what remains memorable from this less-than-perfect melodrama from director Francois Ozon.

05. INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS

“There’s a special rung in hell reserved for people who waste good scotch”.

In INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS Michael Fassbender played film critic-turned-British Lieutenant Archie Hicox with the kind of finesse reserved for Bond-like characters . He only has a couple of scenes including a memorable one with a couple of the basterds, Diane Kruger, and a few Nazis. The scene takes place in a claustrophobic bar and plays out as one of the more tense scenes in recent memory. Fassbender speaks the Kings English and looks dashing while doing it.

04. A DANGEROUS METHOD

Cronenberg probes the minds of iconic psychoanalyst founders Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson), exploring their relationship in the early days of the emerging field. Jung, the film’s central character and perspective from which the story is told, is played by Michael Fassbender. Jung begins as a level-headed man, fascinated by Freud’s work, but slowly becomes more obsessed with the complicated details of the study as a result of his relationship with Freud and Sabina (Knightley). Fassbender methodically builds the slow unraveling of Jung’s piece of mind. Perhaps the least recognizable of his performances, with his own persona hidden behind the wire rim glasses, short cut hair and dark mustache, Fassbender is all but Jung himself having leapt from the text books, at least in theory as our imaginations might perceive the influential psychoanalyst. Fassbender proposes a convincing portrayal of Jung as much a patient of his own mind as a master of others’ minds.

03. FISH TANK

A tremendous independent outing, FISH TANK (2009) is an under-appreciated gem about a teenage girl named Mia (Katie Jarvis) written and directed by Andrea Arnold. Mia lives in a low class, low income British community with her little sister and her immature mum who cares more about partying and sex than she does being a good mother. Mia dreams of being a hip hop dancer, but the core of the story revolves around the arrival of her mum’s new boyfriend Connor, played by Michael Fassbender. Connor is an attractive man, generally a good person with a stable head on his shoulders, which seems an odd fit for Mia’s mum, but he’s also clearly a free spirit. Connor quickly befriends Mia, perhaps initially to quell the constant storm between her and her mum, but over time develops into a much more intimate bond, bordering dangerously close on the inappropriate. Fassbender is excellent as the smart, cool headed slacker type who struggles with giving into his own immoral temptation, led on by the young, impressionable and curious Mia.

02. JANE EYRE (2011)

Nothing could be more romantic than a man pining over a woman – look at the photo above. Who wouldn’t want Fassbender looking at you with such longing in his face. So it should come as no surprise that the brooding Mr. Rochester from JANE EYRE is number 2 on this week’s Top 10 list. Everyone remembers the sections in Charlotte Bronte’s novel of Jane’s (Mia Wasikowska) childhood, of Jane being a governess at Thornfield and falling in love with Mr. Rochester, and then bolting. Fassbender conveys such agony after her leaving – the type you feel when you are in love with somebody. Wasikowska and Fassbender scenes together are played out so beautifully. It’s tender, romantic, sexy, and exciting – the sparks fly. Fassbender’s take on the gruff, dark character goes part and parcel with his sexual charisma. If you’ve ever read the book, then go watch the movie. You’ll never think of JANE EYRE again without picturing Fassbender in your mind as Rochester.

01. HUNGER (2008)

Perhaps it is a sign for the future of this pairing that the top two films from Michael Fassbender (in our opinion) are also directed by Steve McQueen. No… not the iconic actor who died an untimely death, but the exciting new filmmaker responsible for the upcoming film SHAME. Starring Michael Fassbender as the Irish republican Bobby Sands, HUNGER (2008) is McQueen’s first feature film. It tells the story of Sands and his fellow political prisoners, whom he led on a hunger strike in the infamous Maze Prison in Northern Ireland. The film is brutally vivid and realistic, assaulting the senses with the terrible conditions and abuse the prisoners suffer at the hands of the guards. Fassbender’s performance is riveting, painful to watch and evokes more excruciating empathy that any one viewer may expect or wish to endure. HUNGER is the definition of the level of commitment Fassbender has toward his craft, a commitment any viewer should be able to appreciate, even if your nerves and stomach cannot.

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