Have you noticed this guy? You may have seen him in Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. He is turning in some really high quality work lately, so I’m going to step out on a limb and call it right now – this guy is a really good actor! He’s going places, real star quality. One to WATCH.
The first time I remember noticing Christian Bale was in Swing Kids. Even though it was the 90’s and I was already 200% sold on the whole deal because I couldn’t wait for the swing dancing revival that was about to hit during my teenage years – I was really impressed by his nuanced, magnetic performance as the rosy-cheeked swing dancing hitler youth turned full-blown Nazi, the dark side to Robert Sean Leonard’s courageous stand against facism through degenerate dance moves.
Even though his character is (spoiler alert) a total Judas asshole in the end, we empathize with him. We can see his regret simmering behind his eyes. That is the what I’d like to call “Balepower,” and will be a key element that will launch him into the A-list in the years to come.
Though his supporting roles in Little Women and Velvet Goldmine fueled my enthusiasm, it was American Psycho – which I didn’t watch until many years later when I had grown out of my fear of “scary” movies (mostly) – that gave him another shot at a lead role. This film overall is brilliant, but I don’t think any other actor on the planet could’ve captured Patrick Bateman’s simmering rage, self-obsession/loathing, and homicidal glee with the insane silliness Bale brings. Plus, this movie really made the most of his inherently bourgeois features (those cheekbones!).
At this point in his bourgeoning career, Bale gets weirdly obsessed with voiceovers and body alteration and kinds of drops off the map for a little bit. He became impossibly huge for Reign of Fire (which is so much fun) and then two years later, lost 290 pounds to play a skeleton in The Machinist. If you haven’t seen The Machinist, you should. It’s like the spooky, smart, surreal cousin of Memento, if Memento went in the right order.
And that brings us to his big break, when superhero movies transitioned from plastic CGI one-liner-fests to thoughtful, character-driven stories with something to say. Bale goes back to his bulkier self, masters growly voice, and becomes the best Batman ever. During the Batman years, he goes on a tear, churning out genuinely inspired performances in The Prestige (where he plays – spoiler alert – two different guys), I’m Not There (rockstar biopic – check), Terminator Salvation (why not?), and The Fighter (this dude is a real asshole – but with Mister Christian wearing his face I really felt for him). And now, I guess, he’s playing Moses.
Just this week, Justin and I watched Out of the Furnace – which was good. It was one of those quiet, tragic stories about a good guy pushed around by life until he loses everything – and then, he pushes back. Big. It was a sad story – but even in the grimy doom of the film’s setting and narrative, Bale’s character was inspiring, in a way. He moved slow, spoke slow, looked around slow… and his focused gaze could melt off your face with its conviction.
And – on top of all that – he’s WELSH for god’s sake! Welsh accents are weird, man, and that shit never bleeds through.
Christian Bale, y’all. This young man is the real deal. You heard it here first… he’s going to be a big star!
– betsy midnight