Since actor Michael Shannon is becoming more of a household name than a familiar face and voice you have to IMDb mid-film, I thought I would take a moment to do a kind of recap of his career-to-date through a few of my favorite performances of Shannon's.
If you're not familiar with the actor's career, its predominantly made up of the bad guy, or at least the creepy and unpredictable guy in the corner type. Although he has been an indie film's delight for a protagonist, due to his visible insularity, he has recently made his bread and butter from just straight-on villains, such as General Zod in the new Superman reboot Man of Steel. Or I should say his Zod role is advertised as a straight-on villain. But actually, Shannon has managed (along with the screenwriters) to render Zod with three-dimensional life and motivations for his villainy; an accomplishment for such a large, calculated film.
With all of the press he has gotten recently, Shannon has done nothing but shine due to a perceived mixture of creativity and "regular guy"-ness. Check out his hilarious reading of the infamous sorority letter, his GQ ad (which comes across as a complete failure on GQ's part), or pretty much any interview he's done for the film. Even his recent appearance on Letterman is filled with anecdotes that color his attitude as a very modest success, or even outsider-looking-in to Hollywood.
(DISCLAIMER: The one film featuring Shannon I suspect might have made this list had I seen it is Werner Herzog’s My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?. But I just found it for $2, so that will be coming imminently.)
(In chronological order)
1. Revolutionary Road
Though he was chewing scenery and showing off, and although his character was ultimately a plot device to describe the other characters' subdued emotions, boy did he bleed life (no pun intended (SPOILER ALERT) ) into a film that desperately needed respite from its dull procession. I mainly chose this film because it was indeed the first time I took note of him, although I had seen many of his previous films (Vanilla Sky, High Crimes), so perhaps for many others Revolutionary Road was the film that rescued Michael Shannon from being "that guy from 8 Mile and Bad Boys II."
2. Shotgun Stories
Shannon has been in all three of Nichols' films, although to a much lesser degree in Mud, unfortunately, but I choose Shotgun Stories. I could just as well have listed Take Shelter, a film that has Shannon conveying the difficulty of dealing with mental instability (don't worry, he doesn't "go full retard"). It cleverly plays on the type of volatile temperament we are used to seeing in Shannon. Shotgun Stories is a Southern family feud story of tragic proportions. The brilliance of the film is in the bucolic landscape and quiet humanity between the brothers, lead by Shannon in a performance of thoughtful restraint. The film ends up saying as much about Southern masculinity as it does about family.
3. Premium Rush
Michael Shannon's role in Premium Rush is pretty self explanatory. It's a role made for him: a nasty suit-and-tie bully in a small budget action-thriller. What's so great about Shannon here is how he has pushed his archetype into B-Movie territory that somehow combines nuance and caricature. His self reflexive performance gives this terse, taut thriller plenty to revel in.