Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Whether He Wins Or Loses The Oscar, Colin Farrell Won 2022

The first Academy Award ceremony awarded the year’s Best Actor and Best Actress winners for their total body of work from the previous year rather than a performance in a single film. This was during the time of studio contracts when actors regularly turned out multiple films per year and were a constant presence within the public eye. This is less common amongst today’s stars, who generally turn out a film a year and take breaks if they can afford it. If the old rules were still in place, this year’s Best Actor race would be a no-brainer. Not only did Colin Farrell give one of the year’s best performances in “The Banshees of Inisherin,” but he demonstrated his superb acting talents with four very different performances in four very different films. It’s a shame he’s not the overall predicted winner for the Oscar this Sunday, but win or lose, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate what a phenomenal year he’s had.

Based on the short story by Alexander Weinstein, “After Yang,” directed by Kogonada, follows a father on his quest to repair his daughter’s beloved android brother, Yang. Set in the near future and told through inspired set pieces and creative design, “After Yang” is a quiet, gentle film that encourages contemplation from its audiences. Farrell, alongside cast-mates Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H Min, and Haley Lu Richardson, blends into this world seamlessly, regarding the reality of invading technology with a sense of optimism. For many, the film and this role showed a different side of Farrell, far removed from his reputation as the bad-boy action star of the 2000s.

While Matt Reeve’s “The Batman” presented the Caped Crusader in ways audiences had never seen before, it also did the same with the character of Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin. Handsome, charming, and Irish, Farrell isn’t the obvious choice to play the rotund, beaked, Jersey-accented nightclub owner. The use of prosthetics and “fat suits” to manipulate the appearance of an actor has been rightfully criticized in recent years. However, Farrell’s immersion into the character is so convincing that cast mates had a hard time recognizing him on set. It is a far cry from the clownish performances of Jared Leto in “House of Gucci” or Tom Hanks in “Elvis.” The character feels whole and authentic; the sort an audience cares about despite his villainous intentions. His performance is a highlight of the film, presenting a brand new, modern iteration of the iconic character. Like “After Yang,” “The Batman,” and the Penguin offered audiences and critics a different side of Farrell’s acting abilities.

Farrell’s third film of 2022 was Ron Howard’s “Thirteen Lives,” which tells the awe-inspiring tale of the efforts that went into saving a group of young boys trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand in 2018. The film is a straightforward retelling of that story, centering on the pair of British divers, Richard Stanton (played by Viggo Mortensen) and John Volanthen (played by Farrell), who first found the boys and were instrumental in bringing them to safety. Of the two, Farrell’s Volanthen is portrayed as more optimistic, eager to do what he can out of pure selflessness, playing off of Stanton’s mindset of realism. The story itself is moving, and the portrayal of cave diving is an effective source of anxiety. Mortensen and Farrell give solid performances as the film’s modest heroes, demonstrating their reliability as actors and ability to step into the role of the “everyman.”

If these three films were all that Farrell had done this year, he would be worthy of mountains of praise for his varied performances, and the interest of audiences and critics would be sufficiently piqued. And yet, this year, he also managed to turn out the most acclaimed performance of his career as the incurably nice Pádraic in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” We already knew through “In Bruges,” Farrell’s first collaboration with director Martin McDonagh, that he could make audiences crack up with just a high-pitched vocal inflection or raise of his pronounced eyebrows. In “The Banshees of Inisherin,” he likewise manages to do so with the help of these iconic facial features, his brilliant line delivery, and his terrific chemistry with his co-stars. Perhaps more notably, his performance as a man with simple pleasures and an optimistic disposition moved many to tears with its honesty and innocence. It’s not a typical Oscar performance for a modern actor. It’s, in fact, a sort of character with which we, as present-day audiences, are largely unfamiliar, the sort that in the “olden days” would have gone to trusted, award-winning character actors like Walter Brennan or Thomas Mitchell. He gets angry at times, enough to provide a ten-second clip for Oscar night, but he never steps outside the boundary of his character that McDonagh masterfully establishes. The term Shakespearian gets thrown around too often today, as does comparing films to Greek Tragedy. Still, his performance feels of a different time, taken from the stage of the ancient world or the Elizabethan era. He is expressive without exaggeration; soft-spoken without constraint.

Colin Farrell’s performance in “The Banshees of Inisherin” is worthy of the actor’s first Oscar nomination. This was proven when he was awarded the coveted Volpi Cup for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival in September of last year, cementing his name among a list of dozens of iconic actors of world cinema. Here is a list of accolades he received this year including the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical, his second following his 2008 win for “In Bruges.”


Though not considered the “frontrunner” for this Sunday’s ceremony, the fact that Farrell has had one of the year’s greatest bodies of work and delivered terrific performances in each project could boost his chances of winning. Robert Dougherty wrote an article earlier this season about how “The Banshees Of Inisherin” could get a surprise Oscar win for Farrell much like how “The Favourite” surprised with a Best Actress win for Olivia Colman. Whether he wins or loses, all of this lays the foundation for a dynamic future acting career, which will undoubtedly lead to even more awards recognition.

Who do you think is winning the Oscar for Best Actor this Sunday at the Oscars? Many are predicting Austin Butler or Brendan Fraser but not many are going for Colin Farrell at this stage, when they easily should for the extraordinary year he had. Please let us know in the comments below or on our Twitter account, and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

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Eve O’Dea
Eve O’Dea
M.A. student of film preservation. Contributor to In Session Film. Old Hollywood enthusiast.

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