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The Three Best & Worst Films Starring Tom Hanks

April 18th, 2008 2:29pm EDT
Tom HanksTom Hanks is a rare movie star in that he is a top leading man without topping anyone's most beautiful list. Rather he established, and maintained, his stardom by fusing a "boy next door" image with undeniable talent.

He is equally at home with romantic comedies and dramatic war epics; however, he seems reticent to play the meanie. More than most, he can fit into a role without exhibiting a "Tom Hanks" persona. He has even delivered a number of memorable performances on "Saturday Night Live," a venue that allows true talent to reveal itself. (And on the flip side, it emphasizes those for whom talent is a pipe dream, see Finesse Mitchell). For that, audiences everywhere have been able to see a multitude of fine film.

But Hanks is not without his pitfalls. There are at least three movies, as you will see, where his boyish charms and innocent mien give way to a horror of movie narrative. But whatever his shortcomings, reasonable people can agree that Mr. Hanks' career, which started in the abyss that was "Bosom Buddies," has allowed for more good movies than one would have assumed at the onset.

The Worst

3. Charlie Wilson's War

This just shows how good Hanks' films are because this movie is all that bad. Given the Oscar hype and veneer of prestige with which the film marketed, it is worse than films like "Joe Versus the Volcano" and "Bachelor Party." Potential unfulfilled is, in most cases, worse than an average film reaching its zenith. Moreover, the only real redeemable thing about "Charlie" is Philip Seymour Hoffman. Everyone else, including Hanks, was somewhat flat and uninteresting. (And that scene where he tells Julia Roberts how much he loves her is downright silly). Now the ending of the film, mainly due to Hoffman, was quite good and rather chilling, but the piece as a whole read like an average "West Wing" episode.

Charlie Wilson's War

2. The Da Vinci Code

This movie was simply not good. Tom Hanks looked like an old Nicolas Cage, Audrey Tatou channeled her laughable performance in "Dirty Pretty Things" and Ian McKellen portrayed the confusing Sir Leigh Teabing. The film, based on the overrated book, tells the story of Hanks' character searching for answers to the clues left by a dead Louvre curator, while the law (Jean Reno) and the fanatical (Paul Bettany) try and stop him and Tatou. In fact, the only redeeming thing about this film is the character portrayed by Bettany, an Opus Dei adherent who is keen on self mutilation. None of the action was compelling, and none of the characters, Bettany notwithstanding, were memorable. All in all, a search for the Holy Grail should be left to George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

The Da Vinci Code

1. The Terminal

The first rule of thumb for any movie with an actor doing an accent is do that accent well. Otherwise, you will find yourself floating down a path that "The Terminal" embarked on. Which isn't to say that the accent was the only problem of the film. There was, of course, the ridiculous airport bureaucrat (Stanley Tucci), the ridiculous love interest (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the ridiculous cavalcade of circumstances that leaves the viewer in a, eh, terminal state of being. The only redeeming quality of the film is that is shows the kind of frustration that one finds when actually in JFK. It would be only fitting for this film to be shown on all televisions everywhere in the airport so that JFK could finally complete the absolute torture of its paying customers.

The Terminal

The Best

3. Saving Private Ryan

An obvious choice, perhaps, but Hanks' portrayal of Captain Miller was really very good. A loyal soldier, Captain Miller takes an elite Army force to find one man who has lost all of his older brothers and send him home. Hanks brilliantly straddles the edge between a calm, collected leader of men-in-arms and a Captain who does not know how to justify the loss of his men for Private Ryan. Surrounded by a cast that integrates itself as well into the WWII scenery as he, Hanks gives the audience a character with more depth than originally meets the eye.

Saving Private Ryan

2. Road to Perdition

This film, more than one would think, causes a great rift among moviegoers. Some completely swear by it, others think that the whole things should have been left on the cutting room floor. "Road to Perdition" tells the story of a depression era strong hand for a notorious Pittsburgh gangster who has to flee his home after he is accused of something that he didn't do. This accusation causes the murder of his wife and youngest child and sets Hanks and his son, who don't always see eye to eye, on a quest to right the wrong that was thrust upon them. A powerful story of fatherhood and loyalty, Hanks' minimalist acting is the guiding light by which this movie found success.

1. Forrest Gump

There really is no other number one choice. "Forrest Gump" is named after its protagonist, whose mental and physical disabilities are compensated by an aubendance of heart and common decency. Forrest's travels span decades, music fads and counter-culture revolutions. Simply by being at the right place at the right, combined with an unquestioned moral fortitude, Gump is able to navigate the labyrinth of his existence to ultimately find some happiness. It is, unquestionably, a beautiful movie.

Forrest Gump

Story by Taylor Tepper
Starpulse contributing writer


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