With LOGAN being a gigantic hit at the box office, after seventeen years and seven turns as the Wolverine, Hugh Jackman is done with his most seminal character. I imagine we’ll see him again, at some point down the road, but time will tell. Jackman is so much more than the rough and tough Canadian mutant, he’s a wonderfully rounded actor that can mix brute blood lust with musical performances and soul bearing dramatic performances. While Jackman is just hitting the sweet spot of his career, I wanted to take a look back at his finest performances.
THE FOUNTAIN 2006 Dir. Darron Aronofsky
This is a film that has accrued such a following over its lackluster release, that one day, this will be looked at as not only one of Aronofsky’s finest films but also one of Jackman’s best performances. Here, he plays the same soul over a course of three different centuries. It’s apparent he’s a different man with each new becoming, yet he still is able to remain the same person. It’s an incredibly heartfelt and touching performance in a film that needs more acclaim.
LES MISERABLES 2012 Dir. Tom Hooper
Hugh Jackman has gone through a bounty of physical transformations playing Wolverine on screen, but nothing like his turn as Jean Valjean in LES MISERABLES. Here, he embodies a fugitive, for decades, on the brink of the French Revolution – well, I’m pretty sure everyone knows the story. But here, Jackman is able to pivot back to an area of performing that he loves: musicals. While the contemporary Hollywood musical comes back in fads, I think this film stands out due in part to the actors are all singing live while being filmed. This not only enhances their performances but makes them feel honest and organic, particularly Jackman.
LOGAN 2016 Dir. James Mangold
This is it (maybe). Jackman in his last turn as Wolverine. He brings his all to this film, not once coasting in a character he’s played seven times in seventeen years. Here, Logan is broken, surrendered, and wanting his life to finally be over. Bravo to Jackman for going all out for this role. He didn’t have to, and it is incredibly admirable of him to treat this character with such fondness and respect. While the overwhelming echo chamber of hype is loud, I imagine this is the film that everyone is going to remember Jackman for.
THE PRESTIGE 2006 Dir. Christopher Nolan
Jackman has an incredible knack for taking all of his affability and rolling into ambiguous characters that are cast in the greyscale of morality. Here, Jackman’s obsession takes him down a rabbit hole of darkness where he ends up doing things so unforgivable, there is not really much of a shot at redemption, but I suppose that’s the point of this dark and twisted tale of magicians bent on obsession.
PRISONERS 2013 Dir. Denis Villeneuve
In the role of a grieving father, blinded by revenge and rage, Jackman plays his most complex character. The brilliance of the film, but in particular, the development of Jackman’s character, is that we’re given clues to who this man in before the events of the film unravels at a rather rapid pace. While some of the clues are aesthetic choices or shot composition, a majority of them are cued in by subtle actions Jackman takes. While his character becomes more and more vested in revenge and violence, the path to atonement becomes more and more opaque, and Jackman eventually gets the ambiguous end that he deserves. Or does he?