Of all the Brad Pitt movies, these five perhaps boast his very best work.
For film fans, the Brad Pitt debate is all too familiar. When arguing whether or not he’s a good actor, audiences tend to find themselves divided. Some claim he has no range, some say he’s simply a movie star, and then others believe he’s truly an incredible actor.
He’s starred in a great number of films, but every now and then he turns in a performance which proves just how phenomenally talented he is. Looking back over his body of work, these five performances help showcase that Brad Pitt is a diverse, intense and exceptional performer. Each entry aims to capture a different side of the actor, conveying that there is much more to Pitt than a handsome Hollywood star.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (dir. Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Arguably, the true star of Dominik’s film is cinematographer Roger Deakins. Increasingly, he’s becoming known as one of the all-time greats and has worked on such beautiful pieces as No Country for Old Men and Blade Runner 2049. However, The Assassination of Jesse James is amongst his most striking work, contributing to such unforgettable moments as the striking train robbery scene. The film looks terrific, but it’s the performances at its centre which elevate this as a complex human drama.
Pitt stars as Jesse James, detailing an emotionally rooted and nuanced performance. Much of the depth is conveyed by the actor’s revealing and tender expressions; his face paints more than a picture, but a tapestry of contemplation. A reflection of a truly singular life. He’s fascinating to watch, and this really is a side that many fail to associate him with. If you’re unconvinced of his talents, then here is a great place to start.
Burn After Reading (dir. Joel & Ethan Coen, 2008)
Continuing on from the poignant Jesse James, we have the idiotic Chad Feldheimer. The Coen brothers are brilliant dramatic directors, but their flair for comedy really is something to be admired. Although they’ve helmed the likes of Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski, Burn After Reading remains their most criminally misunderstood attempt.
The central cast is all on top form here playing hilariously against type, but none more successfully than Pitt. The air-headed gym employee is a delight, and we haven’t quite seen the Hollywood A-lister play moronic this well before or since. He’s clearly having a lot of fun here; most importantly, he’s displaying his ability to embrace a range of fantastic roles.
Fight Club (dir. David Fincher, 1999)
David Fincher’s most iconic film cemented Pitt as one of America’s most demanded stars, setting him up for desired roles for years to come. In essence, Tyler Durden is the very embodiment of masculine mythology. He’s cool, he’s confident, and he looks the part, making him and Edward Norton’s character immediately appear the perfect odd couple. As the narrative develops, the true nature of the facade unravels, revealing a truth that felt refreshing and shocking back when the film was released.
Pitt is excellent as the sinister masculine role model, and the role really confirmed him as one of the most intriguing actors in Hollywood. It remains an iconic performance, and as the year’s pass, it becomes more and more rewarding to deconstruct.
Snatch (dir. Guy Ritchie, 2000)
A year after his turn as Tyler Durden, Snatch‘s Mickey O’Neil was something completely different. Both are reckless characters, but his portrayal of a bare-knuckle champion and traveller provided Guy Ritchie’s beloved film with one of its most memorable performance.
The film remains one of the most satisfying comedies of the 2000s and one full of weird and baffling types. Pitt – at this point – had just been firmly established as the suave and charming American A-lister, and yet, he took a risk and decided to tackle an indecipherable and nauseating traveller; a man built of testosterone, glued together by sweat and dried blood. It remains one of Pitt’s most memorable performances, but crucially, one which showcases his desire to push his own limits and attempt something unexpected.
The Tree of Life (dir. Terrence Malick, 2011)
Here it is; Brad Pitt’s most authoritative work. He delivers an elemental performance here in the film widely considered as one of the most ambitious and profound works of the twenty-first century so far. Some fans feel that Malick likes to present actors as human puzzles; the camera’s job is to work them out, with the audience aiming to interpret their interior. The camera lingers, allowing us to soak in the actors’ presence, and this unspoke time – although sometimes anchored by voice-over – allows us to feel them, rather than simply spectate.
Pitt has never been so hypnotic and all-encompassing as he is here in The Tree of Life. It’s a deeply heartfelt performance, but if you watch the extended cut, then there’s even more of Mr. O’Brien to decipher; the extra footage adds so much more depth to his character, offering insight into his past and how it has shaped him as a father.
These five films help illustrate Brad Pitt’s extensive ability to approach a variety of roles. We’re all excited for him to work with Quentin Tarantino again in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, so before then, it’s definitely worth checking out this admirable selection of work.
In other news, will we get an Avengers: Endgame extended cut?