We’re going to try something new here at Rhombus: we originally planned on announcing a “Movie of the Week” selection, but I thought we’d take it a bit further and point out the best of our favorite actors, writers and directors for your leisurely consumption.
This week’s segment will focus on our actor of the week, Christian Bale. With such an extensive profile, one might think that Bale would begin to weaken and become more boring and predictable in his role selection, but this is not the case.
Christian Bale is the type of actor who performs each role as his craft, not his job. He is one who chooses his roles based on how far they will make him stretch. His philosophy is that, in order to obtain recognition and do a fine job on-screen, you have to be willing to feel and look like an idiot. Then, when it’s all said and done, people will sit back and be amazed at what you have done. This philosophy has done well for Bale.
I recently held a mini-poll through Facebook and my Twitter account, asking people for their top three Christian Bale movies. Following are the top responses I received:
1. Not surprisingly, The Dark Knight. This follow-up in the newest Batman franchise has been the most successful yet, with writer/director Christopher Nolan taking a more realistic approach to the comic book hero. No other movie could have caused the newest Harry Potter release date to be pushed back eight months. (Both were Warner Brothers release and there was no need for the studio to release Harry Potter while TDK was still raking in the cash.)
2. Newsies. When Bale was asked in an interview if he really understood how big of a flop Newsies was, he said, “You say something bad about Newsies and you have an awful lot of people to answer to.” Many of us may not admit it, but director Kenny Ortega (High School Musical series) was apparently ahead of his time with Newsies. It was the High School Musical of earlier years. That’s why so many of us in our early 20s are big fans of the movie. I mean, who didn’t want to be a paperboy at the turn of the century during an era of poor hygiene and no child labor laws? I call it the ideal setting for a high-flyin’ musical.
3. Claiming the third spot all by itself is Batman Begins. The first installment of the newest Caped Crusader franchise, Batman Begins brought entirely new ground to a hero portrayal attempted multiple times before. Batman had never fully reached his potential until this film.
4. In a three-way tie for fourth, we have The Prestige, Rescue Dawn, and Equilibrium.
5. Another three-way tie for fifth: Public Enemies, The Machinist, and Henry V. Don’t see Henry V if you have a choice.
My favorite Christian Bale movie didn’t even make the list. Empire of the Sun, released in 1987, stars Christian Bale in the role of James Graham. Young Graham lives comfortably with his well-to-do parents in Shanghai until the invasion of the Japanese on December 8th, 1941. He is separated from his parents, captured and taken to a confinement camp, where he must learn how to survive on his own.
Based on the autobiography of J.G. Ballard and directed by Steven Spielberg, Empire of the Sun is a moving and emotional tale. Bale’s performance is outstanding from beginning to end and, for that reason, I regard it as one of my all-time favorite movies and by far my favorite Christian Bale performance.
So set aside a few hours, grab some fellow movie-lovers and enjoy the heart-wrenching performance of today’s big star in his younger days. You will not be disappointed.
Empire of the Sun runs 153 minutes and is rated PG. It is available at your local video store, as well as through various online outlets.
Mckay Stevens is a film correspondent for Rhombus. He really wants to meet Christian Bale. Follow him on Twitter @S_Mckay.