From Power Rangers monster, to funny TV dad, to drug lord, to President, to blacklisted old Hollywood writer, to undercover narc and back to Power Rangers, yes the career of Bryan Cranston is one of incredible luck, and slowly simmering brilliance. We love Cranston, the world does, and this week sees the release of what looks to be a cinematic event worthy of the immense talent of the man who knocks, The Infiltrator. But, his career thus far has been interesting, and we’re more than happy to give you five of those glorious Cranston performances that made him the go-to guy for badassery.
Shannon, Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn 2011)
Doing the great gruff act that so many people have worked on, here Cranston plays the mentor figure to Ryan Gosling’s stoic Driver. With little screen time Cranston puts himself front and centre of his scenes with a world weary look of resignation that can only come from years of self loathing, grizzled drinking and starring long into the abyss. It’s the stand out supporting role of the film and should have seen Cranston nominated for awards. Alas, he wasn’t, but there are few who leave the film not thinking about his somewhat noble underground figure.
Topo, Cold Comes the Night (Tze Chun 2013)
Rasping in a non-specific Polish-type accent, Cranston stars in this chilling crime drama along with Alice Eve. As Topo, Cranston plays blind crook to a perfect tee, the quiet, brooding type that those accustomed to his shouty roles might not entirely be used to. His reserved cool is the cold that comes that night, and while Alice Eve makes for an interesting tragic hero figure, it’s Cranston’s statue-like performance that holds your attention. A chilling crime drama, with am ice man at its centre.
Dalton Trumbo, Trumbo (Jay Roach 2015)
Communism has been a hot point of American history, and while Jay Roach’s film is not entirely politically pointed, at it’s heart is the relationship between Cranston and Diane Lane as the married Trumbos. Set as the most perfect love story in a film that only touches on history, but it gives Cranston the chance to get an Oscar nomination.
Jack O’Donnell, Argo (Ben Affleck 2012)
Delivering the greatest trailer line in recent times, Bryan “This is our best worst plan” Cranston is part of the ensemble in this true story, but he manages to stand apart as one of the cooler heads that help the tale prevail. There is no true star of the show, but when it comes to pulling power, Bryan is the man who can do it. And, of course, he gets that great trailer line.
Walter White/Heisenberg, Breaking Bad (AMC 2008 – 2013)
Someone makes a list of Bryan Cranston’s best performances and leaves out Breaking Bad and you think that of The Metropolist? We are the ones who blog! We are the fanatics. But on a less crazy note, everyone loves Breaking Bad, as he goes from mild mannered Ned Flanders look-a-like to meth peddling, head shaving, monologuing drug kingpin. This Shakespearean tragedy chronicles the fall of a man who starts with the best of intentions, but eventually falls into his own hubris. From allowing a young woman to OD to death, to murder by bike lock, to his refusal to get rid of that notebook, Vince Gilligan sets up the fall of a man who did something he liked, and he was good at. By the end of Cranston’s run at the character you come to one chilling realisation.
Walter White didn’t become Heisenberg. Heisenberg was posing as Walter White for all those years, waiting for his chance to emerge, and he took it. Is it the performance of a lifetime? You’re goddamn right.