Christian Bale has got a new film out this week called ‘The Promise’ which is the new film directed by Terry George and co-stars Oscar Isaac and Charlotte Le Bon. I thought this would be a suitable time to have a look back at Bale’s career and count down his Top Five films, in my opinion. These films are based on both his performance in them and their quality – if I was ranking simply based on his performance, the list would dramatically change.
5) Batman Begins
Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film that redefined the comic-book genre and introduced the idea of an origin story, Bale gets a lot to do here and his performance as Bruce Wayne / Batman is very conservative.
4) 3:10 To Yuma
I’m a sucker for Westerns and James Mangold’s remake of ‘3:10 To Yuma’ had me giddy. It is perhaps one of the best remakes to date – Mangold manages to use the iconography of the genre but also stick his signature stamp onto it. Bale’s character is very multi-dimensional and he really goes through a lot of stick and Russell Crowe also gives a great performance here.
3) Out Of The Furnace
A very unlikely choice and although ‘Out Of The Furnace’, on paper is Scott Cooper’s worst film, for me the film is near-perfect. It is a revenge thriller full of many layers and Bale’s performance as the troubled protagonist is completely full of conviction and his character goes through a hell of a lot in this film. Forget ‘American Hustle’ of that year, this was the film Bale shone in!
2) The Prestige
A very close race and I was tempted to put this first, Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ is a masterpiece and full of brains. It is endlessly rewatchable and I always notice something new in this film each time I watch it. Both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are excellent here but I think Bale gives the better performance as a character full of layers. It’s a shame that this film is quite underrated when it comes to Nolan’s filmography but if you can seek it out, it is more than worth your attention.
1) The Dark Knight
What would a Christian Bale list be without this iconic film? ‘The Dark Knight’ is the film that rules all comic-book films and which all comic-book films strive to reach the quality of. It is simply breathtaking and features perfect measures of action, brains and narrative. Performance-wise, of coure this is the late-Heath Ledger’s film with his daring turn as the Joker which ultimately earnt him a posthumous Academy Award. Bale’s Bruce Wayne / Batman does get sidelined but Bale really develops as a character here and particularly in the now-iconic prison interrogation sequence, Bale more than holds up his own against Ledger. Great film and a measured Christian Bale performance.
So there we go, there’s my personal Top Five. You’re probably wondering though, where are ‘The Machinist’, ‘American Hustle’, ‘The Fighter’ (for which he won an Oscar for) and ‘The Big Short‘? Well whilst I do like those films, I feel that these five are more special to me although these films do contain some of his best performances too. Here’s hoping ‘The Promise’ is worthwhile and that this very versatile and talented actor’s career continues to flourish.
‘The Promise’ will be released in UK cinemas on Friday 28th April