Tom Hanks: The Good American Man Who Stopped Playing Safe | Tom Hanks

IIn performing arts schools and training programs, coaches often say that acting is about making big, critical choices and sticking to them completely. This seems to be the best way to understand Tom Hanks’ huge role in Elvis’ new biopic “Colonel” Tom Parker, Dutch-born Elvis director Aaron Presley and parasitic and gambling-addicted Svengali. Among the more perplexing choices Hanks made: speaking in a cellular voice that is sometimes regionally indistinct, and sometimes a legible fusion of deep Southern and lyrical European; wearing a prosthetic neck that makes him look like he might yell at Elvis to “get in my stomach”; Assuming a heavy physicality only becomes apparent when Colonel Tom prepares to mix his human profile in a (perhaps) metaphorical casino of fate. Having mastered the craft and won all the accolades, he now appears to be primarily driven by his own amusement, such as a video player who defeats the last boss and goes to explore the farthest limits of the virtual world in search of glitches.

Inexplicable as Colonel Tom might be on a minute-by-minute basis, as a whole, the reckless performance fits perfectly within the context of Hanks’ career in its semi-experimental and wildly inconsistent late phase. The past decade has seen one of the planet’s biggest movie stars punctuate periods of glossy roles with bizarre and often undecided forays into unfamiliar territory, with varying degrees of success. He might be bored and looking for a new test of skill, or as a recent uncharacteristically rude encounter with attacking fans suggests, he could develop an advantage as he progresses through his 60s. Whatever the case, the image constitutes a restless geriatrician, torn between excelling at what he is good at and challenging himself however little success. For someone more than gaining the satisfaction of middle age, his persistence in unpredictability makes him an act of cocky generosity.

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Hanks as Colonel Tom Parker in Elvis, Baz Luhrmann’s new biopic. Photo: Album / Alami

Up until this point, Hanks’ screen persona was easy enough to isolate and define, as his filmography was filled with different types of decent men. His exhilarating TV access to Bosom Buddies, blockbuster hits like Splash and The Money Pit (and then literally made it Big), the pivot to Oscar-adorned middle-class status, and the era of romcom – they’re all united by a foundation of goodness, a red-meat ethic that made the impossible Hanks hated even playing the emissary of a faceless company bent on getting rid of Mom and Bob. In time, he had graduated from America’s Best Friends, always ready with a cold beer and a small letter, to the Father of America, Atticus Finch, with comedic timing. In the 2011 movie As Himself on 30 Rock, he saw him spend his nights singing to himself and loving you in front of the TV in a low, gentle voice.

But his path drifted away from the future of porridge and prune juice in the 2000s, and it split into an intriguing web of thorns. He hasn’t parted ways with the Hanks we cherish, though recent calls to dress the good guy have taken on new repercussions. The unparalleled savior of Private Ryan spent most of the decade supporting the American way of life, both by brokering peace (as in Bridge of Spies, Captain Phillips, and News of the World, the latter taking him to a rough log), and defending truth (as in The Post) , and the struggle for individual liberties against the evils of big government censorship (as in Sully, though more subservient to director Clint Eastwood’s ideology). The ultra-clean entries come close to parodying this trend, although such physical incarnations of childhood purity as Walt Disney and Fred Rogers will eventually play right through their accompanying texts.

Hanks as a mutton-chopped gangster in Cloud Atlas.
Hanks as a mutton-chopped gangster in Cloud Atlas. Photography: Warner Bros./Kopal/Rex/Shutterstock

If Hanks has a “one them, one me” policy, it’s in terms of group appeal rather than personal importance; For every crowd pleaser that takes him back to his wheelhouse, it takes a party off the beaten path that allows him to try some things he’s never done before. As with many men approaching his fall years, he has immersed himself in existentialism, from a crisis-induced self-quest in a hologram of a king to building the funeral legacy of Finch (in which a post-apocalyptic survivor must teach a robot to care about the world that won’t inhabit much longer). ). He becomes an outright villain in The Circle, playing a major tech creep bent on complete transparency through the state of digital surveillance, which would have been his most shocking departure had it not been for Cloud Atlas. Hanks’ stage about noodles begins here, as his six-character tour through the anthological structure of time-traveling gives him the opportunity to branch out in six different directions at once.

Whether Hanks is effective as a mutton-chopped lima gang in Cloud Atlas can be debated endlessly, although that’s neither here nor there. For a few sparkling moments, we can see that the most likable man in the show business isn’t all he’s interested in being likable, guided by more intimate and intimate inspiration than he answered before. In the coming months, he’ll star in an American remake of the Swedish comedy A Man Called Ove (if anything like the original, a chance for him to wear more heavy-duty facial prosthetics) and pair up with Wes Anderson for his debut in Asteroid City. held in Spain. In his career now cutting into his fifth decade, he’s still finding new beginnings, toning down his chief virtue in witchcraft and giving up his curiosity for curiosity’s sake. Say what you will about Hanks showing Elvis while Mephistopheles dips into sausage broth: It’s proof that there’s nothing he won’t or can’t do.

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