Sunday, June 25, 2006
#24 (Male Performances in Review 2000-2004)
Don Cheadle is such a gifted, transformative actor, capable of re-inventing himself in fantastic ways, which thusly makes me wonder why it has taken him so long to be acknowledged as one of Hollywood's most dependable talents. From the sarcastic, back-talking heister in the Ocean's Eleven films to the wary-yet-committed social worker in The United States of Leland, it is difficult to believe that the same performer inhabits both those characters so masterfully. What is even more impressive is that he makes those transitions (and in all the screen work he has done) so pronounced without the help of prosthetics or other "look-at-me" gimmickry. As for Hotel Rwanda: I still am grappling with my feelings towards the film overall (I certainly like it, but am unsure to what degree), but one element I have no qualms with is the quality and passion of Cheadle's lead performance. As hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, who was able to prevent the slaughter of over one thousand persecuted Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan Massacre, Cheadle's heart and soul are literally on display throughout the film's running time - it is a shattering thing to witness. The performance transcends mimicry; rather, Cheadle attempts to hit at the essence of the man, rather than presenting him as a thinly-sketched sacrificing saviour, free of flaws. Hotel Rwanda's Rusesabagina is fully human and therefore imperfect, confronted with the most depressing of circumstances. His dilemma is essentially no-win from every side, and Cheadle portrays the indecision, pain and sadness of this man perfectly. In 2005, he was nominated for an Academy Award in the Lead Actor category. While his four competitors were merely adequate in their films, Cheadle was the only one in my mind whose work came close to "award-worthy" status, no contest. He should have won it.