My top ten choices for breakout performances in a movie for 2006:
10. Daniel Craig
If you did not know his name before, you should know Daniel Craig’s name after Casino Royale. And it’s not simply that he accepted the high profile role of James Bond, but the fact he pulled the role off when a lot of people thought he wouldn’t.
09. Rebecca Hall
Rebecca Hall has a fairly small supporting role in The Prestige as Alfred Borden’s (played by Christian Bale) wife. But in the small amount of time she is in the film, she shows a nice range of emotion and makes you care about her well-being. She is also more intriguing and believable than the talented Scarlett Johansson (who plays in another supporting role as Olivia). Rebecca Hall essentially does a lot with a little, and stands out in the process.
08. Shareeka Epps
In her first feature film, playing opposite Ryan Gosling as Drey in Half Nelson, Shareeka Epps establishes herself as a powerful actress. And considering how good Ryan Gosling is in the film, to rival him is saying a lot.
07. Ryan Gosling
Most probably know Ryan Gosling from The Notebook, and he probably was on a few breakthrough performance lists back in 2001 for The Believer. But his most compelling performance to date is his role as Dan Dunne, a drug addicted teacher, in Half Nelson. It’s not just the most compelling of his career, it might also possibly be the most compelling of 2006.
06. Vera Farmiga
Vera Farmiga is a born scene stealer. She plays Madolyn, the love interest to both Billy Costigan (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and Colin Sullivan (played by Matt Damon) in The Departed. The scenes she shared with Leonardo DiCaprio were my favorites of the film. They played off each other nicely. And she arguably outdid Matt Damon. Either way, she got my attention.
05. Rinko Kikuchi
If there was an award for breakthrough actress in a Motion Picture Trailer, Rinko Kikuchi should win for Babel. In a span of a few seconds, without saying a word, she gets your attention. The girl is intense. And her performance in Babel as the deaf mute teenager Chieko was believable, emotionally powerful, and among the best of 2006.
04. Adriana Barraza
Her performance as Amelia, a Mexican Nanny who finds herself in trouble after taking her employers children to Mexico, is heartbreakingly good. I don’t know how it is possible to leave the theater and not have her stuck in your head for weeks.
03. Jennifer Hudson
One of the most buzzed about actors of the year for her role as Effie in Dreamgirls, a film version of the Broadway musical. While I do wonder if she would be receiving as much critical praise for her role had it not been for her previous stint on American Idol, she still does give an amazing performance in Dreamgirls. She out sings Beyonce in the film, and has caused many to ask how it was possible with her singing talent to not have won American Idol. As talented of a singer as Jennifer Hudson appears, it is actually her acting that really wowed me. Maybe because I was one of the few who voted for her on American Idol, I already knew the girl could sing. I just didn’t know she could act. Now I know.
02. Abigail Breslin
Now that Dakota Fanning is becoming a teenager, the child actor crown could very well be passed down to Abigail Breslin. She plays the adorable “Olive” in Little Miss Sunshine. But she is not simply just adorable, she actually is a good actress; and not simply for her age. I have seen several films this year where actresses twice her age were not half as good. She has the ability to convey things nonverbally. She delivers her lines like she understands what she is saying. She has good comedic timing. She has an emotional range that is believable. She has an onscreen presence and the ability to affect the audience. All things that make her a stand-out among other child actors, and a good actress in general. I first took notice of Abigail Breslin in another amazing performance she gave for the film Keane. But her performance in Little Miss Sunshine made me a believer.
01. Emily Blunt
I am not sure what was a better surprise; the fact The Devil Wears Prada turned out better than its buzz or the discovery of Emily Blunt. In The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt plays Emily, Andy’s (played by Anne Hathaway) fellow employee. Her character is sarcastic, snobby, cold, and selfish. Her role is minor. It’s a role almost anyone could have played. Yet watching her onscreen, you get the sense nobody could have played the part like Emily Blunt. She brings a sense of humor, intrigue, and vulnerability to the character. And she definitely isn’t just anyone. Not just anyone can make a naturally unlikable character likable. Not just anyone can get herself noticed in a minor role alongside better known stars. Moreover, not just anyone can steal scenes from the great Meryl Streep (who plays Emily’s almost impossible to please boss). Emily Blunt essentially sucks the life out of Anne Hathaway and then goes on to upstage Meryl Streep in a few scenes. Maybe it was her eye shadow. Or maybe it was her acting. All I know is I could not keep my attention off Emily Blunt when she was on the screen. After the film was over, my friend turned to me and asked excitedly what I thought of that “other girl”. And I was glad that I was not the only one who was impressed with this “other girl”. As if upstaging Meryl Streep isn’t enough, she does it again in the Australian film Irresistible. Only this time Susan Sarandon is her victim. Prior to The Devil Wears Prada, Emily Blunt had already received critical praise for her 2004 film My Summer of Love; including a British Independent nomination for Most Promising Newcomer. And so far, she has garnered two Golden Globe nominations: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for a Motion Picture (The Devil Wears Prada) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Performance in a Series, Mini-Series, or Motion Picture made for Television (Gideon’s Daughter). Emily Blunt is one of the most exciting finds in awhile; definitely one actress to look out for in the future.
It could be argued that some of these actors really have already had their breakthrough performances, like as already mentioned Ryan Gosling in The Believer. Or Emily Blunt in My Summer of Love, Abigail Breslin in Keane, Vera Farmiga in Down to the Bone, Adriana Barraza in Amores Perros, etc. But I tend to think breakthrough performances don’t always happen all at once or for the same reasons. Sometimes it takes a series of performances before an actor really establishes themselves as having staying power. So I think these ten actors are definitely on their way, if not already there.