As the beloved Peaky Blinders draws to a close with its sixth and final season, fans are cherishing their final moments with the actor. Cillian Murphy like the mighty Thomas Shelby. Besides his chiseled jaw line that can cut through glass, Murphy has amassed fans around the world for his versatile acting style.
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Although he has proven himself on the big screen, the Irish actor also has an impressive film repertoire. From small supporting roles to leading roles, Cillian Murphy knows how to take the stage.
“28 Days Later” (2002) – Waking Up Late to the Apocalypse
Directed by Danny Boyle, this apocalyptic film focuses on an average man Jim (Murphy) who wakes up 28 days after a swift chimpanzee attack that infects all of Britain. Jim must use his wits to survive as he tries to find safety in a desolate society.
The setting is simple, and Murphy shines as a solitary character who must quickly come to terms with the depravity of humanity. Every action he takes brings an unspoken resilience that only natural talent can provide. Even with the distraction of running zombies and gunfights, Murphy still brings audiences back to considering the existential state of humanity with his sharp eyes and determined manner. He garners sympathy for the humans left alive and the sacrifices they must make to survive. The audience sees a normal guy like Jim becoming a different person due to his predicament.
The ‘Dark Knight’ Trilogy (2006, 2008, 2012) – The Dangers of a Double Life
Murphy plays Scarecrow, the iconic comic book villain, in all three episodes of by Christophe Nolan Black Knight Trilogy. Switching between his alter ego, Dr. Jonathan Crane and Scarecrow, Murphy masters the idea of the mask.
As soon as modest Dr. Crane takes off his glasses, he becomes as unhinged as his own patients. As a masked scarecrow, he is menacing and manic. There is an unsettling glint in Murphy’s eyes as Scarecrow antagonizes his victims.
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Even though he plays a small role in the overall plot, Murphy steals every scene he walks into. His energy is captivating as he gives a new look at an old villain. He interprets Scarecrow as someone who is dark, sly, and ready to have a little fun. Interestingly, being in all three movies, Murphy’s Scarecrow is one of the few villains to survive Batman’s grasp. Overall, Murphy sets a powerful example of what a comic book villain should be on the big screen.
‘Red Eye’ (2005) – Fight or Flight
Red eyes is a romantic comedy-turned-thriller about hotel manager Lisa (Rachel McAdams) who encounters a terrorist named Jack (Murphy) on a red-eye flight from Dallas to Miami. Intending to kill the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Jack threatens to kill Lisa’s father if she doesn’t help him with his plot.
Directed by Wes Craven, the film is only an hour and a half long but is full of tension from start to finish. Murphy oozes charm as his character initially manipulates Lisa. He oscillates between being seductive and dangerous with ease. As a villain, audiences don’t root for him, but his relentless energy makes him a potent force against McAdams’ quick-wittedness. As one of Murphy’s first big hits, it shows he’s a true leader.
‘A Quiet Place Pt II’ (2020) – Keeping Hope
A sequel to by John Krasinsky hit thriller, A Quiet Place Pt II continues the story of the Abbott family as they seek refuge from the deadly sound-seeking creatures that have ravaged the world. Murphy plays Emmett, a friend of the Abbotts, who is introduced via flashbacks of the creatures’ initial attack. When the Abbotts reunite with him later, he is a hardened, calculating man bent on mere survival.
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Audiences see the complexity of Murphy’s acting as his character develops throughout the film. He transforms from a bitter, broken man into a healing, hopeful friend. He communicates so much through his eyes and posture alone, and it’s an absolute pleasure to watch. He garners sympathy from the public as he finally opens up to the Abbotts, especially Regan (Millicent Simmonds). Her redemption creates an emotional catharsis that informs the entire film.
‘Dunkirk’ (2017) – A story of trauma
Working again with Christopher Nolan, Murphy plays a traumatized World War II soldier during the Dunkirk evacuation. His character is picked up by one of the civilian boats, and he is horrified to learn that they are returning to Dunkirk, the source of his trauma, to save more men.
Murphy’s character is unnamed and labeled “Shivering Soldier” in the credits. Being anonymous adds to the power of its performance. It represents all the mentally wounded of the war and their helplessness because we knew so little about the trauma at the time.
Murphy excels in these types of roles because he communicates the character’s inner turmoil so well. He emits a silent darkness with a presence so commanding that the audience can’t look away from him. Even with a great ensemble cast, it holds its own as it explores the intimate and heartbreaking nature of the war against young men.
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