At the age of 40, Michael Fassbender already has an acting career most members of his clan can but dream of. Sensitive little indie hits? Check. Powerful, critically-acclaimed dramas with visionary directors? Check, times three. Giant, Hollywood blockbusters in which he gets to fly and fight monsters? Triple check and add two. Although not all Fassbender’s movies have been an amazing demonstration of his talent as an actor, he’s a chameleon and manages to play tremendously different, challenging and complex characters. To celebrate the release of Trespass Against Us on Blu-ray™ and DVD July 3, 2017, we take a look at some of his most inspiring roles that you may well have missed.
The film that kicked off a beautifully wretched artist-and-muse partnership that now includes Shame and 12 Years a Slave, if you see Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender on the credits then you know that you’re in for an emotional ride. Deftly – and devastatingly – the film charts the true-life story of Bobby Sands, an IRA prisoner who, in 1981, chose to go on hunger strike after being refused status as a political prisoner. It features one of the most intense single-shots you’re ever likely to see in the unbroken 17-minute frame of a priest imploring Sands to not go on hunger strike. Hunger is as intense as it gets for Fassbender at the peak of his mad-eyed powers.
Fassbender’s second collaboration with Steven McQueen after Hunger was an equally brutal examination of flesh and appetite, this time centred around sex addiction. While Shame proved critically divisive, Fassbender’s performance as Brandon, a charming but emotionally stunted New York executive addicted to porn, prostitutes and masturbation was unanimously praised. While outshone somewhat by Carey Mulligan’s troubling turn as his unstable sister Sissy, Shame nevertheless reminded the world post X-Men that Fassbender can act with the best of them.
For a man as annoyingly handsome as Fassbender it is perhaps a little ironic that one of his best performances – certainly the most underrated – came from the inside of a giant papier-mâché head, but so it is. In this indie comedy he plays the eccentric titular front man of a band of tortured musos who enlist a new recruit, whose influence causes them to slowly unravel. Funny, warm and wise, Frank – based on real life oddball Frank Sidebottom – is the heart of the film. Fassbender even claimed to enjoy wearing the giant head, presumably because he didn’t have to do any of that tiring ‘face acting’.
“Fish Tank” is a mini marvel. At first, the film seems so obvious: A troubled, impoverished 15-year-old girl with a party-animal mother entertains aspirations of being a professional dancer, dreams that are supported by her mother’s mysterious new boyfriend (Fassbender). It appears to be your typical feel-good, triumph-of-the-human-spirit pabulum until director / screenwriter Andrea Arnold throws a serious curveball in the form of Fassbender’s predatory Lothario, sending the film to a much darker, more honest place than could have been predicted.
In Trespass Against Us we find Fassbender and Gleeson, fully exploring a difficult father / son relationship, in a ramshackle caravan compound, where a model of a policeman is used for target practice by catapult-wielding scamps, and Gleeson’s heavy-set, small-time crime lord Colby holds court at the campfire. As his illiterate son Chad, Fassbender has the tougher and much more intense role, playing a man who knows no other life than the school-shunning, smash-and-grab antics encouraged by his dad, but who is desperate to slip free to do right by his own kids. Still, he pulls it off — successfully portraying a man strong enough to start planning an escape, yet exasperatingly weak enough to still be there at his age.