By Rob Keeling
One of the finest acting talents working today, Tom Hardy has shown that he can take on a range of roles and knock them all out of the park. From the psychotic prisoner, to a secret agent or a brash gangster, he’s brought a striking and powerful screen presence to any film he has turned his hand to.
It’s a huge ask for any actor to captivate an audience solo for the entire span of a film, but Hardy manages this difficult task with deft skill in Steven Knight’s low-fi drama. The entire film follows Hardy’s Ivan Locke as he drives from Birmingham to London and experiences as number of life-changing phone calls from his mistress, his wife and his boss. Hardy holds your attention throughout, creating a palpable tension as he experiences an emotional range swinging from despair to sheer desperation. A bona fide masterclass.
‘Bronson’ is arguably the film that first truly brought Hardy’s capabilities to a wider audience. Nicholas Winding Refn’s daring and brutal fictionalised biopic of Britain’s most notorious prisoner saw Hardy channel his inner monster to deliver a bruising, powerful and unforgettable performance that captured Bronson’s violent streak perfectly.
3. The Drop
This Brooklyn crime drama fell under the radar slightly upon its release and as well as featuring a great final performance by James Gandolfini, it also allowed Hardy to show his brooding dangerous side once more. Hardy plays a bartender called Bob who gets caught up in mess involving a robbery gone bad and the brutal Chechen mafia. Bob has a quiet and unassuming demeanour but also a simmering unspoken toughness lying just under the surface. He manages to keep a calm head as the chaos begins to swirl around him.
Hardy and Joel Egerton both put in the hard work to get in to astonishing shape for this movie following two MMA fighting brothers who appear to be on a collision course at a UFC tournament. Conflicting personalities and a deep seated family feud add extra drama to proceedings and Hardy especially brings a raw visceral rage as tortured soul Tommy. Hardy actually undertook MMA training to prepare for this role, and he looks every bit the prize fighter as he sweats blood in pursuit of victory.
Hardy plays both Reggie and Ronnie Kray in this mobster biopic and in doing so showed just how versatile he could be. He captures the two diverse personalities of the brothers perfectly, from the suave charm of popular ladies’ man Reggie, to the loose-cannon and unpredictable nature of Ronnie. Seeing the two brothers bounce off each other and knowing its Hardy who is embodying them both makes his performances all the more impressive.
In John Hillcoat’s film about bootlegging brothers in 1930s Virginia, Hardy stands out as the bruising middle brother Forrest Bondurant, the focused centre point of the operation who tries to keep his wilder brothers in check. Another raw and powerful character, Forrest is tough and unwavering, but with a clear intelligence and understanding of what needs to be done. Yet again it’s not a flashy or extravagant role for Hardy, rather one of quiet unwavering intensity.
7. The Dark Knight Rises
It was always a big ask to try and match the levels of Heath Ledger’s Joker in terms of memorable Batman villains, but Hardy’s man-mountain Bane certainly gave it a good go. A hulking, ruthless unforgiving monster, Hardy’s performance was limited slightly by his character wearing a mask which not only limited facial expressions, but famously also made his lines slightly hard to make out in places. Hardy overcame these factors though and delivered a character whose piercing stare and sheer imposing presence was a crucial part of Nolan’s final Batman movie.