Tom Hanks is one of those actors who seems to be involved with a lot of great movies. He’s had a lot of memorable roles, including the voice of Woody in Toy Story (1995), a boy who gets the chance to grow up in Big (1988), a soldier in Saving Private Ryan (1998), and the lovably slow Forrest Gump (1994) (among many others). Each of his roles are powerful and well done, but without being too serious. He tends to play some of the most relatable characters, which could just be the types of roles he’s assigned, or it could be that he brings them down to a level that the audience can grasp. At any rate, Tom Hanks is perhaps one of the most enjoyable actors to watch, no matter what movie he ends up being in. This week’s two films highlight some high points in his acting career.
Length: 125 minutes / 2.08 hours
Philadelphia (1993) was Tom Hanks’ arrival as an actor. With only one nomination before this film (Best Actor in Big), Philadelphia started a streak of winning the Best Actor Oscar that ended the next year with Forrest Gump. Of course, the Academy does tend to enjoy awarding actors who take the more difficult roles. In Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks played a mentally-challenged man who really never let that get the best of him. In Philadelphia, he portrayed a man dying of AIDS, who was fighting not only for his life but against discrimination. Both roles have their own challenges, but Tom Hanks managed to humanize both of them, which is probably why he ended up winning the Oscar both times.
In Philadelphia, Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) has just been fired from his law firm because he failed to come through on a big case. When the situation is dissected, it is revealed that the reason that Andrew might have dropped the ball was that his homosexual lifestyle has given him AIDS. Suddenly, a simple firing becomes a discrimination suit against the law firm, for which Andrew enlists the assistance of Joe Miller (Denzel Washington). As the trial progresses and Andrew’s AIDS gets worse, the audience learns that a lot of misunderstanding can lead to a lot of bad decisions . . . as well as some good chances to learn something new.
Length: 140 minutes / 2.33 hours
Apollo 13 (1995) was probably the first film I remember seeing Tom Hanks in. I really didn’t realize until years later that he was the same person to do the voice of Woody in Toy Story, which was released the same year. The part of the film that really cemented him in my mind as a great actor was that, even in the face of insurmountable odds against them safely returning to Earth, his character kept cool and kept on the task of returning home. Remaining calm in the face of intense adversity is a trademark of many of the characters he plays (even his most recent role in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)), so I suppose he’s been somewhat typecast, in a sense.
On NASA’s 13th Apollo mission, astronaut Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) is ready to get to the moon. Along with Fred Haise (Bill Paxton) and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon), Jim prepares to go into space on top of the iconic Saturn V rocket. However, once outside of Earth’s atmosphere, something goes wrong. After Jim delivers his famous line, “Houston, we have a problem,” everyone on the ground and in the space capsule rush to figure out how they can get the three astronauts back home safely. Tensions rise as the problem compounds, finally leading to one of the tensest moments in cinema: the radio silence linked to re-entering Earth’s atmosphere. Will NASA have a triumph or a tragedy?
2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Tom Hanks triumphs
Bacon #: 1 (Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)