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#221. Jake Gyllenhaal

Many actors who started acting at a young age often burn out into obscurity. After a few choice roles exhibiting their youth, they will struggle to land the more serious and adult roles lauded by critics and the Academy. Jake Gyllenhaal is perhaps the exception to this rule. Even though he started acting at the young age of ten, he never became pigeonholed as the “child actor”. Perhaps this is due to a limited filmography. Perhaps his early roles quickly removed him from the “child actor” category. Whatever the reason, Gyllenhaal has seemed to quickly rise into some excellent performances, much like fellow child actors, Leonardo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman. As he has aged, his acting has only gotten better, as evidenced by his roles in Zodiac (2007), Prisoners (2013), and Nightcrawler (2014). This week’s two films highlight the beginning and later works of Jake Gyllenhaal’s current career.

October SkyOctober Sky
Year: 1999
Rating: PG
Length: 108 minutes / 1.8 hours

Jake Gyllenhaal first appeared on the big screen in City Slickers (1991). Two years later, after appearing in his father’s film (his father is director, Stephen Gyllenhaal), A Dangerous Woman (1993), it would be another six years before he truly obtained his breakout role. At the age of nineteen, October Sky (1999) took the somewhat unknown Jake Gyllenhaal and thrust him into the limelight. And while it was a good performance, his career took an upward turn in the mid-2000’s. After starring in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), he obtained his first and (so far) only Oscar nomination for his supporting role in Brokeback Mountain (2005). Partly because of his role in Brokeback Mountain, Gyllenhaal was able to separate himself from his younger roles, thus ensuring that he would be given the “adult” parts that have given him so much positive, critical attention.

Homer Hickam (Jake Gyllenhaal) has fallen in love with the idea of space. After watching Sputnik 1 fly overhead one crisp, October evening in West Virginia, he decides to make rocketry his hobby and passion. Enlisting the help of his friends, they start building rockets, with limited success. It’s only after they start delving into the science of rocketry and enlisting the help of some of the local coal mine machinists that they start to see their homemade creations fly into the sky. Unfortunately, Homer’s father, John (Chris Cooper) is not pleased with his son’s distraction, as he wants Homer to follow in his footsteps and work in the coal mine. On the other side, Homer’s mother, Elsie (Natalie Canerday), and the boys’ science teacher, Miss Riley (Laura Dern), have been encouraging their rocket-powered pursuits, eventually pushing the boys to compete in and win a national science fair.

Source CodeSource Code
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 93 minutes / 1.55 hours

Even though Jake Gyllenhaal has appeared in many serious, dramatic roles, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t had some fun. Sure, taut thrillers like the aforementioned Zodiac (2007), Prisoners (2013), and Nightcrawler (2014) showcase his acting ability, but sometimes an audience just needs a fun action or romantic flick. Films like The Day After Tomorrow (2004) and Love & Other Drugs (2010) are entertaining, even if they are somewhat critically panned. Source Code (2011) is just one of these fun films. Of course, with films like Donnie Darko (2001), and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010) under his belt, Gyllenhaal is certainly no stranger to the concept of time travel. And while Donnie Darko was a more serious role, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time fits right in with the “fun” category, along with Source Code.

The last thing Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) remembers is being deployed to Afghanistan as an Army pilot. This is why he is confused to find himself on a train heading to Chicago. To further the confusion, everyone around him thinks he’s a schoolteacher by the name of Sean Fentress. When the train explodes, he suddenly finds himself in a cold and dark cockpit wherein his only means of communication is through a video screen. On the other end of the screen is Air Force Captain Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga). She knows his true identity of Colter Stevens, but tells him that he must replay the last eight minutes of Sean Fentress’ life to gather information about a potentially bigger threat to Chicago. Through many iterations, Stevens manages not only to save the day, but to change history completely.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 great Gyllenhaal roles

Bacon #: 2 (Prisoners / Wayne Duvall -> Apollo 13 / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#221. Jake Gyllenhaal

  1. Pingback: End of Act Five | Cinema Connections

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