Have you ever heard of Michael Shannon? The 40-year-old from Kentucky has amassed quite an on-screen body of work. In recent years, he had a leading role in HBO’s hit drama Boardwalk Empire. In movie theaters, he starred as General Zod in 2013’s Man of Steel. His greatest roles though, ones that were criminally unappreciated and worthy of Academy Award recognition, came in 2011 and 2012. These roles propelled him into the elite category of actors.
Take Shelter was the best movie of 2011. If you haven’t seen it, that’s where your shrine to Shannon should begin. That role landed him honors from multiple critic associations. While it was unjustly passed over by the Academy Awards, the film and Shannon’s performance were gems. Alongside the always wonderful Jessica Chastain, Shannon was a working class man experiencing the early onsets of schizophrenia. Handed down by his mother who suffered through the same experience, Shannon knew the mental disorder was coming, but was helpless to stop it. His role showcased intensity, depth, and power. It was a performance for the ages.
Another powerhouse showcase by Shannon came in 2012 with The Iceman. Playing the notorious contract killer Richard Kuklinski, a real-life hitman rumored to have murdered hundreds of people, Shannon is masterful. While it’s hard to have sympathy for such a deranged individual, Shannon gave insight into the unfathomably horrific childhood that Kuklinski experienced. Battling daily demons and committing unspeakable acts, the character also tried to maintain normalcy with his wife and two daughters. These worlds were destined to clash and make contact at some point. Like in Take Shelter, Shannon commands the screen and delivers one of the strongest performances of his career.
Even though Take Shelter and The Iceman didn’t rake in huge box office dollars, they were still widely released and highly regarded by seasoned film critics. It’s a shame the greater public didn’t turn it to see those roles, but The Iceman can currently be watched instantly on Netflix, while Take Shelter can and should be placed on your DVD queue. Each movie will give an appreciation for the most underrated actor in Hollywood.
Shannon’s had additional roles that should’ve lifted him on the national scale. In 2008’s Revolutionary Road, Shannon actually did receive Academy Award recognition with a Best Supporting Actor nomination. His role was limited and rather brief for this sort of nomination, but the power of his presence must have resonated with the Academy. Other great Shannon flicks include Shotgun Stories, World Trade Center, The Missing Person, and My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done? All are starring roles aside from World Trade Center, but each offers Shannon moments that need to be seen.
Whether it’s sports, music, or movies, every generation has a portion of entertainers who go largely unnoticed by the majority of society. Key cogs to the industry who never seem to be given deserved recognition. In this generation, Michael Shannon is that guy. Surpassed by major awards and unseen in memorable roles too often, he’s certainly making a comfortable living with his career, but isn’t being given attention equal to his talent. It’s never too late to find a new favorite actor. Or at least a new actor who can be added into your arsenal. Give Shannon and his films a shot. Because if you don’t, you’ll completely miss out on one of the greatest actors of this generation.