Film Fest: Denzel Washington
Denzel Washington has always been one of my favourite actors and so I watched a number of his films recently that I had never seen. My favourites of his prior to this fest were Crimson Tide, Virtuosity, and Training Day. I believe he is in control of his performance to a degree that most do not reach, he shows you what he wants you to see. His intensity in Crimson Tide opposite Gene Hackman inspired the underdog in me and Training Day was a role so different than his others- what isn’t he capable of? Eight Oscar nominations so far for acting and he won 2 of them! The next two of his I want to watch are The Little Things (2021) and Malcolm X (1992). Here are the latest viewings:
1989 – He steals scenes in his Oscar winning supporting role and some of those scenes were tough to watch. Denzel’s gift is that he pulls you in with a smouldering intensity, not letting the viewer look away as he spills his performance onto the screen. His character is tough on white and black characters, something his roles will repeat in the future.
1991 – An early HBO film, Denzel lets his energy loose first as a cop and later as a District Attorney who goes head to head with a criminal who terrorizes him. As sleazy as the film’s content is, (think anything Netflix now), Denzel was able to get in some action hero lines and kept the pacing moving while playing someone whose life is unraveling.
1995 – Denzel established himself as an actor first and showed he could more than handle being an action hero. In this science fiction action, he again plays the part needed for the film- not over acting himself out of it nor phoning it in. He is a student of film and controls his impact in a movie very well.
Remember the Titans
2000 – Playing a true life person, casually getting to work coaching a football team while also dealing with racially charged threats of violence is what Denzel can make look easy- although you know he is juggling a lot. He can manage a steady belief in remaining optimistic while also being able to speak firmly in the face of aggression.
2001 – This role is why he deserves Oscar hardware, he can deliver a dynamic character that we are scared to think exists, while he broke away from everything he has done before. Most actors stick to what they are known for where Denzel here tried something new for himself and knocked it out of the park. Every second in it he is living and breathing Alonzo.
The Great Debaters
2007 – Playing another instructor who existed in real life, this time in Texas 1935, Denzel does not shy away from difficult roles- he chases them. It is great that Denzel is both playing a professor who inspired, but he is an actor who inspires his cast too like Remember the Titans. Includes more than one speech of his that stands out in this movie.
2012 – A plane sequence took my breath away but Denzel’s performance in this movie had my attention from start to finish. I feel like he picks roles that are just not easy to understand or flesh out- and then he does just that. He is an actor that is setting the bar for complicated roles and to make a 2h 18m movie fly by highlights his dominance in the art form.
2014 – I will never look at unassuming Home Depot employees the same again! Based on the tv series (which has again been brought to tv), Denzel plays a seemingly harmless everyman until he feels he is needed to come out of the shadows. Not everyone who is 60 could look like they can still dominate an action film but Denzel plays this appropriately.
2016 – Denzel also directed this film version of the stage play he was acting in with most of this same cast. A solid dramatic entry, he plays a father and husband who is struggling to separate his own past from that of his children. As a husband and father myself, it was eye opening to see another side of him again, especially opposite Viola Davis.
Roman J. Israel, Esq.
2017 – This movie is not able to contain the character that Denzel breathes life into, not unlike The Great Debaters. He was nominated for acting in this and I wish he would’ve appeared in another film that could handle this performance. I hope we see more unique choices for him like this going forward- what else hasn’t he done?
The Equalizer 2
2018 – Working for at least the fourth time with director Antoine Fuqua, (both Equalizers, Training Day, and The Magnificent Seven), Denzel showed that he is in demand with top talent, sought after to build movies around, and is a pleasure to work with. He still kicks ass too.