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This week the world will be presented with Man of Steel – the return of Superman to the big screen.  An interesting component of the highly-anticipated release is the incredible cast that populates the film including Henry Cavill, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane, Russell Crowe, Amy Adams and Laurence Fishburne.   Though, the most exciting addition to the cast is the man who plays the film’s antagonist, General Zod.  That would be the one and only Michael Shannon.

Over the last several years, Michael Shannon has built a diverse array of characters that have resonated in the minds of film geeks the world over.  His career has been compared to the likes of legendary actors such as Robert DeNiro and Gary Oldman, and he is on track to burst through to the mainstream with his first major foray into the arena of blockbuster films.

I’ve chosen six of his best career performances thus far that highlight his incredible range and talent.  If there is a performance you feel I’ve unfairly omitted from this list, please feel free to make your case in the comments below.

 

shannonbug

6.  BUG

Legendary director William Friedkin directs this adaptation of Tracey Letts’ stage play about Agnes (Ashley Judd) – a lonely Oklahoma waitress who crosses paths with an enigmatic drifter named Peter (Michael Shannon).  What starts as an innocent and brief affair in a rundown hotel room becomes a paranoid fever dream where the distinction of reality becomes increasingly distant.

This is really the first film I saw which put Michael Shannon front and center.  His portrayal of Peter is remarkable, as the character runs through the spectrum of virtually every reflex of human emotion.  He begins as a mysterious yet charming stranger, and ends as a paranoid mess who can’t retain control of his own psychological defenses.  There’s an incredible amount of envelope-pushing camp in Bug that would no doubt induce a modest amount of eye-rolling, but the velocity of Shannon’s performance is the thread that firmly keeps the film from becoming a self-indulgent mess.  A career highlight for Shannon indeed.

 

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