When an actor has been picked by director Shane Meadows to feature in a film like This is England, you know they are bound to be special. Strangely though, the15 year old Jack O'Connell only had a very minor role in that British classic before getting to really show his skills in later films like Eden Lake and many more. So even though This is England is possibly the best film on O'Connell's CV, you will not find it on this list of his five finest performances.
With Angelina Jolie's Unbroken on the verge of release and likely to see O'Connell's star go stratopheric, here is a look back at what I consider to be his best five performances so far. Expect Unbroken (in which he plays Olympian and POW survivor Louis Zamperini) to be the film to send this guy straight to super stardom.
5. Eden Lake
The first of O'Connell's properly nasty little shits. He seemed to savour the nastiness with every line spat and every smirk and sneer coming naturally to this swaggering young actor. Tormenting Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender to death, Brett is a hooded terror; the Daily Mail's worst nightmare.
4. Tower Block
O'Connell delivers a towering performance in a pretty decent low budget British sniper thriller. He's an awesomely unlikeable anti-hero who steals the limelight from the cast around him.
3. The Liability
O’Connell might have been in danger of being typecast, with his wide-boy posturing
becoming a little familiar here but he manages to keep Adam very sympathetic,
aided hugely by a strong script and some great banter with Tim Roth. It is another of his sure to be
star making turns with Adam being a laugh out loud presence in the film.
O’Connell has far less of his usual swagger here; more of a limp
actually. It’s arguably his best performance, turning that usual
confidence into a cowering, wounded and terrified boy out of his depth.
Gone is the hard lad, replaced with something more sincere and though
the camera is often pinned to his face, he rarely speaks and gives
little away. In fact, by the end of ‘71, we still know little of Gary Hook, but enough to care that he gets home.
1. Starred Up
Jack O’Connell is frequently a Jack-the-Lad type character and
this is never more true than in Starred Up. He even has 'Jack the Lad' tattooed on
his arm and his sneer, swagger and savagery all attest to the boy’s unflinching
desire to do damage. After being brought in to an adult prison, he is stripped and
processed. Silent for the first ten minutes of the film, he might appear an
unproblematic prisoner. But alone in his cell, he goes about setting himself up
with makeshift (and terrifying) weapons and ensuring that when he is attacked,
he will be ready. He is a caged animal; cornered, grunted at by the guards,
dismissed or threatened by other prisoners but totally unafraid to fight his
way out of any corner by any means necessary. O'Connell is riveting and it is one of the best performances of 2014. It will be interesting to see if he can top it with Unbroken.
What is your favourite Jack O'Connell performance?
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