The 25 Greatest Actors of the 21st Century (So Far)

1 A. O. SCOTT We wrangled and argued about every other slot on the tilt, but there was no hesitation or debate about this one. Denzel Washington is beyond category : a screen titan who is besides a subtle and sensitive craftsman, with serious old-school degree train and blazing movie-star presence. He can do Shakespeare and August Wilson, villainy or carry through heroism. He ’ s besides one of the supreme regular-guy actors. Who can forget his embattled work stiffs in “ Unstoppable ” ( 2010 ) and “ The Taking of Pelham 123 ” ( 2009 ), a pair of big, noisy train-themed movies directed by Tony Scott ? Neither one is a masterpiece, but I never get tired of watching Washington on the speculate. MANOHLA DARGIS He makes the job — by which I mean acting — look like breathing. There ’ second a reason he was perfect as Easy Rawlins in “ Devil in a Blue Dress, ” an early shaping character. Since then, he has played a lot of characters who embody police or criminalism, and some who exist in the space dividing the two. Along the way, he has become the dominant allele totem of a certain kind of male authority, like John Wayne and Clint Eastwood before him. Washington can express anguish vulnerability, but he can tower like a colossus, looming over worlds like an Old Testament patriarch — it ’ s extraordinary given the representations of Black masculinity onscreen not farseeing ago.

SCOTT That authority is credible even when the movies are … less indeed. “ The Book of Eli ” ( 2010 ) ? “ The Equalizer ” ( 2014 ) ? “ Man on Fire ” ( 2004 ) ? One of the things I love most about him is how excellently he plays men who don ’ triiodothyronine seem to require or even deserve love. Think of Whip Whitaker in “ Flight ” ( 2012 ), a prodigiously skilled airline original who is besides an epic trail wreck. not a nice guy, but as full and building complex and vividly realized a human being as you will ever see on a movie screen.

DARGIS Like all stars, Washington ’ s acting feels inextricable with his charisma, a combination that ’ sulfur seductive but can overwhelm movies, like Antoine Fuqua ’ s violent potboiler “ Training Day ” ( 2001 ). Washington is sensational as a bad detective : He ’ sulfur free, aphrodisiac, frightening but then much bigger than life that he shrinks the movie. In “ Flight, ” his magnetism deepens his character ’ randomness calamity ; it gives his walk groovy so far it ’ south besides partially of his crumbling facade. few roles give Washington ampere much to work with, surely not the movies with two of his front-runner directors, Fuqua and Scott, who create a bunch of commotion that Washington settles into — and centers — very comfortably.

SCOTT Maybe one measure of his might is how systematically he ’ randomness better than the movies he ’ south in. Amid the extensive run of excellent work — the coaches and cops, the gangsters and lawyers — there are a few monuments that show this towering endowment in full moon. Malcolm X is one, and Troy Maxson in “ Fences ” ( 2016 ) is another. There is so much pain and pride in that operation, which somehow measures the weight of american english racism on a single person ’ south body and soul, without turning that person into a symbol of anything. The way Washington walks into that movie, his shoulders swinging with an athlete ’ sulfur power, his frame dented by a life of labor, is a moment of pure carnal eloquence, matched by the flow of common poetry that comes out of his mouth. DARGIS Well, transcending your movie has hanker been a hallmark of real stardom ! Actors choose roles for all sorts of reasons — age, agenda, sample, comfort, pay — and race matters, always. Washington likes playing goal-oriented characters and men who make a serious stamp, with a gun, physical extremes or words. He likes to go big. He could make artwork films and provocative short indies but doesn ’ triiodothyronine. possibly he isn ’ triiodothyronine interested ; surely he doesn ’ t need to. He is Denzel Washington, after all, a star whose career — in its longevity and authority — is a corrective and call on the carpet to the racist diligence in which he works. I imagine that he ’ second doing precisely what he wants .
stream or lease “ Flight, ” “ Training Day ” and more on most major platforms .

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