Joaquin Phoenix is one of the most versatile actors in the industry. His performance as the Joker captivated the world, but his back catalogue of movies highlight his range as one of the most prolific actors of our time. From the wildly eccentric to the quietly moving, Phoenix’s compelling performances are often magnetic. You Were Never Really Here and The Sisters Brother are two excellent features that are worlds apart stylistically and thematically, but equally as engaging.
You Were Never Really Here
Joaquin Phoenix at his finest. This psychological action thriller follows a traumatised hired gun as he’s tasked with the job of rescuing a senators daughter from a trafficking rink. This 90-minute feature is as tense as it gets, with his latest job taking unexpected turns, putting a target on Joe and his associate’s backs. While the story centres on this rescue mission, the real brunt of this film lie in Joe’s own psychological torment, as memories of past abuse and his time in the military/FBI haunt him. This is a man we come to know through snippets of his own suffering, from flashbacks to the physical scars on his body, Joe’s life and torments are painted on his body. Phoenix brilliantly conveys his turmoil and as our involvement in this rescue operation deepens, so does his psychological spiral, leading to several moments of dread. You Were Never Really Here throws you into the deep end from start to finish, treating us to a viewing experience riddled with tension.
The Sisters Brothers
An understated western that doesn’t heavily rely on violent showdowns that often define this genre. Brothers, Charlie and Eli make their living as gunmen for hire, with their latest job taking them on a wild goose chase as private informant, John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal,) allies himself with the target, Hermann Warm (Riz Ahmed.) In a grounded approach to this Western chase, viewers are treated to comedy, understated drama, and compelling character dynamics, giving weight to quieter character-driven moments that endear you to the characters. Joaquin Phoenix, in particular, is utterly captivating as the younger brother, Charlie, whose reckless abandon often lands the Sister Brothers in trouble, while concealing his own inner torment. It is the elder brother, Eli (John C. Reilly,) that keeps him on the straight and narrow in the hopes of one day finding peace. The lure of gold is enough to motivate any man, but in this pursual, we come to see what such riches could give beyond its materialistic value, from utopian dreams to a life of peace. The movies closing scenes carries this sense of relief in finding peace after an arduous journey, allowing viewers to take in the effectiveness of returning to simple comforts over the bloody search for glory.