I felt I was underrating her putting her near the bottom of my own list - but, then, making it onto a top 32 list from across a whole decade is still a tremendous feat regardless of placement. Such a wonderful, luminous performance that elevates a decent film to one I couldn't help falling in love with. That's the power of Saoirse.
By far Phoenix's sweetest and most likeable performance. He imbues the role with a quiet vulnerability, fitting as Theodore has recently lost his marriage and is in the midst of a hard battle with one of the worst of foes - loneliness. However, it's not a wholly soft and subdued portrayal, as he also brings a fiery and infectious passion to the character during the ecstatic highs of his newfound love. Beautifully showcasing the crushing lows and ecstatic highs of one man's life, this is one of the best performances of Phoenix's incredible career.
Lincoln rests on the shoulders of its inimitable leading man, who takes on the role of arguably the most iconic figure in modern history. He does not do a ponderous impersonation of Honest Abe, but instead he resurrects a man not chiseled from marble or mountainside, but from sinew and skin. Day-Lewis’s Lincoln is a far cry from his Bill the Butcher, his larger-than-life, Lincoln-loathing villain from Gangs of New York. Never have we seen Day-Lewis this subdued and yet so volcanic in a performance, and yet he remains so utterly riveting with every Kentucky-lilted word. Even looking past the fact that this was the role that won him his record-breaking third Best Actor Oscar, it’s the kind of performance that will consecrate Day-Lewis’s legacy as one of the greatest actors to ever step in front of a camera.
With her beautifully subtle performance in Carol, Rooney Mara strips away the hard edge she often lends to her performances to reveal a gentler, more subdued side to her. Therese Belivet is a character at sea in many ways, unsure of what she wants to do or who she wants to be with, and Mara tackles the character's uncertainty - as well as her determination - perfectly.
Michael Keaton has long proven himself as an actor with great range, but there's still something surprising, impressive and amusing about watching him giving a performance full of versatility like this. Delivering a tour-de-force performance, Keaton brings both subtlety and comedy to a depressing role, and the film effectively uses his raw energy and incredible screen presence. The result is one of the greatest comebacks in acting history. Oh and that Oscar loss still hurts.