One of the bad boys of this current generation of actors, the totally charming yet unpredictable Irishman that is Colin Farrell has certainly had an ‘interesting’ career to put it lightly. Starting out on the popular 90s TV series Ballykissangel, Farrell has gone from starring in one of the biggest critical flops of the last decade to picking up a prestigious Golden Globe in 2009. What can’t be denied is Farrell’s sheer talent and without further ado, here are his defining moments…
as Stu Shephard in Phone Booth (2002)
Though as mentioned earlier Farrell had shot to prominence through the medium of TV, this was arguably his first real big-screen triumph. Phone Booth tells the story of Stu Shephard, a man trapped in a phone booth, being held hostage by Kiefer Sutherland’s mysterious ‘caller’. Essentially, similar to Tom Hardy’s recent film Locke, this is somewhat of a one-man show; and Farrell seemed to really thrive in this role. Particularly in the confession scene, Farrell exerts serious talent as Stu, and it perhaps helped distance him from some of his less serious roles, and allowed him to extend his horizons in Hollywood. Certainly, it was his first major stepping stone into cinema, and opened a number of doors for him career wise.
as Alexander the Great in Alexander (2004)
Unfortunately for Farrell, his foray into Oliver Stone’s historical epic about the greatest military leader of all time was somewhat of an unmitigated disaster. Not necessarily financially, as the film made big bucks at the box office, but critically it is one of the worst flops of the last decade. Donning Farrell in an outrageous blonde wig and allowing him to keep his thick Irish accent was not the smartest move in terms of creating historical accuracy. For a director with a track record as distinguished as Stone, and the up and coming star that was Farrell, this film should have been the making of him, but unfortunately it became his most infamous role to date. Sadly it took Farrell a good few years to recover from this damaging career move, but perhaps it actually helped him transform his career and begin his real big break, leading up to his next big moment in his career…
as Ray in In Bruges (2008)
In this dark comedy about a pair of hitmen hiding out in the city of Bruges after a hit gone wrong, Farrell won his first and only major award to date, a Golden Globe for Best Actor in Comedy or Musical. Quite frankly, he was more than desrving of this prestiogious prize, and could have easily received an Oscar nomination had the field not been as strong that year. For this film, Farrell did what only Farrell could do; bring some good old fashioned Irish charm. Ray is perhaps the funniest hitman ever seen in cinema, and I don’t think anyone could hate anything as much as Ray hates the city of Bruges. At the same time as being truly hilarious, Farrell embraces Ray’s damaged persona perfectly and despite the things he’s done, it is almost impossible not to root for Ray. His hilarious on-screen relationship with Brendan Gleeson’s Ken just excels Farrell’s performance, as the two of them together rule the screen like some kind of murdering comedy duo, with their polar opposite personalities and abundance of Irish charm. There’s no doubt that Farrell got the recognition and the awards he deserved for playing Ray, as it certainly was his finest hour at the time and continues to be the only role he received real critical acclaim for.
as Travers Goff in Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
In one of his more serious and emotionally driven roles, Farrell proved that despite a dogged career, his talent for acting has never gone away, and is perfectly capable of excelling in dramatic roles. As the struggling, alcoholic father of Mary Poppins writer P.L. Travers, the story of Travers Goff is a harrowing tale. It is difficult to tell whether Farrell used his own unfortunate experience with vices to fuel this role, but either way his execution is remarkable. The emotion and passion he brings to this role is, in my opnion, criminally overlooked. Whilst he wasn’t as prominent as Tom Hanks or Emma Thompson, his performance in essence was probably the best in the film, however unfortunately he went somewhat under the radar. A turning point in his career for sure, it marked a clear desire to delve into more serious dramatic roles.
as Detective Ray Velcoro in True Detective (2015)
Undoubtedly and unsurprisingly Farrell’s best role since In Bruges and perhaps even his best to date. As the corrupt and broken Vinci police detective Ray Velcoro in the 2nd series of HBO anthology series True Detective, Farrell really stole the show. Not only did he perfectly execute such a complex character, but he really connected with the audience, with his multiple storylines certainly the strongest of the 4 main characters. Not only did he emotionally connect to the audience through his relationship with his son, his on-screen partnership with the other characters totally stood out, especially his exchanges with Vince Vaughn’s Frank. After season 1 I didn’t think you could get a character as likeable as Rust Cohle, but Farrell somehow made Ray something more, not as quotable or loveable, but his emotional edge outmatched McConaughey’s Rust. Ray Velcoro is surely a role that could help Farrell add to his Golden Globe, and hopefully he will get the critical acclaim he deserves.
Farrell’s star is beginning to rise again and it is worth keeping an eye out for him, with new releases including the critically acclaimed The Lobster and the Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opposite Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne.
Honorable mentions: SWAT, Total Recall, Miami Vice, Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Words by Elliott Jones