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Tom Hanks Is The Most Boring Actor In Hollywood

Esquire (UK) logo Esquire (UK) 23/01/2018 Finlay Renwick

Calling Bullshit On Tom Hanks, The Most Boring Actor In Hollywood © Dreamworks Calling Bullshit On Tom Hanks, The Most Boring Actor In Hollywood Tom Hanks seems like a very nice man. The world's jovial uncle from the big screen, unequivocally and unwaveringly nice. Good, decent, reliable, consistent Tom Hanks on the red sofa, moulding Graham Norton and the nation into unquestioning acolytes of his omnipotent niceness. Tom Hanks stopping for a selfie and giving you a hefty paternal pat on the back with his thick and honest ham hock palm before disappearing into The Ritz. Tom Hanks, the Hollywood embodiment of the Nice American. "What a nice day!" he'd say with a big Tom Hanks smile.

Yes, Tom Hanks seems like a nice man. But we're not here to talk about the man, we're here to talk about the actor.

Tom Hanks: the most boring credit in Hollywood.

Watch: Meryl Streep felt attracted to Tom Hanks on set of 'The Post' (Provided by Cover Media)


If you have watched films with even a passing interest over the last 20+ years then the Hanks formula will no doubt be familiar to you: it's Hanks on an island, or a boat, or in the newsroom of the Washington Post or plummeting towards a watery death in a failing New York Airbus. He is a good man - nice even - but he finds himself in a bind. He furrows his brow and squints those gentle eyes, trying his best to find a solution.

Oh wait, there it is! Nice guy Tom Hanks saves the day... again.

He never dies. He never kills. He's hardly ever cruel. His integrity is absolute and unscathed. Always. 

a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc

Tom Hanks, particularly in the last decade, has acted as a living spoiler for any film he appears in. As soon as that robust root vegetable head with its worldly creases flashes onto the screen, then you know everything is going to be all right. Which isn't to say that the movies he appears in are bad - they're something worse than that. They are 100% predictable.

So predictable, he's practically a verb.

"Wow, I really Tom Hanksed that job interview! There weren't any tricky questions at all."

In his latest film, Steven Spielberg's The Post, we see Hanks at the peak of his one-tone moralistic powers as kind-but-compromised Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, who is determined to publish an expose that will bring the American government to justice over the mismanagement of Vietnam, all while motivating a flailing newsroom, the potential censorship and ire of Richard Nixon's White House and the nerves of Meryl Streep, who plays former-Post managing editor Katharine Graham.

Tom Hanks © PA Tom Hanks

Despite gushing praise from 'critics' (It's a Spielberg film with Streep and Hanks as leads... you know the drill) The Post plays out with tedious inevitability. Hanks never raises his voice, Meryl Streep finds hers and everyone makes the right and just decision.

When held up to the spotlight of a film like, err, Spotlight - another award-winner about real-life journalism and choices that touch the darker shades of grey - it feels about as deep as a year 6 stage production with an extra dose of schmaltz and treacle poured over the top, which is perhaps down to latter-stage-Spielberg's apparent disdain for nuance, but isn't helped by another connect-the-dots Hanks victory parade.

It's one thing when this is a kids movie or a straight up adventure flick, like Spielberg has made so many times in the past. But the director himself has publicly stated that "The urgency to make The Post was because of Trump's administration." Yet any supposed lofty wider political commentary quickly evaporates in the steaming cheese factory of another deep dive into the Hank's niceness cult. A complex character study it is not.

Tom Cruise aside (whose films at least don't aspire to be Oscar winners), is there any other A-List actor who consistently gets away with playing exactly the same character without scrutiny more than Hanks? Is it written into his contract? Is he really just so good and pure that playing a bad guy (Cloud Atlas doesn't count) would destroy him from the inside out? Melt his liver and burst his golden appendix? Why does every modern Tom Hanks film have exactly the same outcome?

Tom Hanks on Graham Norton Tom Hanks on Graham Norton

The world - and the decent cinema that reflects it - is dirty, messy and disappointing with joy interspersed in healthy (or not!) doses along the way. But not so in the Banana Republic of Tom Hanks (the only export: A RIGHTEOUS ENDING), where the grass is green, the birdsong cheerful and the roles hand-picked for positive outcomes.

Aside from being dull, Hanks' shctick (and Spielberg's too) feels flat and out of touch in modern (it pains us to say this) Trumpian Times. We're used to protagonists, both real and fictional, with genuine moral dark spots. Good people aren't always heroes, and those capable of great evil can show slivers of humanity. Mostly humans are just average, neither brilliant nor brutal, but full of variables. Variables demonstrated expertly in more self-aware shows like Breaking Bad and films like Nightcrawler and the aforementioned Spotlight (amongst many, many others).

From his work in films like Forrest Gump (it's good, don't @ us), Road to Perdition, The Green Mile and Catch Me If You Can, we've seen that Tom Hanks can deliver the goods. But when Adam Sandler proves himself to be a bigger risk-taker than the tepid darling of the multiplex and chat show sofa, then surely something has gone wrong?

At least when De Niro sold out he did it in brilliant, flagrant, money-grabbing Bad Grandpa and The Intern Style, rather than inconspicuously melting into the script of another by-the-numbers vanilla semi-drama.

Tom Hanks, the dullard's movie star of choice.

The safe option.

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