Worst To Best: Christian Bale

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)

The Film: John Madden’s often infuriatingly saccharine period romp in which an engaged woman falls for an Italian commander while her beau is off fighting the war.

Bale Intensity: Bale clearly wasn’t happy with the material here, seeming to regret signing on by delivering a stilted, overwrought performance that wastes most of his natural talent.

The Secret Agent (1996)

The Film: In the late 19th century, Russian spy Verloc (Bob Hoskins) makes a decision that will affect the lives of those closest to him, including his wife and son (Bale).

Bale Intensity: Bale struggles with a demanding role as a mentally retarded young man, mostly because this is a film that feels like a ship without a rudder. Don’t worry, it gets better…

Mary, Mother Of Jesus (1999)

The Film: A twee, all-too-mechanical biblical retelling that has Bale donning a crown of thorns as Jesus.

Bale Intensity: As with many of his earlier roles, Bale’s hampered by a script that doesn’t play to his strengths. Still, he manages to rise above the material with an affecting performance that strives to break the limitations of a made-for-TV movie.

Shaft (2000)

The Film: Woeful remake of the blaxploitation classic with Samuel L. Jackson as the titular detective.

Bale Intensity: Bale’s feeling a little too typecast as Shaft’s nemesis Walter Wade Jr, a character who’s basically Patrick Bateman Lite and an unworthy adversary for the ass-kicking cop.

Prince Of Jutland (1994)

The Film: A Viking epic from director Gabriel Axel, which retells the tale of Hamlet using the original Danish legend.

Bale Intensity: This is more like it – Bale plays the ‘mad’ second son of the King of Jutland, and nails it. A striking hint at the actor’s potential, and one that really brings an otherwise workmanlike film alive.

Reign Of Fire (2002)

The Film: Twenty years in the future, dragons have been unleashed in London, which has quickly fallen into a fiery ruin.

Bale Intensity: Bale establishes himself as an unlikely action hero as dragon-hunter Quinn. A prickly, hot-blooded lead, he holds his own against a tattooed, skin-headed Matthew McConaughey.

The Portrait Of A Lady (1996)

The Film: Adapted from Henry James’ novel by director Jane Campion. An American heiress attempts to ‘find’ herself in Europe, and rejects the advances of numerous suitors.

Bale Intensity: Bale steps lightly in this literary adap, relying on his good looks and charm to get him through a tiny role that’s little more than a cameo.

A Midsummer Nights Dream (1999)

The Film: Shakespeare adaptation starring Kris Kline, Rupert Everett and Michelle Pfeiffer. Plus Bale, of course, as Demetrius.

Bale Intensity: There’s little intensity to speak of here as Bale embraces the jovial material for a fun, tongue-in-cheek performance.

Pocahontas (1995)

The Film: Disney’s animated retelling of the English invasion of Virginia in the 17th Century. Bale voices Thomas, a British settler.

Bale Intensity: Intensity? In a Disney movie? You can almost hear Bale straining to bring some depth to his 2D creation. Sadly, he leaves little impression.

Metroland (1997)

The Film: Chris (Bale) starts rethinking his marriage when a friend he’s not seen for a decade turns up and has him reminiscing about his life before all of that responsibility.

Bale Intensity: This is a romp in more than one sense of the word, with Bale hopping from one bed to another for an array of sexual encounters. He manages to bring the emotion, too – though the film’s more interested in the bed-sheet escapades.

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