Cillian's Resting (Acting) Face

Where do I start? Cillian Murphy gives me feelings....... all the feelings. Yes, my darling husband is aware. These feelings existed before our first date. He is a good sport and I am pretty sure I only crossed the line during my first viewing of Perrier's Bounty (Cillian with facial hair!).

It is not only those pretty blue eyes or those cheek bones that could cut glass. Nor is it just the Irish factor (my admiration for the Isles both British and Irish, not to mention the men they produce is well known and documented). No, what it really comes down to is that man is one incredible actor - unstable Irish lad to "zombie" fighter to transgender roles to period roles that require waistcoats, not to mention being one of my favorite Batman villains. Regardless of the role, Cillian Murphy takes it on and even when the film is poor, his performance is spectacular. Okay, I am just going to say it - playing him in my top spot for favorite actor working today (sorry Benny and my forever doctor, Ten). 

During a recent binge of Peaky Blinders, I had a revelation: Cillian's Resting (Acting) Face. An attribute, that is the perfect canvas to almost every role he has undertaken.

By now, RBF (Resting B*#@$ Face), thanks to internet memes and clickbait articles, has become part of our vernacular. However, RBF has nothing on CRAF (I've added in acting since this pertains to his career not the man personally). Why is it superior? Well, simply from the characters he plays you never know if CRAF will morph into a rant, a smirk, laughter, rage, or smile (just to name a few). I find it best to use visuals (and who is going to complain - did I mention the cheek bones?). Let's examine some of my favorite roles (do not worry I promise to use restraint and only focus on six) and how CRAF is perfection.

Dr. Jonathan Crane, Batman Begins (2005)

Most Batman villains balance a line of composure and their insanity and no one does that better than Dr. Jonathan Crane / Scarecrow. Murphy was the perfect choice and with CRAF, you are on the edge of you seat wondering when he will go from cool, calm, collective to disheveled and bent on destroying everyone in Gotham, to, of course, completely composed again evil genius. Yes. Crane/Scarecrow is one of my favorites. 

John, Intermission (2003)

I will be going over more about Intermission next month (one of my favorite Irish films), but for now, let's just discuss John and why CRAF works so well in this film. John's a petty criminal as a response to hating his job. On top of that, he broke up with his girlfriend Deirdre to test her love. His disdain for his job and struggles to win back his ex (who has moved on with a "Baldy") make John a bit of a ticking time bomb. During his CRAF state you are never sure when he is going to freak out and break something or go off into a major rant. Though there are the occasional smiles, which we always welcome. 

Patrick 'Kitten' Braden, Breakfast on Pluto (2005)

CRAF can also help fictional characters through the most difficult of situations. Take for instance, Cillian's portrayal of Patrick "Kitten" Braden (adaptation from the Neil Jordan novel).  Patrick was abandoned by his mother in the late 1940s in Northern Ireland. From an early age, he is attracted to dresses and makeup, and is punished by his foster family for it. Not only is Patrick dealing with his transgender issues, but the story also deal with complications of the Irish Republican Army. 

Identity is a big theme in this film - not just processing one's natural feelings, but also looking for information regarding one's parents and being an Irish person in England. Cillian's portrayal of Kitten is a balance of process and using CRAF as a way to deal with the rejection and pain the prejudice world around him projects.

Thomas ShelbyPeaky Blinders (2013 - Present)

Thomas Shelby, the leader of the Peaky Blinders and the inspiration for this piece. Thomas Shelby, a man transformed by war. He has seen the dark side of humanity and lost his in the process. Shelby might be a perfect example of CRAF. A face void of emotion, and stoic. You truly do not know if he will light up a cigarette, kiss the girl, or kill a person without a second thought. A face that reveals absolutely nothing, sometimes not even when the act is complete. It's also the face of someone not afraid to die or to do what it takes to play the game. A quiet Thomas Shelby is the one to fear, because in those quiets moments he has decided his next move and nothing about his CRAF will reveal what those intentions will be. 

Jim, 28 Days Later...  (2002)

Jim wakes up in a hospital with no one around. For the most part he takes on CRAF and tries to process just what is going on. I am pretty sure despite all my zombie (I know they are not zombies per se) preparation training (you know the conversation we have all had at one point or another) - if I woke up in the middle of an apocalypse I would have a panic attack. Cillian's Jim does have that moment, but he gets his stuff together and realizing what survival will take: CRAF and the ability to take down anyone who threatens his mission. Even with blood dripping from his face, he owns CRAF like only Cillian could and well.... no spoilers, but what happens next......

Michael McCrea, Perrier's Bounty (2009)

Perrier's Bounty written by Mark O'Rowe, who also wrote Intermission above. I adore O'Rowe's dialogue and Cillian can deliver those lines, along with the necessary subtle facial reactions. From CRAF, Cillian moves into adoration, contemplation, survival defense mode, and love. Not only is he trying to not have his bones broken by thugs employed by Perrier (a local crime boss), but he is also trying to win the girl (his next door neighbor), and dealing with father's death premonition. He can stay poised in CRAF through cuts and with a gun pointed at his head. Again, as with many roles, the ability to hide thoughts and emotions is key to surviving in this Irish black comedy. I am sure if you asked Michael McCrea about CRAF, he would just say "that's me way, man."

Other examples to look for: The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Edge of Love, Sunshine, On the Edge, The Way We Live Now, and Disco Pigs. 

So next time someone is on and on about RBF, say, "but it's no CRAF." There is a brilliance about an actor who can bring a stoic, calm, quiet facial element to a role, because that face is one to pay attention to - will they cry, will they curse, will they kill, will they yell, or will they smile?

So often we are not kept on our toes, so thank you Mr. Cillian Murphy for doing just that time and time again. I look forward to future appearances of Cillian's Resting (Acting) Face. Until then, I continue to appreciate your previous performances..... especially when you have facial hair and a waistcoat. Basically more dark Irish comedy and period piece CRAF please!