Silver Screen Spotlight: Michael Fassbender

One of the things I've come to appreciate most from any actor today is probably their readiness, or rather eagerness, to jump from two widely different realms of cinema, and still deliver profound performances no matter what character they play. One actor who has proven himself a beast across both the independent filmmaking platform, as well as the blockbuster one, is German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender. Able to convey a captivating and intense performance, whether he's starving himself in smaller films like 2008's Hunger or trailblazing the far reaches of space in massive productions like 2012's Prometheus, Fassbender has become one of the few actors today that can dive into a role, truly make it their own, and then simply escape it in order to take on the next one. With that, in honor of his newest film, the action-packed video game adaptation Assassin's Creed, here is a look back at some of Fassbender's most influential film roles.  


A man who has played legendary roles, less legendary roles, and roles that sit in a happy middle ground where they're often hard to hate, Michael Fassbender began his career as most major Hollywood names today began, with a plethora of minor television roles. While the acclaimed HBO series Band of Brothers might have flown over my head in the early 2000s, my first exposure to the actor's fascinating on-screen ferocity was in Zack Snyder's Spartan epic 300. Tailing closely behind Gerard Butler's Spartan warrior Leonidas, Fassbender's first film role may not have explored the broad scale of talent the actor shows today, but did manage to somewhat put his name on the map. Set to collaborate with a number of big-name directors in the near future, one of his most prominent partnerships began with writer/director Steve McQueen.

Before going onto further fame in projects like 2011's Shame and 2013's 12 Years a Slave, both directed by McQueen, Fassbender dived into one of his first biographical roles in 2008's Hunger. Spinning an intriguing look at the 1981 Irish hunger strike, Fassbender's gripping performance as Irish republican Bobby Sands in one of Steve McQueen's first major films escalated the actor's name to mainstream success, while at the same time cementing his name prominently in the independent genre. While Shame -- which spun a captivating story of a man suffering with sex addiction in modern-day New York -- may still be on my watchlist, the latest collaboration with McQueen and Fassbender in 2013's 12 Years a Slave remains one of the actor's most evocative roles. Playing a slave owner consumed by hatred and love in the backdrop of co-star Chiwetel Ejiofor's riveting lead, Fassbender's emotional and haunting turn in the film made for a compelling experience.

Going back in time, Fassbender's memorable performance in McQueen's Hunger brought him into the company of a number of big-time directors in Hollywood, including the likes of Quentin Tarantino. Starring in the riotous 2009 war thriller Inglorious Bastards, the actor joined the ranks of such talents as Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, and Daniel Brühl in one of the director's most commercially successful projects to date. Boosting his career into bigger films like 2010's Centurion and Jonah Hex the same year, while also keeping his hand in smaller productions like 2009's Fish Tank and the short film Man on a Motorcycle, Fassbender's leap into far reaches of Hollywood was only just beginning.


With 2011 giving rise to more of the actor's diverse projects, like Shame and the historical drama A Dangerous Method, one of Fassbender's most defining roles to date began when he entered Matthew Vaughn's ambitious X-Men prequel, X-Men: First Class. Playing young Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto, the tyrannical mutant antagonist of Bryan Singer's X-Men trilogy, Fassbender brought his unique and visceral range of emotional force to one of Marvel Comics' most notorious villains. Carving out some spectacular chemistry with co-star James McAvoy's Charles Xavier, Fassbender managed to bring a whole new level of passion to the character that Sir Ian McKellen brought to life back in 2000.


Joining the Marvel franchise -- which would later shoot his name to the top of the billing list in later superhero sequels -- Fassbender then embarked on a number of flashy Hollywood roles, ones that, to some degree, managed to shove the actor out of the spotlight. While the phenomenal 12 Years a Slave might have kept the actor's extremity alive with its heart-breaking tale and compelling characters, 2012's Haywire and the following year's The Counselor offered more convoluted plots and wooden performances, tossing the actor into a trainwreck waiting to happen. While Ridley Scott's The Counselor may have soaked nearly all the energy out of Fassbender in his leading role, the director did manage to evoke a decent performance from the actor with his turn as the chilling android David in 2012's Prometheus. 

The next few years delivered a handful of defining roles for Fassbender, as he walked the line between iconic faces of history and fiction and fascinating creations of his own caliber. As 2014 quickly flew into 2015, Fassbender dived into every genre from dark comedy and violent war drama to action western and biographical thriller. With Justin Kurzel's enthralling adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth offering up a tasteful display of the actor's brilliant magnitude, and Bryan Singer's X-Men follow-up, Days of Future Past, giving us more of young Magneto's riveting characterization, the two films that stood out the most between those two years were Frank and Steve Jobs. One delivering one of the actor's most flavorful (and mysterious) roles as an enigmatic rock performer hiding behind a false face, and the other blindsiding me with a calculated and intense take on Apple innovator Steve Jobs, both performances remain some of the most enthusiastic from the actor's career.


As 2016 rolled through just as quickly as the past two years did, Fassbender never let up as he debuted a hefty four films throughout the year. With X-Men: Apocalypse instilling a decent amount of Magneto exposition against its overall lackluster premise, and his second collaboration with director Justin Kurzel in Assassin's Creed offering up a stale performance from the actor among the film's glossy action, he still managed to surprise me with September's The Light Between Oceans. While the film remained mostly melodramatic throughout its historical romance premise, the endearing chemistry between real-life couple Fassbender and actress Alicia Vikander was enough to save the film.

While I still haven't checked out his latest film, the crime-drama Trespass Against Us, Michael Fassbender seems to be rolling into the new year ready to turn some heads, both in the Hollywood franchises and smaller films as well. Set to not only hop into the next Terence Malick project, but also embark further into the dark reaches of space in this summer's Alien: Covenant, Fassbender's dynamic allure and intense strive will continue to captivate me into the new year. 


What's your favorite performance from Michael Fassbender? Are you a fan of his blockbuster roles, or would you like to see him dive into other smaller and more audacious projects like Shame and Frank? Let me know in the comment section below, and stay tuned for more reviews, spotlights, and breakdowns in 2017! 

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