Tom Hanks is just a phenomenal actor. This much is pretty much undisputed by anybody who's paying attention. Part of the reason that he is so great is that he has an uncanny ability to simply inhabit any role he takes on. This means he 's able to not only play real people but some of the most diverse people who have ever lived.
Tom Hanks' newest film has him once again playing a real person. Maybe it's the fact that there's a living template to show Hanks what he needs to do, but everytime he portrays somebody who actually lived, we have a tendency to forget who he really is.
Who He Played: Jim Lovell, the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission to the moon.
Why He Crushed It: There are fewer real life events more truly terrifying than the concept of being completely on your own in the vacuum of space. However, Jim Lovell was one of the most experienced men in the US space program at the time. He never loses hope or focus. He assumes there's a solution that he simply needs to find. Hanks often plays characters who are in over their head. Jim Lovell was never that way.
Who He Played: Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot responsible for the "Miracle on the Hudson" when he landed a plane on the surface of the Hudson River, saving everybody on board.
Why He Crushed It: Sully was portrayed as a hero in the media and while he certainly was one, he was also a man. While Sully, is not without its issues, Hanks performance is not one of them. He combines the confidence of Jim Lovell with the apprehension of a man who is utterly uncomfortable being placed in the role of hero.
Bridge of Spies
Who He Played: James B. Donovan, a lawyer who is given the job of defending a spy for the Soviet Union inside the United States.
Why He Crushed It: Often, in these "one man vs. the system" stories you end up with a hero character who believes in law and justice to a fault. Hanks doesn't quite play that character here. It's that nuance that makes it work. Donovan certainly believes in the value of law and the U.S. Constitution, but he also knows the realities of the world. He's not a perfect man, just a man, doing his job to the best of his ability because it's his job.
Saving Mr. Banks
Who He Played: Walt Disney the man behind Mickey Mouse and Disneyland, who tries to convince P.L. Travers to let him adapt Mary Poppins for the big screen
Why He Crushed It: Of all the characters Tom Hanks has played, Walk Disney is the one most well known on a global scale. He's also the character that people think they understand the most. What we actually see is the duality of the character. The version of Walt Disney we see here shows us how the man became a legend, but also how the man ran a business. He's not pure and perfect. The duality of the character is on full display.
Who He Played: The captain of oil tanker which was captured by Somali pirates. He had to keep himself and his crew alive while hoping for help
Why He Crushed It: Some of the best stories are those where ordinary people are put into extraordinary situations. That is Captain Phillips in a nutshell. We've seen Hanks play confident people, and we've seen him play terrified people. Captain Phillips is able to be both at once. He rises to the occasion because he has no choice, not because he has any great skill or ability to deal with pirates.
Charlie Wilson's War
Who He Played: Charlie Wilson was an American Congressman who works to support the mujahadeen, the militia fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Why He Crushed It: It's easy for an actor to knock one out of the park when they have Mike Nichols directing them and Aaron Sorkin writing the words. As a fairly slimy politician, Tom Hanks is playing as much against type as he ever has. Yet he still makes the role work. We forgot everything about every "nice guy" role Hanks had ever played while watching him figure out how to start a proxy war in the middle east.
Catch Me if You Can
Who He Played:Carl Hanratty, an FBI agent chasing professional con artist Frank Abagnale Jr. The character was actually based on an agent named Joseph Shea.
Why He Crushed It: While Catch Me If You Can is based on a true story, its method of storytelling is a bit more fantastical. The grounding factor is Tom Hanks straight-laced, by the book FBI agent. He's so out of his element that this film feels the least like it is a true story, and yet, with a few liberties here and there, it actually did happen.