Cillian Murphy is a name many have come to know over recent years from his success in Peaky Blinders, but many don’t know of his brilliant varied film career.
Cillian Murphy was introduced to many moviegoers with his breakout role in Danny Boyle’s 2003 film 28 Days Later, gaining additional recognition for his role in the critically acclaimed Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy as the deranged yet charming Dr Jonathan Crane, also known under the villainous alias Scarecrow.
To date, Murphy is most recognised for his role in the BBC crime drama Peaky Blinders, a television series set in the aftermath of the First World War, following the exploits of the Shelby family.
If like us, you’ve had a Cillian Murphy shaped void in your life since the phenomenal series finale of Peaky Blinders, then we’ve got you covered. Here are our Top 5 Cillian Murphy films you may not have seen.
Directed by Sean Ellis, this 2016 war film is based on the World War II operation mission of the same titular name. The film follows soldiers Josef Gabcík played by Cillian Murphy, and Jan Kubis played by Belfast’s Jamie Dornan who formulate a plan to assassinate SS General, Reinhard Heydrick, to ultimately force the Nazi’s hand in retaliation, risking their lives and their countries freedom.
Praised for its dedication to realism, highlighted by the production’s commitment to shooting a large per cent of the film on location in Prague, and where possible in the exact locations of the events depicted.
While the film’s structure is slated for poor pacing and dull depiction of a truly fascinating movement in history, Murphy provides the heart of the film in an understated fashion.
Praise that is consistent with many of his roles. His conviction to the role heightens the tension and strengthens the action, plus, with the support of co-star Jamie Dornan, the two elevate the film together with their on-screen chemistry.
Murphy brings a level of intensity and conviction to the role that truly attaches you to the character, willing them on despite the odds. Sadly his commitment can not disguise the patchy accents present throughout the film’s run time.
Ultimately Anthropoid, unfortunately, lacks in drama and excitement, failing to set this lacklustre war drama out from an already oversaturated genre.
However the story of mission Anthropoid is fascinating, and to see an overlooked part of history take centre stage on the silver screen with the star power of Murphy and Durnan makes this a must-watch for any war buff.
4. Perrier’s Bounty
Released in 2007, this Irish black comedy crime film directed by Ian Fitzgibbon and set in modern-day Ireland stars Cillian Murphy as the main character Michael who is to repay a debt to local crime boss Darren Perrier (Brendan Gleeson).
Murphy elects to avoid the gang until he is able to gather the money, but when he is assaulted by two henchmen, his neighbour Brenda played by Jodie Whittaker comes to the rescue, shooting one of the thugs.
The two have to go on the run with Murphy’s estranged and dying father played by Jim Broadbent.
Unfortunately, this film was slated for its unoriginal story and lack of impact, with its Irish heritage being one of its few defining features.
Despite the film’s lack of originality, it is a good old fashioned fun gangster film.
This film enabled Murphy to showcase his comedic ability, something he does not get to do often despite his excellent fit for the genre. Even when playing an exaggerated gangster character, Murphy’s understated mannerisms and tone are evident, a trait that greatly benefits him in a majority of his roles.
Murphy’s character was slated for his enigmatic and unoriginal motives, while the actor’s portrayal of the tough but loveable petty crook was praised for his characteristic intelligence and genuine fulfilment of the role.
While the film does little to establish itself, it is an enjoyable evening watch with performances by Murphy and Whittaker stealing the show and heightening the over-familiar narrative with comedic zest, with their performances being the most memorable element of the film.
3. The Party
This 2017 British black comedy written and directed by Sally Potter sees Janet played by Dame Kristin Scott Thomas host a party alongside her husband Bill played by Timothy Spall, to celebrate her new job as Shadow Minister for Health.
Their guests include April played by Patricia Clarkson, her estranged partner Gottfried played by Bruno Ganz; Martha played by Cherry Jones; her partner Jinny played by Emily Mortimer and Tom played by Cillian Murphy.
The celebrations are short-lived when Murphy snorts cocaine in the bathroom, Spall admits to an illicit affair and the vol-au-vents go up in smoke.
Known for his stoic and reserved demeanour in a number of roles, Murphy’s physical comedy in The Party is a scene-stealer.
Playing a character under the effects of drugs allows for more chaotic role freedom, and Murphy delivers that perfectly.
You miss him when he is not on the screen, and almost wish for the other scenes to move along just to see what he does and says next.
Director Sally Potter stated the reasoning behind creating the film in black and white was to allow space for emotional colour, giving the audience more reactionary freedom by eliminating the psychological reactions invoked by colours.
The film was however slated for its overindulgent political commentary, with an array of one-dimensional characters that fail to garner sympathy. A common theme among audience reviews was the film’s inability to recognise its own parody behaviour.
Another common theme among reviews was Murphy’s stand out performance, his ability to break the tension on and off-screen was the breath of fresh air this film was gasping for.
2. Red Eye
This 2005 psychological thriller directed by Wes Craven of the Nightmare On Elm Street franchise, stars Cillian Murphy as Jackson Rippner (a little on the nose we think) and Rachel McAdams as Lisa Reisert.
Red Eye sets itself up as a romantic comedy, with the titular characters having their chance encounter meet-cute. It is not until we are locked in and thousands of feet in the air that Murphy drops his charming facade and we quickly learn their meeting was not by chance.
Murphy spends the next part of an hour holding McAdams hostage on the flight as she attempts to manoeuvre her way out of his sinister grip.
Another single location entry on this list, Murphy is a man after my own film critiquing heart.
The singular location affects the psychological mood of the story by rooting the characters in one place, especially a place where there is nowhere to flee, heightening the tension and stakes.
The film is heavily reliant on the leads and their ability to captivate the audience, with Craven’s tight direction progressing the story flawlessly.
Murphy’s ability to alter his character’s persona, continuously shifting between charming debonair to sinister brutality appears effortless, highlighting the actor’s staggering range of talent.
Without a doubt, Murphy and McAdams’ on-screen chemistry elevates the film and holds our attention throughout, not allowing us a moment of rest. Even in the moments when Murphy is charming, we know his true intentions and capabilities making for a tension fueled flight.
1. Free Fire
Directed by Ben Wheatley, this 2016 British black comedy-action film stars Cillian Murphy as Chris, alongside Marvel’s Brie Larson as Justine, Sharlto Copley as Vernon and several others.
Free Fire sees a group of incompetent weapon buyers and dealers attempt to broker a deal, but when everyone has a gun it isn’t long before things turn ugly.
Shots are fired, blood is spilt, and friendly fire is definitely on the table.
The plot is a late second act shootout, but with well written and flawlessly portrayed characters your attention will be held throughout. With several characters in a single location with a plot focused on physical interaction, one easily becomes engaged in the commotion.
With a well-assembled cast, Murphy does well to utilise his screen time, with his unique physical comedy and understated chaos ever-present.
The most accurate way to describe this film is by the articulately insightful Mark Kermode, who mentioned in his BBC Radio 5 review, which states this film is a “chaotic nihilistic sense of absurdist theatre.”
Free Fire accomplishes what it sets out to do, hilariously breaking down a realistic gunfight, shot-by-shot with consequential action. Many times we have seen the lead role in an action flick be badly wounded, but come the final fight they are magically healed to save the day.
Free Fire rejects this convention and opts for realism, when a character is wounded, that injury remains, and their physical ability is hindered, making for some truly grotesque humour.
Murphy’s adaptability and complete ease in settling into a role make him one of this generation’s greats. The actor’s understated screen presence brings an air of authenticity to all his roles, even those heightened in drama.
Once you take note of Murphy you will find him appearing in several films you’ve already seen, this is not a bad thing. He morphs into characters effortlessly, while bringing his own Irish flair to each role, always giving a part of his own personality to the part.
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