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2022 is Colin Farrell’s year, and we’re loving it

Colin Farrell has given us not one, not two, but four brilliant performances in 2022, and they're all special in their own unique ways

Colin Farrell as Pádraic Súilleabháin in The Banshees of Inisherin

When you think of the best actors working today, I can’t imagine many people would consider Colin Farrell to be among the elite in his field. On the evidence of his sterling work in 2022, though, there are very few who can match the Irishman when it comes to the range and quality of performances he is putting out.

After a string of mediocre 2000s movies – Daredevil, Miami Vice, and Alexander come to mind – Farrell’s reputation took a bit of a hit. More specifically, it seemed that when Farrell dived into the world of action movies, something just didn’t quite click for him.

Despite this, there were flashes of brilliance in this period, mainly when Farrell cut loose a little and ventured into the art of the comedy movie. After collaborating with Martin McDonagh on the brilliant In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, it’s fitting that Farrell’s finest work to date coincides with a McDonagh reunion and caps what has been a marquee year for the actor.

The Banshees of Inisherin is the latest darkly comic tale from the mind of McDonagh, and it’s quite literally one of the best movies of 2022. If you need more proof of that claim, just check out our Banshees of Inisherin review. The flick sees Farrell and McDonagh team up with Brendan Gleeson once more, and the result is simply magical.

McDonagh’s writing is as sharp as ever, bringing to life a story of equal parts humour and heart as Farrell and Gleeson play two old friends who realise they don’t actually have a lot in common apart from their self-imposed confinement on a small island. When Colm (Gleeson) decides he doesn’t want to talk to the dull Pádraic (Farrell) anymore, the pair clash in hilarious and harrowing fashion.

It’s in treading this line that Farrell discovers his sweet spot, producing a performance of the highest quality and displaying just how versatile he can be. In the first half of the film, the tone is especially light and gives Farrell the freedom to explore his funny side. Pádraic may come in second place when ranking the more simple minds of Inisherin, but Farrell’s pitch-perfect comedic delivery cements his character as the funniest on the island.

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The second half of the drama movie descends into decidedly darker territory, though, as merriment and melodrama make way for mutilation and genuine conflict. It’s here that Farrell unleashes his more sinister side, proving Pádraic does have a backbone after all. As the situation worsens and Pádraic suffers losses of his own, Farrell unlocks a third, more emotional layer to his character.

It’s an incredibly tragic turn on all accounts, really. Farrell takes us on a journey from pitiful charm to genuine heartbreak, making us laugh all the while, and it’s a performance that could well cause an upset at the big awards nights further down the line.

Not content with knocking our socks off in just one film this year, though, Farrell has given us four fantastic and very different performances in 2022. While his portrayal of Pádraic may be his most sincere, Farrell’s starring role in the A24 movie After Yang is his most sophisticated.

Colin Farrell as Jake in After Yang

As the patriarch of an unorthodox family in the near future, Farrell’s Jake is responsible for repairing their adoptive AI son when he malfunctions. In search of a solution, Jake takes the time to explore the true beauty of life and love in a science fiction movie that will tug at your heartstrings and stimulate the deepest recesses of your mind.

It’s an exceptionally mature and nuanced performance from Farrell and one which allows him to shine in a far more muted fashion than we have become accustomed to. There are no bells and whistles to this role and is arguably the most difficult role he’s taken on this year, but Farrell carries it effortlessly.

In complete contrast, Farrell played the Batman villain Penguin in the superhero movie The Batman at the start of the year and brought exactly the kind of maniacal, larger-than-life energy needed to succeed in the comic book movie world. Transformed beyond recognition by a mass of makeup and given free reign to ham it up in a grisly Gotham City, Farrell has a lot of fun with the role and it shows.

Colin Farrell as the Penguin in The Batman

Farrell’s iteration of the iconic rogue is pantomime of the highest order, complete with a brash Bostonian accent, cracking one-liners, and just the right amount of menace to instil fear in the citizens of Gotham. His character clearly did the trick, because he’s getting his own TV series to further explore the Penguin’s journey in the DCEU.

If that wasn’t enough, Farrell also found time to be the standout performer in the movie based on a true story, Thirteen Lives. The film, from acclaimed director Ron Howard, is your run-of-the-mill survival story, but Farrell shines opposite Viggo Mortensen, which is no mean feat.

This kind of statement year has been in the water for a while though for Farrell. A strong performance in a weak season of the drama series True Detective in 2015 was backed up by a Yorgos Lanthimos double header in the beautifully bizarre romance movie The Lobster and the far more insidious The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in The Lobster

I hesitate to call this a Colin Farrell renaissance – partly because I believe he’s always had this talent in the locker, and partly because I can’t think of a catchy phrase for it akin to the McConaissance. The signs have been there for a long time that Farrell could be a top quality performer, it was just about choosing the right projects to showcase that. And in 2022, he’s hit the motherload. Academy Award Winner Colin Farrell has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

For more on these movies, check out our interview with Kogonda, the director of After Yang. Or, look ahead to The Batman 2 release date.