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Best Performances of 2012: A Good Year for the Broken, Disturbed and Driven

Best Performances of 2012: A Good Year for the Broken, Disturbed and Driven

A great year in film means a great year in acting. We’ve celebrated our Top Ten Films of 2012, and now it’s time to give thanks for some of the performances that moved us this year.

From Jessica Chastain’s high-profile performance as the woman who tracked down Osama bin Laden in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” to Emilie Dequenne’s little talked about turn in Joachim Lafosse’s heart-wrenching “Our Children” (which is also Film Comment’s #1 Undistributed film), it was a year of dynamic, strong women, as well as those that have been broken.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ masterful performance in “Lincoln” will not be soon forgotten, nor will Joaquin Phoenix’s woebegone stray Freddie Quell in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” One of the most vividly disturbing performances comes from Australia’s “The Snowtown Murders”; Daniel Henshall’s portrait of real-life murderer John Bunting is painfully good.

In addition to the singular standouts, several duos delivered exceptional symbiotic performances; Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts in Jacques Audiard’s gritty love story of broken individuals, “Rust and Bone”; Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant in Michael Haneke’s unflinching look at death, “Amour”; Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux as a lost, lonely family in Ursula Meier’s “Sister”; and Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg as a bethrothed couple at odds with their own natures and that of the Georgian wilderness in Julia Loktev’s “The Loneliest Planet.”

Check out the trailers featuring these performances below.


Jessica Chastain, “Zero Dark Thirty” (interview)

Daniel Day-Lewis, “Lincoln”

Emilie Dequenne, “Our Children”

Daniel Henshall, “The Snowtown Murders”

Mads Mikkelson, “The Hunt” (interview)

Rachel Mwanza, “War Witch”

Joaquin Phoenix, “The Master”


Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenaerts, “Rust and Bone” (interviews)

Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Louis Trintignant, “Amour”

Kacey Mottet Klein and Lea Seydoux, “Sister” (interview)

Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg, “The Loneliest Planet”


“The Impossible” (interviews: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor)

“Silver Linings Playbook” (interview: Jennifer Lawrence)



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