Wanted's James McAvoy: His Best-Reviewed Films

We run through the finest work -- so far -- of this rising star.

The action-thriller Wanted hits theaters this week, and though it's toplined by one of the biggest stars in the world (Angelina Jolie), it also features a young Scotsman who's making a name for himself as well: James McAvoy.

On these shores, McAvoy first earned notice for his work in HBO's Band of Brothers and the Sci-Fi Channel's Children of Dune. Since then, his star has risen, and it's not hard to see why; McAvoy plays characters of fundamental decency and charm, and has become something of a heartthrob with bookish ladies. Here's a rundown of McAvoy's best-reviewed work to date.


Bright Young Things (2004, 65 percent)

After years of acclaimed theatrical and television performances in the UK, McAvoy crossed the pond to US cinemas -- albeit joined by a formidable collection of Brit acting talent -- in Bright Young Things. Stephen Fry's directorial debut wryly follows the social goings-on of young upper-crust Britons in the 1930s, complete with scandal, romantic triangles, and generational conflict. It would seem difficult to stand out in a cast that features Richard E. Grant, Emily Mortimer, Simon Callow, Jim Broadbent, and Peter O'Toole, but McAvoy holds his own, playing a needy, manipulative scandal-sheet writer who still inspires empathy. "Newcomer James McAvoy [is] very good," wrote Derek Elley of Variety.






The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005, 75 percent)

It's not easy for an actor to establish a memorable screen persona when surrounded by acting heavyweights in the midst of a fantasy world while wearing a funny costume. But as Mr. Tumnus, a faun who acts as the welcome wagon for the Pevensie children in Narnia, McAvoy still managed to create an indelible impression -- again playing a morally-conflicted character who ultimately does the right thing. "Mr. Tumnus is simply one of the most jaw-dropping cinematic creatures invented yet, a stunning mix of filmmaking wizardry and McAvoy's soulful and physical thesping," wrote Laura Clifford of Reeling.






Atonement (2007, 83 percent)

Though he'd turned in some outstanding performances before, it was Atonement that provided McAvoy with his first big break. In a Golden Globe-nominated performance, McAvoy plays Robbie, the decent, hard-working son of a housekeeper on a posh estate with dreams of becoming a doctor. He's carried a torch for Cecilia (Keira Knightly), the eldest daughter of the upper-class Tallis clan. After tip-toeing around each other for years, the pair finally acknowledge a mutual attraction -- but their nascent romance is thwarted when Cecelia's younger sister (perhaps intentionally) misinterprets the nature of a late-night meeting -- and lands Robbie in the slammer. The rest of Atonement deals with the ramifications of that night, and it's a devastating portrait of star-crossed love. "Most people will recognize Knightley, but it's McAvoy who will have you talking after the credits roll," wrote Willie Waffle of WaffleMovies.com.






The Last King of Scotland (2006, 87 percent)

It's no insult to McAvoy to say he doesn't give the best performance in The Last King of Scotland. He's merely excellent, while Forest Whittaker, playing Ugandan strongman Idi Amin, is borderline possessed. But McAvoy's role is just as important; playing Garrigan, Amin's (fictional) personal doctor, he helps the audience understand the magnetic pull of evil, especially when it's veiled (initially, at least) in magnanimity. Garrigan begins his journey to Uganda as a na´ve liberal, gets in Amin's good graces after a chance meeting, rationalizes the leader's methods even as evidence mounts of genocide, and ultimately finds himself in over his head. It's a tricky balancing act, but McAvoy pulls it off. "Whitaker and McAvoy inhabit their roles so fully that the film around them transforms into a major document of 1970s cultural myopia," wrote Gabriel Shanks of Modern Fabulosity.






Starter for 10 (2007, 89 percent)

McAvoy excelled as an awkward, trivia-obsessed working-class collegian in this coming-of-age romantic comedy. McAvoy won high praise for his performance as Brian Jackson, an ambitious student who dreams of impressing the lads in his hometown by participating on a televised quiz show -- and overcoming his ineptitude with the ladies. Set in the 1980s, Starter for 10 examines the era's class politics without shorting on laughs, and McAvoy -- portraying a flawed but earnest character -- helped to elevate it above mere formula. "James McAvoy may be the most likable British newcomer since Ewan McGregor," wrote Desson Thomson of the Washington Post. "His glistening eyes can seduce audiences with their ability to show conflicting emotions."






And, finally, here's a musical interlude from the 2005 made-for-TV movie ShakespeaRe-Told:

Comments

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

The Last King of Scotland is one of the most over-rated lying film of all time. McAvoy's character was entirely INVENTED. Giant bag of suck.

Jun 25 - 07:01 PM

jokerboy1991

jack giroux

What? Nevermind dont get me started. I think after this weekend McAvoy will be bumped up to the A-list which he deserves. He was great in Atonement, Last King of Scotland, and Starter for 10 and all those movies were really good. I cant wait til Wanted, I think it is going to be awesome.

Jun 25 - 07:36 PM

pepsterboy

Tosapol Pibulsonggram

Looks like we have some pretty boy fans here. I'm sure Wanted is going to be pretty cool, but let's not get over excited about McAvoy being the next big thing in action flicks.

Jun 26 - 07:57 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

The Last King of Scotland was mostly made-up. It wouldn't be so bad if it were done in a less cliche and predictable manner. McAvoy's character drove me UP THE WALL.

I really don't get this guy's appeal.

Jun 25 - 07:50 PM

whiskeyriver

Rye O.

I've never heard "Last King of Scotland" called a giant bag of suck before. Completely baffling.

Jun 26 - 06:44 AM

pate

Olivier Patenaude

Dude... aren't pretty much every characters in movies entirely INVENTED??i dont hear anybody complaining about that. you need to roll with the puches a little better man. stop looking for flaws that aren't there to begin with.

Jun 28 - 05:38 AM

meascanbe

Matthew Heaggans

Um, Tom - I hate to break it to you, but movies are fake. At no point did anyone say anything about Mac's character being a real person. Ever. At all. As a matter of fact, its always been known that Dr. Garrigan was fictional. It was meant to be a mirror or counterpoint to Amin's brutality. Maybe you can sleep better now.

Jun 29 - 01:57 PM

birdfann33

Mark Summerside

are you kidding me, "The Last King..." was one of the best movies of the past couple years......a great telling of what happened and what continues to happen in Africa.....Both Forest and James were simply put AMAZING

Jun 29 - 04:23 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

Isn't it a bit premature to give the guy a "best-reviewed film" list? How many movies has he actually made?

Jun 25 - 07:10 PM

halose7en

Peter Kaplan

I agree it's a little early to be giving this guy a "best of" list. I'd honestly never even heard of him before "Wanted", despite the other films he's apparently been in. I don't know if that's more of a sign that I'm out of the loop, or that he just hasn't been in anything that outstanding. Either way, I'm going to see "Wanted". I have a feeling it will rock.

Jun 25 - 08:54 PM

naturegirl418

Doris Chaumont

It really doesn't matter how many movies James McAvoy has made. You are either a good actor or you are not and this guy is a terrific actor. To be able to play a character and make it believable and real is a gift. Not many actors can do that. The one thing that struck me about his acting is that (I don't know if I can explain this properly) he incorporates the normal facial expressions that we all do in his acting; for example: flaring his nostrils when portraying anxiety.... that kind of thing. Every emotion is shown on his face like you are looking at a real person who is actually going through that certain emotion. He can also play so many different roles and get away with it without getting typecast

Jun 29 - 02:50 PM

naturegirl418

Doris Chaumont

It really doesn't matter how many movies James McAvoy has made. You are either a good actor or you are not and this guy is a terrific actor. To be able to play a character and make it believable and real is a gift. Not many actors can do that. The one thing that struck me about his acting is that (I don't know if I can explain this properly) he incorporates the normal facial expressions that we all do in his acting; for example: flaring his nostrils when portraying anxiety.... that kind of thing. Every emotion is shown on his face like you are looking at a real person who is actually going through that certain emotion. He can also play so many different roles and get away with it without getting typecast

Jun 29 - 02:51 PM

jokerboy1991

jack giroux

What? Nevermind dont get me started. I think after this weekend McAvoy will be bumped up to the A-list which he deserves. He was great in Atonement, Last King of Scotland, and Starter for 10 and all those movies were really good. I cant wait til Wanted, I think it is going to be awesome.

Jun 25 - 07:36 PM

pepsterboy

Tosapol Pibulsonggram

Looks like we have some pretty boy fans here. I'm sure Wanted is going to be pretty cool, but let's not get over excited about McAvoy being the next big thing in action flicks.

Jun 26 - 07:57 PM

arendr

Arend Anton

The Last King of Scotland was mostly made-up. It wouldn't be so bad if it were done in a less cliche and predictable manner. McAvoy's character drove me UP THE WALL.

I really don't get this guy's appeal.

Jun 25 - 07:50 PM

halose7en

Peter Kaplan

I agree it's a little early to be giving this guy a "best of" list. I'd honestly never even heard of him before "Wanted", despite the other films he's apparently been in. I don't know if that's more of a sign that I'm out of the loop, or that he just hasn't been in anything that outstanding. Either way, I'm going to see "Wanted". I have a feeling it will rock.

Jun 25 - 08:54 PM

AustenFan

Chris Colflesh

McAvoy's career started in 1995 and, after graduating from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he has worked steadily (mostly in Britain) since 2000, with 25 films and television shows to his credit. He's on the verge of a major breakthrough, which he richly deserves. Can't wait to see what he does next.

BTW Why was LKOS a "lying" film? It's a thriller set in Amin's Uganda and doesn't purport to be anything else.

Jun 25 - 10:05 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

The way LKOS was advertised was that it bears some semblance to the truth. The main character was totally made up. The ending . . . well I won't spoil it. . . but that was just cliche and stupid.

AND the beginning was a waste of Gillian Anderson. . .


I know, why not make Mel Gibson's Munich?

. . . most of the Israeli olympiads convert split second to Christianity, and are saved by Jesus. The ones that don't convert get pelted to death with silver coins. . .

Jun 25 - 11:39 PM

A Lapse In Reason

Nick Haskell

why was the end cliche and stupid? What is your reasoning for this or do you just want to bag on the movie? I thought the ending was pretty good I would of liked to see the chap die. Like most of Amins victims, it would of been more realistic, the man was absolutely bonkers and the film portrayed that very well.

Jun 26 - 12:47 AM

A Lapse In Reason

Nick Haskell

why was the end cliche and stupid? What is your reasoning for this or do you just want to bag on the movie? I thought the ending was pretty good I would of liked to see the chap die. Like most of Amins victims, it would of been more realistic, the man was absolutely bonkers and the film portrayed that very well.

Jun 26 - 12:47 AM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

I think you answered your own question.

last second secret plane get-away. That's rare. . .

Jun 26 - 12:54 AM

Dycon

Christian Lyo

must we forget that in the end we are watching moving stills. i suggest you watch the documentary on Amin then watch Whitaker's performance and perhaps you'll place your comment into the same bag of suck.

Jul 1 - 02:13 PM

whiskeyriver

Rye O.

I've never heard "Last King of Scotland" called a giant bag of suck before. Completely baffling.

Jun 26 - 06:44 AM

arendr

Arend Anton

I don't agree that it was a "bag of suck" but it felt when watching it that it wasn't deserving of Forest Whitaker's performance. He was incredible, but that movie just didn't hold up too well otherwise.

Jun 26 - 09:06 AM

sunsaz

Chris Moore

Need I remind all the "Scotland" haters that the movie was based on a book? It's not like the producers gathered around and say "Hey, let's completely alter the story of this Ugandan dictator." It's a work of fiction and that's the bottom line.

Jun 26 - 12:07 PM

skywizard

jayanth g

yeah its based on the book, but only selectively... the ending of the movie is more like the halfway mark in the book. that's the reason the movie ending seemed unconvincing.

Jun 27 - 01:26 AM

catyb

caty bishop

sunsaz you voiced my exact opinion.
its not like there was disclaimer like,
'this is based on an actual person.'
it was a compilation of ACTUAL people,
and its not like an actor decides not to
do a magnificent story just because their character
isnt rooted in an actual event or person.

Jun 26 - 12:39 PM

Jen Yamato

Jen Yamato

I think maybe if you haven't heard of James McAvoy, you *may* be out of the loop...a little bit. I highly recommend Atonement, for anyone who hasn't seen it. Library scene...hot.

Jun 26 - 01:41 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Seriously, my fiance and I rewound it twice....ok 3 times.

Jun 26 - 11:00 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Seriously, my fiance and I rewound it twice....ok 3 times.

Jun 26 - 11:01 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Ok didn't mean to repost that twice.

Jun 26 - 11:02 PM

tomwaitsjrHAPPYICONOCLAST

Greg Guro

Maybe I was ticked off at LKOS by the press. I do think they intended it to appear as a biography of sorts.

IMDB, yah I know, says this: Based on the events of the brutal Ugandan dictator Idi Amin's regime as seen by his personal physician during the 1970s (blah blah blah)

Yah read that, and you think it's a biography, or at least has some semblance of truth. . . not even "in the spirt of."

However, I know when I'm in the minority. I'll stop arguing as it makes me seem Troll-Like. . .

Jun 26 - 02:08 PM

curiouscat

av h

McAvoy is great. Although I have to agree with several of the comments here about Last King... maybe that's just the nature of invented characters based on several real personalities.

It's in Macbeth and Atonement that I saw how good he can be. Maybe give him a few years, he'll really deserve this list already.

Jun 26 - 05:09 PM

pepsterboy

Tosapol Pibulsonggram

Looks like we have some pretty boy fans here. I'm sure Wanted is going to be pretty cool, but let's not get over excited about McAvoy being the next big thing in action flicks.

Jun 26 - 07:57 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Seriously, my fiance and I rewound it twice....ok 3 times.

Jun 26 - 11:00 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Seriously, my fiance and I rewound it twice....ok 3 times.

Jun 26 - 11:01 PM

Young Turk

Joe Massino

Ok didn't mean to repost that twice.

Jun 26 - 11:02 PM

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