Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman’s commanding voice and powerful presence have earned him an on-screen reputation as a sagacious saviour figure. Almost always the angel on the main protagonist’s shoulder, even in less obvious roles like The Shawshank Redemption (1993) and Amistad (1997), Freeman’s performances are layered with an unmatched gravitas that make him perfect for wise authority figures. Here’s a look at some of the actor’s best unsung hero performances.
In what would be his first collaboration with long-time friend Clint Eastwood, Freeman plays retired gunfighter Ned Logan in the critically acclaimed western Unforgiven. Logan joins William Munny (Eastwood) on a perilous manhunt to exact justice on two cowboys who disfigured a local prostitute. The film garnered several accolades, and Morgan Freeman ’s heartrending performance as reluctant avenger Logan stood out alongside fellow acting heavyweights Gene Hackman and Richard Harris.
Deep Impact (1998)
When a teenager and his teacher discover a strange object near the stars, they alert a local astronomer who soon realizes that the object is actually a comet headed directly for Earth. Unfortunately, the astronomer dies suddenly before he can relay the message. A year later, danger looms closer and greater than before, threatening mass extinction. Earth’s only hope is that the Messiah crew—named for the spacecraft on which the world’s hopes rest—can divert the comet before it hits. In the midst of the pandemonium is Morgan Freeman ’s President Tom Beck; the actor turns in yet another solid, weighty performance as a beacon of hope for his nation.
Bruce Almighty (2003)
In a rather surprising comedic turn, Morgan Freeman took on the role of God opposite Jim Carrey in the side-splitting comedy Bruce Almighty. Carrey stars as Bruce Nolan, an ambitious but unlucky television reporter, who complains that God isn’t doing His job properly. In an effort to prove Bruce wrong, God gives the reporter His powers for a week. Morgan Freeman, known largely for his intensely dramatic performances, proved himself quite the chameleon in this effortless light-hearted performance as the ultimate authority figure. The actor reprised the role in the film’s sequel Evan Almighty (2007) opposite Steve Carrell in a modern re-telling of Noah and the ark.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
Freeman brings astute businessman and skilled armourer Lucius Fox to life with grace and charm in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy. Not only does Fox run Wayne Enterprises on behalf of Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne, but his innovative and inspired work as an armourer gets Batman out of many a jam. If Alfred is Bruce’s father figure, Lucius is his most trusted advisor, preserving the rash young superhero’s principles whenever a villain threatens to challenge them.
In the much-coveted role as iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela, Freeman wowed critics and audiences alike with his measured, poignant performance. In an effort to unite a land ravaged by injustice and apartheid, Mandela calls upon the captain of the national rugby team François Pienaar (Matt Damon) and encourages him to lead the team to victory. The heart-warming historical drama opened at #3 in the box office on its opening weekend and also earned Freeman yet another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
When former black ops CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) finds himself the target of a hit squad, he sets out to reassemble his old team to help track down the perpetrator. This retired group of misfits includes Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich), Victoria Winters (Helen Mirren) and finally Frank’s terminally ill mentor Joe Matheson, in yet another hugely engaging performance by Freeman.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
In Antoine Fuqua’s box office smash Olympus Has Fallen, Morgan Freeman plays Speaker of the House Alan Trumbull who must act as president when actual President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) and the White House are taken hostage by a North Korean radical. Newly demoted Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) fights back, not just for his country, but also for the friendship he and Asher once shared. As Acting President, it is Trumbull who Banning maintains contact with and Trumbull who must put on a strong face for the sake of the country. Once again, Freeman brings his natural, winsome presence and stands out where others might have been easily overshadowed.
Olympus Has Fallen will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Download from 26th August.