Which Tom Hanks performance is your favourite? Having played countless charming roles across over 40 years in the industry, truly there is no right or wrong answer. Whether it’s the loyal courage of Woody in Toy Story, the endearing perseverance of the titular Forrest Gump or Saving Private Ryan’s steely Captain Miller, any answer you give is valid and this is because every Tom Hanks performance is exactly the same.
Giving across the impression of a warm, affable figure in a cold and heartless movie industry, to many, Hanks is an icon of Hollywood who can do no wrong, and whilst this remains undeniably true (Did you know that Tom Hanks has an obsession with typewriters, owning 250 in total?) he is also a wildly overrated dramatic performer.
Such long-held ruminations have only been revitalised in the actor’s latest role as Colonel Tom Parker in Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of Elvis Presley, where ‘The King’ is depicted by Hanks’ co-star Austin Butler. Playing an absurd cartoon villain, Hanks dons heavy prosthetics and a fat suit for his supporting part in the flashy musical cabaret, playing the character with so much melodrama that he takes the very true story into the realms of parody.
Unfortunately, however, this isn’t only the case for the brand new biopic, with Hanks seemingly pretending to be an actor for several decades now, acting with exactly the same mannerisms and vocal cadence in Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Polar Express, Captain Phillips, Saving Mr Banks and pretty much any other film he chooses to star in.
Indeed, when he dares to step out of this comfort zone, his performance morphs into something so unbearably goofy that it simply turns the respective film into parody. No doubt, his most iconic role as the titular charmer Forrest Gump, expresses this parody most accurately, with Hanks playing an absurd caricature with a peculiar Southern accent whose legacy in cinema history has not aged well.
Much like how Woody Allen seemed incapable of escaping his own bold personality, so too is Tom Hanks restricted to consistently dull one-note performances that prevent him from being considered among the very best.
No matter how many layers of prosthetics he’s wearing, what costume he wears or what era he’s starring in, every Tom Hanks performance feels as familiar as the last, making him just seem like a Hollywood prop who’s wheeled out every now and then to fill a casting gap. With a truly unnatural ability to fill the shoes of another character, every Hanks performance feels like panto, with Disney giving him no favours in the latest trailer for the live-action adaptation of Pinocchio, handing him little more than a stick-on novelty moustache as he delivers his lines with the same-old delivery in the short clip.
Certainly capable of delivering a quality performance, Tom Hanks is no ‘bad actor’ but he is most definitely a severely limited one, failing to diversify from movie to movie, character to character. Can you honestly look at Colonel Tom Parker, Fred Rogers, Captain Richard Phillips, Larry Crowne or any other of the actor’s classic characters and see anyone but Tom Hanks himself?