Here's to you, Snake Plisskin, R.J. MacReady, Jack O'Neil...
Vanilla Sky — McCabe (2001)
This one might seem like an odd inclusion on this list. After all, Russell’s McCabe isn’t even the protagonist of Vanilla Sky, but rather a small but integral supporting character. Nevertheless, even without a whole movie in which to stretch his legs, Russell still manages to make McCabe one of the best parts of the movie, an accomplishment that becomes even more impressive after the third-act reveal of what’s actually been going on. His role is very different from the other ones on this list, but no less impressive. Playing a psychiatrist counseling Tom Cruise’s David Aames, Russell as McCabe is tasked with portraying a sympathetic and paternal figure, one evocative of Gregory Peck’s Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, but without that homage beating us over the head. During the film’s brain-bending finale, Russell has to play a man suddenly learning that he is nothing but a figment, a convenient coping mechanism conjured up by Aames’ brain. There are plenty of problems with Vanilla Sky, but Russell is one element that is consistently excellent.
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