We’re fast hitting a tipping point where it is no longer socially acceptable to not know about Swedish ingénue Alicia Vikander. Okay, maybe you missed her powerful turn in the devastating historical drama A Royal Affair. Cool. Not all of us are up on our Danish cinema. Maybe you overlooked her in Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, what with its explosion of color, luxury and cinematic wonder. But in 2015, Vikander is invading just about every genre of cinema. So get on board, or be left in the dust.
Sure, the year started off bumpy with Seventh Son, a long-shelved fantasy adventure mostly memorable for how uncomfortable it presumably made Julianne Moore’s Oscar campaigning. (Please focus on Still Alice, not that time I played a witch with a dragon’s tail!) But for all its faults, Vikander managed to bring an inarguable charm to her witchy seductress role. Then came Ex Machina.
As Ava, she not only terrified us about the inevitable android revolution, but also delivered a performance that will go down in sci-fi history for its balance of heart and horror. Ex Machina is a deliciously great movie that’s already being deemed a classic. And Vikander’s deft performance of its haunting android deserves a great deal of the credit. (Though, hey Oscar Isaac’s dance moves are owed a shout-out.)
Now, I’ve seen all of the movies mentioned above. So, I tend to look out for movies starring this Swedish stunner. Still, I wasn’t prepared for the gorgeous glory that is Testament of Youth. Opening today, this biopic has Vikander playing Vera Brittain, a young English woman who captured the spirit before, during and following World War I in her heartbreaking memoir.
For those who weren’t assigned this historic tome in school, it begins with Brittain’s battle to go to college (when it was still strange a woman would want such a thing). But her ideal of a happy college experience shared with her beloved brother (Taron Egerton of Kingsman: The Secret Service) and her beautiful beau (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington) is shattered with the beginning of WWI. Her boys enlist, and soon she too decides to join the cause, giving up her coursework to become a volunteer nurse. And then tragedy hits hard and often.
Testament of Youth is a tale of courage, both on the battlefield and on the homefront. But what makes Vikander’s performance so remarkable is that she’s not afraid to make Vera hard. Brittain was a woman ahead of her time, who resented people assuming she wanted some simple quiet life just because she was female. She quarreled hard with her father, fearlessly criticized her male peers, and spoke out about her politics and beliefs no matter how unpopular. As seen in this film, she’s exactly the kind of ambitious, unrepentantly outspoken individual who’d be sneered at as a “bitch” by many today. But neither Vikander nor director James Kent try to soften Brittain to make her more affable. Because she is not the problem.
Between this an Ex Machina, Vikander offers a range in impactful performances that make me wish the Oscars had a special category for the actor who showed the most range in a given year. (It could just be called The SWINTON for obvious reasons.) But Vikander’s not slowing down with just three films this year. She’s got potentially five more hitting before 2015 wraps up.
Next up is Guy Ritchie’s action-comedy The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Based on the 1960s TV series, it stars Henry Cavill as a spy or something. Guys, I don’t care. The trailers had me from the moment Vikander shimmied in looking all Audrey Hepburn mod.
Ok. So she giving us a wild fantasy-adventure, a chilling sci-fi thriller, a beautiful biopic, and a zippy action-comedy. But in case you want a flat-out comedy, Vikander has also got Adam Jones with Bradley Cooper set for October. From the helmer of August: Osage County, this film centers on a cocky chef (possibly like Cooper played in Kitchen Confidential) who comes to London to clean up his act. With a cast that includes such heralded actors as Sienna Miller (American Sniper), Daniel Bruhl (Rush), Omar Sy (The Intouchables) and Emma Thompson (Sense and Sensibility), this laffer is sure to get notice, and should further instill Vikander’s name in the minds of the American public.
But that’s not all, because just in time for Oscar season comes The Danish Girl. This is the one we’ve been a bit worried about as it stars cisgendered male Eddie Redmayne as trans artist Lili Elbe. In the wake of overwhelming support the transgender community has seen with Caitlyn Jenner’s coming out, we suspect director Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) will do his damndest to be respectful to this tricky topic that we as a society are still navigating the best way to discuss. But to be perfectly cynical, the Academy is likely to eat this up regardless. They go gaga over Hooper’s predictable brand of dramatics. So while I’ll lament the tedium of Oscar picks when it positions Redmayne for a repeat victory, I take comfort in that Vikander’s role as Elbe’s wife Gerda is sure to drawn her scads of well-deserved spotlight time, if not an nod of her own.
On top of these, the romantic drama Tulip Fever and Derek Cianfrance’s The Light Between Oceans could debut this year too. The former boasts a cast that includes such rising stars as Cara Delevingne and Jack O’Connell, along with fuck-yeah performers Christoph Waltz, Tom Hollander, and Judi Dench. And the latter co-stars Vikander’s unfairly hot boyfriend Michael Fassbender. So we expect the movie and its press tour will have lions running wild.
And could all this lead to her securing a role opposite Fassbender in the Assassin’s Creed epic? That’s the rumor. But even without this, Vikander is on the kind of meteoric rise we saw Channing Tatum achieve in 2012, courtesy of The Vow, 21 Jump Street, and Magic Mike. So mark it down. 2015 is the year of Vikander. And for film fans that means it’s a great time to be alive.