Tom Hardy did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Michael Peterson also known as Charles Bronson in Bronson.
This is my first review of a performance by Tom Hardy who is one of the most interesting younger actors around the reason for this can easily be seen through his performance here. Hardy physically transformed himself in the role, as he again did playing Bane later on, he built himself to be a hulking individual. Hardy's muscle bound physique certainly adds to to the whole film, and without a doubt Hardy makes himself look like the real man while also making it so you never once doubt the criminal nature of his character. Hardy hardly leaves the muscles to do the work though in creating Michael Peterson/Charles Bronson and meeting the challenge found in playing in this film. The man is already rather odd individual to begin with from what he did in reality, but this film is not solely interested in the more literal events of the man's life.
A substantial amount of the film is a performance within the performance by Hardy, and even this is broken into two segments of sorts. One where Bronson appears to be performing in front of an audience some strange reenactment of his life, and another where he is directly we as the audience in a form of narration. In his narration Hardy stares straight at you with a fierce intensity quite fitting the brutal nature of the man. Along with that you get the unwavering accent that Hardy uses in the role. It always comes off as completely naturally which is important and it also amplifies Bronson's nature quite brilliantly. The reenactment is quite different though in that you could kind of say that Hardy is playing another role since not only does Bronson act as though he is someone else but also these scenes are suppose to be a performance.
Hardy is incredibly magnetic in these scenes and it is fascinating just to watch him perform as Bronson performing his various acts. Hardy has the right type of fun in these scenes as brings out the joy of performance to be sure but he rather shrewdly does it through the character of Bronson rather than seeming as though it is coming from Hardy himself. Hardy's method is particularly in that he manages to show such a delight in Bronson in basically every part of his life that he describes no matter what it may entail even if what it entails some rather brutal crimes which are usually some rather brutal beatings for all involved. Hardy very simply is amazing to watch though in every moment he has, and honestly Hardy probably could have made a compelling film if all the film was Bronson's very bizarre stage performance.
The rest of the film we follow Michael Peterson in his A Clockwork Orange type of story as we follow him through his most unusual life of crime. His life of crime is particularly odd because throughout the film he only commits a few crimes outside of prison. The scenes outside of prison are brief but Hardy makes the most of them in the way he plays with Bronson's behavior. Hardy has this element he brings in Bronson as he tries to interact in the outside world where there is a constant awkwardness to him. Hardy always brings this fairly odd intensity in it in that it is not why you might expect. There certainly is the more traditional violent intensity in Hardy's performance but there is more to that than that. The intensity Hardy infuses is that of a man who seems unable to really respond like a normal person in that Hardy shows that Bronson never seems right in any scene where he is on the outside.
Bronson barely spends any time outside though and spends most of the time in prison where he technically does not really fit either since he spends most of his time beating guards as brutally as possible in turn being beaten himself and being thrown into solitary confinement. Bronson is a most unusual man and Hardy in turn gives a most unusual performance yet it always seems genuine in the creation of the man. Bronson is not a character who really has much of an arc in that although he has a pattern he does not really change much as man no matter what might be going on. That does not mean the character or Hardy's performance ever becomes uninteresting or repetitive as Hardy turns Bronson into such peculiar but always compelling character no matter what even when it is always rather doubly reinforced how much of a brute that he might be.
Hardy is very charismatic with Bronson and he carries a unquestionable presence in every scene he is in, and purposefully makes Bronson an entity who insists upon himself. Hardy allows it to be believed that anyone would spend more than a moment with Bronson through the strange charisma he does derive through performance. There is some odd slight refinement that Hardy gives the man that seems completely opposed to the man himself especially in light of his various action throughout the film, but Hardy makes it exactly who Bronson is. The funny thing about it is there is no moment in which Hardy ever really lies about the nature of Bronson either, or tries to show Bronson lying in some way. No instead Hardy makes this alluring qualities to the man something that is part of the madness that lies within him.
Bronson is a brutal man though whose greatest past time is beating others or trying his hardest to get into a situation where he will beat others. Hardy presents Bronson as a man who lives for the fight in terms of both a sadistic glee he gets from his success, but also everything surrounding the build up to the fight. Even in the real experiences Hardy still treats Bronson as giving a performance in the fight scenes, fitting for the movie star name he has adopted, in that Bronson likes the build it up proper. Again it is pure insanity as he threatens extreme violence just to take a violent beating himself, while doing odd things like having a guard oil him up like a wrestler, it is all insanity and Hardy is terrific because all of the insanity seems uniquely part of Bronson. He's crazy to be sure and his actions are absurd, but Hardy only ever presents makes them the strange expressions of Bronson.
One great set of scenes for Hardy involve when Bronson is sent to a mental institution instead of a prison. Hardy uses these scenes well to show a slightly different side of Bronson that also suggests more about Bronson as a whole. In these scenes Hardy shows Bronson honestly most as an actual prisoner more than he is in the actual prisons. In these moments his chances for violence and for the fight are severely limited and Hardy for once tones down his magnetism. In the sterile environment Hardy makes Bronson a man completely lost for once and that what he lives for is the fight, and really without his chances for violence Bronson basically loses his spark in life. Hardy rather interestingly perhaps does indeed make Bronson at his most "sane" technically speaking, and in doing so allows us to see why exactly he behaves the way he does in prison.
This is a fantastic performance by Tom Hardy as he simply realizes Bronson as a person and allows us to observe this strange man for the duration of the film. Bronson could have easily been just a repulsive figure and he technically still is even as Hardy plays him, but Hardy makes him such a watchable repulsive man. Hardy realizes Bronson so perfectly that he does indeed just becomes Charles Bronson which is quite an achievement no only because he realizes the larger than life qualities of the man both literally and metaphorically he also realizes the man as vividly man and in doing so making sense of a man who's actions so often can seem rather senseless. Bronson could have fallen apart if the lead performance was at all inadequate, but Hardy has a unquestionable grasp on the material and carries the film on his back rather magnificently.