Richard Attenborough did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a BAFTA nomination, for portraying Tom Curtis in The Angry Silence.
Richard Attenborough will always be one of the most underrated and best actors who has ever lived. I've had the privilege to cover several of Attenborough's underrated turns, there's no such thing as an overrated or even properly praised turn by him.The Angry Silence though seems even under seen as Attenborough fair goes, although that falls right in line with the work of the underrated Guy Green as a director. Attenborough here plays a very modest role. Tom Curtis is just a factory worker with a family. He has a wife Anna (Pier Angeli) and two kids, there's nothing out of the ordinary about the man. Attenborough gives a matching performance in the early scenes of the film. He's got that usual low key Attenborough charm, but just in a very natural fashion. It is interesting the way Attenborough actually doesn't try to make Tom stand out in these scenes. Oh he's still engaging, Attenborough just naturally has this certain magnetism about him, but Attenborough really let's Tom just be a normal guy, no more no less.
There is such honesty in Attenborough's depiction of essentially the nature of Tom. In the scenes with his wife Attenborough is excellent in exuding a genuine love though with understandable minor difficulties that still are apparent. I particularly love the way Attenborough brings so much real affection in whenever Tom apologizes for yelling, which he also depicts as only short minor outbursts natural to basically anyone. Tom is probably even more modest at work. Attenborough only presents him as a man who just wants to be able to go about his business. He shows a man who just really wants to work, though he always portrays a proper camaraderie with the other workers as they go about their duties. A curious problem arises though when the talk of a strike begins, mainly through the efforts of a purposeful rabble rouser, despite the fact that that Union itself is not properly officiating it. When the vote is called, Tom votes against it, but Attenborough's earnest face only reveals a man voting with only his conscience, though with perhaps a bit of nervousness due to being part of the minority group.
The group Tom is part of, because of the unofficial nature of the strike, decide to continue to work much to the outrage of the rest of the workers. This leads to reprisals by the rest of the workers as they harass the other men. This leads the anti-strikers group to just join the strike. Tom though is visited by one of the heads of the strike Bert (Bernard Lee). Attenborough is great in this scene because he very much keeps Tom his modest self as he speaks about why he continued to work. The passion Attenborough brings behind this is clear but muted fitting the man who we have known up until this point. Tom even seems to be even willing to agree to stop their counter strike of sorts, just to get it all over with. The problem is Bert decides to push the issue and attempts to illicit some sort of apology from Tom. Attenborough brings such power in his reaction as he reveals a man who doesn't really wish to act out but has no other choice. The real passion in Tom is shown by Attenborough as he states with such conviction his distaste in the strikers' actions because they threatened his family.
Tom decides to continue to strike, even though they other dissenters have stopped, so when they return to work the remaining workers choose to ostracize Tom by giving him the silent treatment. Attenborough is incredibly moving in portraying such quiet sadness in Tom as he's so poorly treated by his former friends. Again Attenborough makes it all the more palatable because he stays true to Tom's nature at every turn. Attenborough though wears the pain so well as a man who still always tries to hide it best he can. There's a terrific moment where Tom is interviewed by a reporter, who doesn't wish to help Tom at all, about his treatment. Attenborough conveys the way Tom is holding back as he does not want to say to much, but cannot help but still stay the true in his own unassuming way. This only becomes worse for Tom though as the management really doesn't care for him, and the workers only continue to make his life worse. This goes so far as they begin to do whatever it takes to get him to leave, which eventually leads to his son being attacked at school.
Attenborough is incredible in the way he builds the volcanic pressure in Tom. It is gradual yet especially striking through the way Attenborough earns this from the modest man that it is Tom. He never rushes this yet lets it build to the moment in which Tom breaks and he finally unleashes his outrage against the crowd. Attenborough is tremendous as you feel that everything Tom has pent up is coming out in this moment. Attenborough also makes the scene rather heartbreaking though because he shows how this treatment has brought Tom to a point that is essentially against his nature as a person. Tom ends up going against the second unofficial strike and Attenborough unquestionably makes this believable. He's outstanding because he realizes such a strong conviction that is always that of the man Tom has always been, and is actually the cruelty he has suffered that has caused him to reach this point. It's a brilliantly realized arc by Attenborough since he so naturally portrays this quiet man being pushed to the edge.