Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 March 2019

The loner list: 8 impressive one-actor films

Chances for actors to shine as a solo star on the big screen are rare, but not unheard of. Chris Newbould rounds up a few of the best one-person cinematic shows.


The Shallows

In The Shallows, Blake Lively is given that rarest of opportunities for an actor – to carry an entire movie on the strength of her own performance. She stars as a surfer stranded on a tiny rock a few hundred yards from shore while a great white shark circles, waiting to strike – and for most of the film, she is on screen alone. It’s the sort of role that can make or break an actor. In this case, the critic’s verdict is that Lively has nailed it. The film has a 76 per cent approval rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.



Blake Lively did not have to look too far from home for advice while preparing for her solo show in The Shallows – in fact, she didn’t have to leave home at all.

Her husband, Ryan Reynolds, went at it alone in Rodrigo Cortés nightmarish 2010 thriller Buried, in which he played a lorry driver who is kidnapped and buried alive in Iraq.

The entire film is shot within the cramped confines of the coffin, where Reynolds is trapped with nothing but a mobile phone and a lighter. His performance and the relentlessly claustrophobic shooting style effectively convey his terrifying ordeal to the audience.

Reynolds picked up a clutch of nominations for best actor, and won a Chainsaw Award from horror-magazine Fangoria.



Tom Hardy has been in some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters of recent years, including The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant.

Perhaps his most stunning performance, however, is in the low-budget Brit flick, Locke. In it he plays Ivan Locke, a building foreman who is driving along a motorway from Birmingham to London, where a woman with whom he had a one-night stand is about to give birth.

During the course of his journey, Locke makes and receives several phone calls with the mother-to-be, his wife, and colleagues involved in a major building project that suddenly faces unexpected problems.

He is behind the wheel of his car for almost the entire movie, which was filmed in real time in a continuous shot that was only interrupted when the camera’s memory card had to be changed.


Cast Away

Following a plane crash, Tom Hanks is stranded on a desert island with only a volleyball, which he names Wilson, for company.

Over the course of a four-year ordeal, he becomes a master at spearfishing, starting fires and DIY dentistry before he plots a do-or-die escape attempt on a raft partly built from a portable toilet.

It seems amazing that this movie from 2000, primarily featuring just one man, alone on island could have cost US$90 million (Dh330.5m) to make – though stars such as Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis do not come cheap.

Still, the movie grossed almost five times as much and earned Hanks an Oscar nomination, so nobody was complaining about the price tag.

Wilson also won a Critics Choice Award for Best Inanimate Object.


All is Lost

Robert Redford took his turn to be lost at sea in this 2013 thriller, but unlike Hanks he did not have the “luxury” of a desert island to be washed up on – just a damaged and leaky boat.

In the absence of radio, telephone or even a ball-shaped imaginary friend, Redford barely speaks at all, but his performance still earned him a Golden Globe nomination and a New York Film Critics Circle Award.



Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, who is all alone on an automated mining base on the Moon, with only artificial intelligence Gerty for company.

Just a few weeks from the end of his three-year assignment, Bell comes to suspect that all is not as it seems with his situation, leading to the ultimate identity crisis.

The 2009 movie marked the feature-film directorial debut of Duncan Jones, son of singer David Bowie, and featured Kevin Spacey as the voice of Gerty.


Silent Running

An early environmental fable, Silent Running stars Bruce Dern as a botanist who finds himself alone in space after taking drastic action to protect the precious plants he is caring for aboard a space freighter. They are the last surviving samples from Earth, where all plant life has become extinct.

He does at least have three cute service robots for company – which he calls Huey, Dewey and Louie – and to help with his forestry activities.

Douglas Trumbull’s 1972 movie is a cult classic and has been cited as an influence on movies and TV shows such as Battlestar Galactica and Red Dwarf.

In 2011, experimental rock band 65daysofstatic wrote a new version of the soundtrack for a special screening of the film, commissioned by the Glasgow Film Festival in Scotland.



Alfonso Cuarón’s acclaimed drama Gravity featured Sandra Bullock as the latest star to find herself lost in space (if you don’t count Matt Damon in last year’s The Martian – but his crewmates and colleagues in mission control get a lot of screen time as they try to figure out a way to help him, which means it is not a solo movie in the strictest sense).

She plays an astronaut who is part of a mission that turns deadly when its shuttle is destroyed by space debris.

So begins her struggle to survive and find an alternative way to return to Earth. Initially helped by her mission commander (played by George Clooney), they are soon separated and Bullock finds herself on her own.

The 2013 action-drama was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won seven, including best director.

Updated: August 16, 2016 04:00 AM