5. Andrew Garfield in Never Let Me Go
We're never really sure why Kathy (Carey Mulligan) falls in love with Tommy (Garfield).
We're never really sure why Ruth (Keira Knightley) steals him from her either.
The thing about Tommy is that he's barely there and as such serves as a perfect canvas for others to imprint their feelings and idealism on him.
Garfield plays the part with a heartbreaking lack of self awareness. Tommy is one of the first characters we meet in the film and as often as we forget he's there, his bittersweet smile stabs our heart when we least expect it to.
4. Armie Hammer in The Social Network
"I'm 6'5, 220 and there's two of me" says an angry Tyler Winklevoss (Hammer) to his friend Divya (Max Minghella) and his brother Cameron (Hammer again).
They're talking about ways they can find to gut the friggin' nerd (Jesse Eisenberg's Mark Zuckerberg) who stole their website from them and Hammer does it with such grace that we think we're watching a hybrid of Clint Eastwood and Sir Laurence Olivier.
The Winklevi's commitment to Harvard law and their need to fulfill a social role is only overpowered by a rash masculinity they let us see flashes of now and then.
Hammer is remarkable in both roles and thanks to the editing and visual effects he creates two characters that are completely different and unique.
His inclusion here might be owed to the fact that nobody in the movie delivers Aaron Sorkin's lines with the elegance he does. When you multiply that plus two, you're prepared to have your mind blown away.
3. Sullivan Stapleton in Animal Kingdom
The Cody family knows good violence and isn't afraid to ask. Yet when recently orphaned teenager Joshua (James Frecheville) arrives to live with his uncles and grandmother things take an unexpected turn.
As the consequences of their acts begin to catch up with them, no other family member is as hypnotic to watch as Craig (Stapleton). Watching his descent into a self made hell is a thing that's both morally expected and completely devastating.
Stapleton plays Craig like someone who's half regretful, half surprised about the events that begin to unravel and this is what makes his performance so effective (His final scene is astonishing!)
He has an almost childlike innocence about him that make us believe that as much as he was a criminal, he was a victim.
2. Vincent Cassel in Black Swan
If someone was ever casting the role of the snake that tempted Eve to taste the apple in the Garden of Eden, Vincent Cassel should instantly win the part.
He embodies sliminess and seductive cruelty as Thomas Leroy in Black Swan. He's the creative director for the ballet company that psycho ballerina Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) attends and as such he gets the opportunity to tease, seduce and even destroy the fragile women at his command.
Cassel gets stuck with some of the most preposterous lines in the screenplay ("The real work would be your metamorphosis into her evil twin", "you could be brilliant, but you're a coward", "to beauty!","my little princess") but the actor is so aware of the theatricality and darkness in his character that he's always ready to give us more of that bite.
1. John Hawkes in Winter's Bone
Teadrop is an enigma. Everything he does seems to be coming from an impulse deep within that not even he knew existed. His quiet presence when we first meet him is perhaps more unnerving than the eventual outburst of violence he shows.
Yet there is something almost primal hiding under the surface; the way he acts with Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) lets us know that he may not be a man of sweetness but he's certainly a man of conviction.
We often are terrified whenever he comes onscreen, then we are soothed by the fatherly way in which he defends his niece but when the movie ends we are left waiting for a revelation that never comes. Ree might be Winter's Bone heart but Teardrop gives it its haunting soul.