Some of you will know of Kodi Smit-McPhee, but others of you won’t. I’d like you all to know the name Kodi Smit-McPhee, even if it is a mouthful.
After featuring in his first feature film at just 10 years old, Romulus, My Father alongside Eric Bana, Kodi Smit-McPhee hit the jackpot, being cast in the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.
The Road (2009)
The Road is a painful spectacle. Set in a post-apocalypic nightmare Viggo Mortensen strives to keep his son (Smit-McPhee) alive. The pair face literally insurmountable odds as the desolation of his world leaves food, warmth and safety firmly in the past. The film is an ordeal, wrenching you inside out, not least because of Smit-McPhee’s vulnerable performance. The boy is but an infant, only a wink past toddling, yet he must face struggles, moral and physical, that none should face. The two actors are outstanding in bringing McCarthy’s masterpiece to life, and do the novel the cinematic justice it deserved.
His human and emotive performance alongside Viggo Mortensen brought Smit-McPhee some attention, landing roles in the horror films Let Me In (2010), Dead Europe (2012) and the ‘terrifying’ ParaNorman (2012). These roles lead him into his next standout performance in Ari Folman’s The Congress.
Ari Folman followed up his Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir with the experimental The Congress. The film is an critical, existential attempt to satirise the blind faith of humanity. In The Congress, Robin Wright has to face the end of her cinematic career, whilst caring for her son Aaron (Smit-McPhee) who suffers from Usher syndrome which slowly destroys his sight and hearing. Aaron is a boy untethered by his illness, as his ambition and imagination is in the skies. His performance is delicate, conveying a sadness cloaked by intrigue and human curiousity that frames the satire of the picture.
This role cemented Smit-McPhee’s abilities and place in the mid-budget, independent market. He followed up the eccentric The Congress with roles alongside Danny DeVito, Hailee Steinfeld and Sir Ben Kingsley. Following on from another high profile role in the blockbuster Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Smit-McPhee has continued his rich vein of form into 2015 with the brilliant Slow West.
Slow West (2015)
Whereas in The Road, Kodi was a mere infant and in The Congress, he was not yet a man, he is on the precipice of manhood in Slow West. Smit-McPhee plays a man in age, but child in wisdom, as naivety seeps from his young pores. It is only his character, and his appearance, that resembles that of a teenager, as his performance is that of a seasoned performer. His fresh-faced optimism is a strikingly comic contrast to the wandering Fassbender, whose character sniffs out this cash cow fields away. The relationship of young buck/old stallion follows the classic mentee/mentor tracks, but feels fresh in this comedy masquerading as a Western. In this very impressive picture, Smit-McPhee has surely shown that he can hold the screen as a solid secondary star.
Smit-McPhee will soon be a name known by cinephiles the world round, as he has been cast as Nightcrawler in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse. After starring alongside many superstars in his ten year career, this central role alongside Fassbender, McAvoy, Isaac, Lawrence, Hoult, Byrne and another ‘One to Watch’, Tye Sheridan, will only be of great benefit to the young actor. His Slow West character is called a “falling angel”, but his career trajectory can only point in the opposite direction.
Images courtesy of ShowbixAce, Collider, Entertainment Monthly and Entertainment Weekly respectively.