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9 Michael Shannon roles that are off the charts with intensity #TheShapeOfWater

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Guillermo del Toro's shimmeringly beautiful The Shape of Water is on release now in Cineworld. It's a quintessential Beauty and the Beast fairytale, exploring the unexpected romance that blooms between mute janitor Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and an amphibious creature (Doug Jones). A tender and gorgeous love story, the movie leads the charge at this year's Oscars with 13 nominations.

But of course, every fable worth its salt needs a monster to counterbalance the happier elements. Step forward Michael Shannon's brutal Colonel Strickland, the vicious character who threatens to break Elisa's new-found happiness apart. It's the latest in a long line of brilliantly intense performances from Shannon, so we've decided to recap nine of his greatest.


1. 8 Mile (2002)

Let's be honest, you forget Shannon was even in this, right? One of his most prominent early roles came in Curtis Hanson's acclaimed rap drama, the semi-autobiographical story of star Eminem. But even though Marshal Mathers is the star, Shannon more than holds his own in an enjoyably despicable turn as Greg. He's the abusive on-screen boyfriend of Kim Basinger's character, and the moment where he gets his comeuppance is extremely satisfying.


2. Bug (2006)

The Exorcist director William Friedkin isn't one to make the audience feel comfortable. He ratchets up the intensity in this claustrophobic adaptation of Tracy Letts' play, in which two people go mad in a motel room. And in the form of the explosive Shannon, the director finds exactly the right kind of outlet to give voice to the film's paranoia and terror. In the role that brought him to wider international attention, the actor is sensational.


3. Revolutionary Road (2008)

Shannon's first Oscar nomination came for Sam Mendes' domestic drama. Ironically enough, given he's carved out a career playing baddies, Shannon isn't necessarily an antagonist, instead playing a troubled soul who speaks the truth and causes problems for everybody else. He plays John Givings, a recent mental asylum inmate who bores down beneath the sham marriage of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's characters. It's both darkly comic and upsetting – exactly what we've come to expect from Shannon.


4. Boardwalk Empire (2010 – 2014)

Shannon hasn't just burned up the big screen. One his most acclaimed performances was as puritanical FBI agent Nelson van Alden in this acclaimed historical gangster series. Laced with violence and shocking moments, Boardwalk Empire hoovered up awards for its star-studded cast, but even so the hugely complex van Alden, a man torn between righteousness and hideous acts of violence, emerged as a signature Shannon character.


5. Take Shelter (2011)

One of Shannon's most enduring collaborations is with director Jeff Nichols. It's a partnership that has encompassed gritty family drama Shotgun Stories, sci-fi road movie Midnight Special and fact-based inter-racial love story Loving. Even so, their most acclaimed team-up came in stark environmental fable Take Shelter, one that offers a quintessential Shannon performance as a man driven mad by his seeming knowledge of an impending apocalypse. The inevitable meltdown scene demonstrates why he's so revered as an actor.


6. The Iceman (2013)

Don't expect many smiles in this grim account of infamous real-life contract killer Richard Kuklinski. A hitman for the mob, Kuklinski is rumoured to have executed hundreds of people, and the darkness inherent in his character matches perfectly with Shannon's characteristic intensity. Granite-faced and imposing in disposition, the actor fashions an intimidating yet complex individual, one who struggles to keep his violent career and low-key family life separate.


7. Man of Steel (2013)

If anyone's going to make Superman quake in his boots, it's a baddie played by Michael Shannon. The latter takes on the role of Supes' Kryptonian nemesis General Zod, a fearsome and humourless presence who's a step above the usual cardboard pantomime baddie. Shannon truly makes you believe Zod will endanger and eliminate anyone in his path, generating a degree of tension even when the movie descends into a lot of noisy CGI smashing and crashing in its final stages.


8. 99 Homes (2015)

One of Shannon's great abilities is to dig inside loathsome characters and make us somehow relate to their cause. His shark-like real estate agent Rick Carver, antagonist of urgent drama 99 Homes is a case in point. He's a person who's made a killing off turfing people out of their homes. But, as he explains, he's merely ahead of the economic wave, acting not out of personal reasons but simply out of a desire to avoid going under. Carver is a chilling symbol of financial corruption in the 21st century, and Shannon acts it beautifully.


9. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Shannon's second Oscar nomination came for Tom Ford's disturbing thriller. The movie stars Amy Adams as a woman who receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal), the story seemingly acting as a metaphorical statement of their relationship. Shannon appears within the story as relentless Sheriff Bobby Andes, a man with a glare so sharp we can almost cut ourselves on it. He was reported to have stayed in character even when the cameras stopped rolling – now that's why Shannon is such a good actor.

Don't miss Michael Shannon's latest brilliantly despicable performance. Click here to book your tickets for The Shape of Water and tweet us your reactions @Cineworld.