2016 has been in a word, cruel. Legends have been passing away left and right and very sadly, Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin has passed away at the young age of 27. Yelchin has been a very strong talent in Hollywood for most of his life and he was very much a star on the rise and one that we loved to watch. The entertainment community and fans alike have been reeling ever since the news broke.
The news was first reported on Sunday morning and was later confirmed by Yealchin's publicist. Often times when someone dies at such a young age, there appears to be some sort of foul play or self induced, tragedy to it. What is perhaps most frustrating and sad for fans of Yelchin is that it seems like a total freak accident. He was found by his friends early in the morning, pinned by his car against a brick mailbox and security gate, apparently crushed to death by his own vehicle, and no foul play is suspected.
Yelchin got his start at a very young age and has been consistently delivering very high quality work ever since. What was particularly great about Yelchin was the wide array of projects he was involved in. One minute he would be starring as Chekov in Star Trek and the next he would be providing the voice of a Smurf. He always appeared to give his all to a role and never seemed to phone it in and as anyone who has followed his work in recent years will likely tell you, he was only getting better. He was an actor that had such amazing possibility ahead and sadly, we won't ever get to see what could have been.
Many of us are still reeling from the news and Hollywood has responded with thoughts and prayers aplenty on social media. Yelchin had been acting for most of his life, but it felt like he was about to hit a major stride and with performances in Green Room and Star Trek Beyond in 2016, it seemed very likely that his best work was still ahead of him. As sad as his very untimely and tragic death is, Yelchin did leave behind and incredible body of work for a man his age and in honor of his great, but tragically short career, we are going to take look at some his best and most memorable performances.
Green Room is a movie that absolutely isn't for everyone, as it is a very challenging movie to watch in some ways due to its very brutal nature. That doesn't detract from the fact that it is one of the best films to land in theaters this year and a very large part of that is owed to the performance given by Anton Yelchin. The movie revolves around a punk rock band who is on tour and barely scraping by who need to find a way to pay to get home. They are offered a gig at a skinhead bar and after something goes terribly wrong, it becomes a violent, horrifying mess. Yelchin plays Pat who has to endure some of the most awful things imaginable throughout the course of the movie, and has to do so while sharing the screen with Patrick Stewart, who delivers one of the most complex and chilling performances of recent memory. The tension in this movie is so palpable and Pat is put in the position of attempting to be the voice of reason in a situation that defies reason, which leads to a very intense ark for the character. Yelchin winds up being the real standout in a movie that has a tremendous ensemble cast and really sells the horror, pain and fear that would have come off as B-movie scream gore in the hands of a less talented actor. Even if you don't love Green Room, it is something that will absolutely stick with you and Yelchin's performance is something that is truly unforgettable. One scene inparticular will haunt you, largely because Yelchin makes it seem so real and human that it is unsettling, yet truly admirable.
Charlie Bartlett is a movie that largely slipped through the cracks and came at a time when Yelchin wasn't completely on everyone's radar. It is also on the completely opposite end of the spectrum as something like Green Room. Yelchin plays the title character in the movie who comes from a rich, but flawed, family and after getting kicked out of private school, he is forced to attend public school and struggles to fit in. Bartlett eventually finds a way to win over his new classmates and then becomes a target for the principal, played by Robert Downey Jr.. The movie is a bit fluffy and certainly won't win any awards, but it is a well done, feel good coming of age movie with some excellent performances from Downey and Yelchin. Everyone has felt like they don't fit in at one point or another and like any great coming-of-age movie, Yelchin is able to tap into that emotion and make it resonate. Not only that, but he also just gets to be flat out silly and it is painfully charming. Charlie Bartlett may not be anywhere near the best movie that Yelchin was ever a part of, but as a showcase of his range and acting talents, even at a fairly young age, it is very effective and it is very hard to imagine you won't at least find yourself smiling a few times during the movie.
Hearts In Atlantis
One thing that Yelchin has been asked to do throughout his entire career, really starting in 2001 with Hearts In Atlantis, is to act side by side with some of the most talented actors in Hollywood and hold his own. Child acting is a mixed bag and often times kids are something that can make a movie less than great. Yelchin, on the other hand, delivered a performance as a very young boy alongside the great Anthony Hopkins in this Stephen King adaptation that put him on everyone's radar and remains one of the best moments in his entire career. Hearts In Atlantis is far from a perfect movie, but the performances are the real sell for it. The story revolves around a middle aged man who reflects upon a summer when he and his widowed mother encounter a strange, old man who changes their lives. Even some of the greatest actors working today would have a hard time standing out while sharing the screen with a great like Hopkins, but Yelchin at the age of 12 makes it look effortless, which is beyond impressive. This is really the movie that introduced us to the great actor that Yelchin would become.
Many people knew Anton Yelchin long before J.J. Abrams cast him in his highly anticipated 2009 reboot of Star Trek, but that movie put him on the map for good and he wound up being one of the best parts of a truly stellar ensemble cast. Many Star Trek fans wholly embraced The Next Generation, largely because they weren't forced to accept other actors in the roles that were made famous in the original Star Trek series. So Abrams had a very tall order when casting the movie and the actors had an even bigger order to deliver the good for the fans. Though many people have some complaints about the current franchise, almost none of them have to do with the cast. Chekov may not have a ton of screen time, but Yelchin honors the legacy of the role and makes it all his own at the exact same time. He doesn't waste a second of screen time and walks the very fine line of being sincere and becoming a caricature. Yelchin was part of what made Star Trek work for both long time Trekkies and those who just wanted to see a big, fun space adventure movie. No doubt, for as long as we are reflecting on the career of Mr. Yelchin, we will be talking about his excellent portrayal of one, Pavel Chekov.
There is no doubt that one of the great things about Anton Yelchin is that he had incredible range and always managed to ground his characters and make them relatable. That is why his performance in the 2006 based on a true story heartbreaker Alpha Dog is so incredibly effective. Yelchin plays Nicholas Markowitz in the movie, who was kidnapped by a very famous drug dealer and eventually killed in 2000. What is truly heart wrenching about Yelchin's performance in Alpha Dog is that he is so likable and ends up bonding with his captors. He trusts them implicitly, which is ultimately what leads to his absolutely devastating final scene. The emotion that Yelchin displays in his final few minutes on screen is something that is enough to make even the most strong willed well up and shed some tears. There is a moment in the career of every great actor where you realize that they are more than just a guy that you have seen in a movie or two, and Alpha Dog is without a doubt that movie for Yelchin. He has had many great and varied performances over the years, but this one is still truly special and came at exactly the right time.
We will always have the great body of work that Anton Yelchin was able to put together during his brief time as an actor, but he accomplished an awful lot in a short period of time. We will very sorely miss him. RIP Anton Yelchin, and thank you for the excellent work.