If you saw X-Men: First Class -- and judging from the box office returns it would seem logical to assume many of you did -- you may have found yourself wrestling with a very unhealthy and all-consuming infatuation with Magneto. No? Just me? Well at any rate, it’s no great stretch to state that the film was elevated in no small way by the performance of one Michael Fassbender as the central villain-to-be. As often happens with breakout performances, you probably found yourselves wondering where this guy came from. Even if you caught vague glimpses of recognition looking at his face, you may not have connected the dots back to his previous work. If this is so, I would highly advise you to keep your eye firmly trained on Fassbender, as he is destined for superstardom.
Fassbender has an impressive resume that both lends insight to his commanding screen presence in X-Men: First Class and offers evidence that it was not in fact a fluke. His first major gig stateside was a seven-episode stint on the incredible HBO mini-series Band of Brothers, proving his comfort level existing in not-so-contemporary storylines. This period adeptness would further be supported by his turn as Stelios in Zack Synder’s 300. But it wasn’t until Quentin Tarantino exploited this Fassbender’s idiosyncratic gift that I really took notice.
Let’s think back to that scene in the basement tavern in Inglourious Basterds. Fassbender, as the British intelligence officer Lt. Archie Hicox, tries his best to maintain his guise as a Nazi commander while nestled firmly in the belly of the beast. The tension in this scene is unbearable and no small measure of credit for this is due to Fassbender’s icy composure and rugged, unflappable charm. No matter how loud the background action gets, signaling the tightening noose around his neck, the audience cannot take their eyes from Lt. Hicox for a second as every word he speaks drives the momentum of the scene.
I don’t merely mention all this because I have a powerful man-crush on Fassbender. I’m not ruling out the possibility that I am harboring said man-crush; it’s just not the issue at hand. Fassbender’s ability to communicate charm and sophistication, seemingly from a golden era long since past is possibly his greatest strength. Not terribly long ago I featured a film in Under the Radar by The Descent director Neil Marshall called Centurion. I noted Fassbender’s old-world presence, as if he’d been plucked from the silver screens of yesteryear. It would seem as though all of the roles we’ve looked at today provide plenty of whetstones on which he has painstakingly honed this attribute.
For this reason, a general buzz is building around Fassbender as a suitable potential successor to the role of James Bond. Now, it would seem presumptuous to toss Fassbender behind the wheel of an Aston Martin just because he knows how to wear a suit and drink a cocktail. If these were the only criteria, Don Draper would work for MI-6 instead of Sterling Cooper. But Fassbender, particularly in films like 300 and Centurion, has proven that he also has a knack for brutality and spilling copious amounts of blood. He’s not only got the exterior façade of debonair suavity, but can easily pull off that coiled snake just below Bond’s surface, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. In fact, I would argue that Fassbender’s best audition for Bond was in X-Men: First Class. His single-minded, cold-hearted quest to find his mother’s killer was fraught with exotic locales, intimidating use of force, and the inevitable bloody demises of his enemies. That early, expositional subplot was already head-and-shoulders above the entirety of Quantum of Solace.
Even if the 007 mantle never falls to Michael Fassbender, it’s a cinch that he will net plenty more starring roles stateside in the wake of X-Men: First Class. You’re definitely going to want to put a name to this impossibly handsome face before then…ok seriously, I need to take a cold shower.