My Top Three Christopher Plummer Performances

Preamble

2021 has seen its first great loss in the realm of movies with the death of Christopher Plummer. Much like Stan Lee and Christopher Lee, the 91-year old Canadian actor belonged to a rare category of people, who made you believe they were going to live forever. Reflecting on his performances has made me realise how formative he was in my appreciation of cinema, and realisation of what an actor could bring to a film. What are some of your favourite Christopher Plummer performances? Let me know in the comments below.

3) The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (2009)

In his latter day career, Plummer had a knack for playing patriarchal figures in interesting ways, whether thinking of his sly turn in Knives Out or emotive performance in David Fincher’s remake of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. However, his acting as the title character in Imaginarium is captivating. It’s such an unassuming performance, comprising of stillness, quiet reflection and occasional barminess; fueling the notion of Parnassus being a forgotten entity in the modern world. With this in mind, it’s an impressive piece of subtle acting. It feels so ingrained within the film’s spirit that you almost take it for granted.

2) Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1992)

Combining Shakespearean gravitas and broad theatricality, Plummer’s performance as the warmongering Klingon- General Chang is a joyful exercise in villainy. It’s also quite versatile too. You could take it out of this movie, and it would equally play well in a restaging of Julius Caesar, as much as a vintage Saturday Matinee serial. There’s also something quite amusing about Plummer reciting Shakespeare to a nonchalant William Shatner (considering their history with the Bard’s various productions for stage and radio).

1) The Sound of Music (1965)

Before Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and Cary Grant, Christopher Plummer’s dashing and debonair performance as Captain Von Trapp was my first exposure to the Hollywood leading man. His performance was also my introduction to the seemingly larger than life quality of Hollywood, where actors carried this monumental weight of romanticism. Aside from these qualities, Plummer’s performance proves to be a foundational text for a lot of his patriarchal roles.

Many of these parts have a veneer of respectability, in which there’s always something altogether surprising and vulnerable, going on beneath the surface. Moments such as Von Trapp’s wry smile to Maria (Julie Andrews) after their dance and accidentally saying “Captain” during a heated exchange illustrate this quality well.

In this way, Plummer was quietly subversive at presenting and pricking at the perfect picture of the Hollywood leading man, with flickers of humanity that made the pristine fantasy a little more real.

For this reason and many more, Christopher Plummer was a towering figure in Hollywood history.

May he rest in peace.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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