Saint Killian’s Day. You’re probably sick of hearing about it by now to be honest, but we thought we’d jump on the pathetic Saint Killian bandwagon and present a completely on-the-nose and practically unrelated list…
Although you’ve no doubt just about had enough of him, Killian’s story bears repeating – he was an Irish missionary bishop, sent to Wurzburg to convert the heathens there to Roman Catholicism. To celebrate his saints day, we’ve decided to mark the occasion the only way how – to bring you the Top Seven Cillian Murphy films, because Killian and Cillian sound the same.
It’s like fate.
The film that made him a star. His portrayal of Jim, the stoic centre of that tornado of global chaos embodied by Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, earned him plaudits and critical attention across the land. He must have been freezing in those hospital clothes in the middle of London, poor mite. Still, he was impressive on that remote hillside near the end of the film. Not a spoiler.
In his first really villainous role, Murphy played the psychological terrorist Sandman, a therapist with a terrible gift for discovering and using someone’s worst fears against them. This lead to that first iconic denouement of the Batman trilogy, in which Batman faces his fear of bouncy castles. Truly chilling, and a rare look at the dark side of inflatable battlements.
A little-seen but brilliant thriller in which Cillian Murphy plays the tormented John Skillpa, a bank employee suffering from multiple personality disorder who is forced to confront his demons when a train derails into his back garden. His excellent performance in both roles means that for a portion of the film, you’re not sure whether or not it’s two separate characters you’re seeing. He’s great in it.
Breakfast on Pluto (2005)
In keeping with the cross-dressing theme, Breakfast on Pluto goes further in showing Cillian Murphy’s chameleonic powers, this time portraying the transgender Kitten (formerly Patrick) Braden and her misadventures in attempting to find her mother in 1970s Ireland and London. A bombastic and funny film with heart and substance, Murphy’s performance is the pivot around which everything else is balanced, and he does a fine job.
Showing yet more versatility, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine took Murphy back to his genre roots by putting him in a high-tension, high-reward science fiction scenario. Entrusted with the fate of the entire world, there’s no way that Murphy’s character Robert Capa could fail… right? The film harkens back to truly great cinema including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Wages of Fear, and Solaris, and is a fantastic film in its own right.
The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006)
As Dr. Damien O’Donovan in Ken Loach‘s 2006 masterpiece, Murphy delivered an emotional gravity worthy of working with such a storied and respected director. Set during the Irish War of Independence, the film is about two brothers (Murphy’s Damien and Pádraic Delaney‘s Teddy) who join the Irish Republican Army to fight for independence from the United Kingdom. It’s typically brilliant, gritty, and worthy as a valid historical document, rife with Loachian authenticity. No small wonder that it received so many award nominations, and Murphy turns in a stellar performance.
With Christopher Nolan having given him probably the juiciest role (besides Batman himself) in Batman Begins, how magnanimous of the great director to hand him a role in the brain-melting Inception, the film that some people are afraid to watch. Murphy plays Robert Fischer, heir to the Fischer business empire and the target of the team (led by Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Dom Cobb) of dream invaders. His performance in such an integral role anchored the film, and provided a nice backbone for the madness of the plot to bend and twist against.
If there were to be any conclusion to this article, and there isn't, it would be that Cillian Murphy is a truly great actor, just as Saint Killian is a truly great saint. Coincidence?