Seven Days of Streaming

Seven Days of Streaming: The Enigmatic Roles of Robert Pattinson

From the anxious Good Time to the cosmic High Life, here's how to curate your own Robert Pattinson season at home in seven key films

In Seven Days of Streaming, we guide you in curating your own mini film season based around an actor or director with a particularly eclectic, underseen, or unappreciated filmography, spun over seven days of programming.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who still only associate Robert Pattinson with the Twilight movies, and those who have come to their senses, reached enlightenment, and declared him to be one of the best actors of his generation.

Following the success of Twilight, Pattinson's career could have gone two ways. A likeable teen heartthrob with little critical appeal, for a while it looked as though the actor might wind up forever peddling tepid romantic dramas like Water for Elephants and Remember Me. But Pattinson, a risk-taker at heart, craved more interesting and dynamic roles. He knew what he had to do. Turning his back on the major studios, he looked instead to the independent scene, to directors like David Cronenberg and Werner Herzog, who were willing to give him parts that allowed him to show a greater range.

Cut to the present day and Pattinson has established himself as one of our most versatile and unpredictable actors – a far cry away from the cold and solemn vamp Edward Cullen. He is an auteur's favourite, having worked alongside Ciro Guerra and Claire Denis, whilst his recent descent into madness in The Lighthouse earned him some of the best notices of his career.

This quest for reinvention might have been a success, but it has brought him, unexpectedly, back into the mainstream: not only has Pattinson been cast in Christopher Nolan's sci-fi mindbender Tenet, but also as Bruce Wayne in Matt Reeves' upcoming Batman reboot – a decision that would have appeared utterly perplexing years ago, but now seems entirely fated. Here's how to understand his career in seven films…

 

Day 1: Cosmopolis (2012)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video (rent)

Robert Pattinson first subverted the more generic, mainstream roles he'd come to embody – both at the behest of fans and studios – with nifty David Cronenberg thriller, Cosmopolis. Here the actor – suited, hair slicked back (very Bruce Wayne), channeling something of American Psycho's Patrick Bateman – plays a rich and powerful businessman who swans about town in a limo, vaguely intending on a haircut. Back in 2012, there was a sense that Cronenberg, no stranger to experimentation, had gotten more out of Pattinson as an actor than any director previous. Distinctly more adult, it's not his stretchiest turn by any means, but remains notable for the doors it would open – and the minds it would change.

 

Day 2: The Rover (2014)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video (stream)

Pattinson once claimed he's unable to act in his own voice, and it's a thread you can see running through his entire body of work, post-Potter, as he adopts accents from the vaguely transatlantic to… well, the Sling Blade-esque Southern American one he shoots for in David Michôds bleak, anti-Mad Max vehicle, The Rover. Pattinson isn't lead here, playing second fiddle to Guy Pearce's violent marauder, seeking revenge on the thugs who stole his car against the backdrop of a decimated Australia. But you sense Pattinson saw this as an opportunity to flex his muscles. His Reynolds is a curio of a character – unwanted sidekick, vulnerable, simple, wounded physically and emotionally. It's a performance to match The Rover itself: strange, flawed, jarring. But it sticks with you.

 

Day 3: The Childhood of a Leader (2016)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video (rent)

Pattinson plays a small but crucial role in Brady Corbet's underseen but highly accomplished debut feature, The Childhood of a LeaderThe film chronicles the adolescent years of a fictional dictator; Pattinson plays Charles Marker, a dashing family friend appearing in a few opening scenes. Later, the actor reappears in another role – yet to say more would spoil one of this film's most intriguing surprises. Still, this is a great example of how the actor can make a big impression in a short space of time, a skill he would also come to display in a good number films that didn't make the cut (Waiting for the Barbarians, to name one). There is something inherently enigmatic about all of Pattinson's role (he is not easily sussed); here he manages to charm and unnerve us equally, in just a handful of scenes.

 

Day 4: The Lost City of Z (2016)

Where to watch it: BBC iPlayer (stream)

Pattinson co-stars alongside fellow Brit Charlie Hunnam in James Gray's distinctly old-fashioned and very divisive adventure, The Lost City of Z, based on the book by David Grann. The film has something of David Lean about it, with a dash of early Herzog, as it follows the obsessive quest undertaken by Percival Fawcett (Hunnam) in search of a lost civilisation. And though Hunnam is clearly the lead, it is Pattinson – bearded, bespectacled, dishevelled – who arguably leaves a stronger impression playing his assistant, Henry Costin. You sense here Pattinson's desire to transform himself physically and escape the stigma of Twilight, but never at the cost of a fully immersed performance.

Day 5: Good Time (2017)

Where to watch it: Netflix (stream)

Josh and Benny Safdie might have found mainstream success with their recent Adam Sandler-starring masterpiece, Uncut Gems, but the genius one associates with that movie can be traced back to their early gem, Good Time, which in 2017 gave Pattinson – and us – his juiciest role yet. Adopting a perfect Queens accent and blonde dye job, he's near unrecognisable as a scrappy thief whose plans to rob a bank go very wrong indeed, resulting in the kind of random chaos the Safdies have made their brand. Nervy, repulsive, but oddly unpredictable, it's a role that feels like the culmination of Pattinson's earlier “experiments.” If you only choose to stream one movie, or want a single film to change your mind on this actor, make it Good Time.

 

Day 6: The King (2019)

Where to watch it: Netflix (stream)

Pattinson re-teamed with his Rover director, David Michôd, for this loose adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V, with Timothée Chalamet cast as the titular monarch. The King itself is a mostly dour affair, half successful, Pattinson without question the best part of it. Cast in the small role of the Dauphin of France, there is a prankster's air to this wig-heavy turn. It's a performance of flamboyant, giddy excess, and the actor is clearly delighting in chewing the scenery to optimal levels. Yet this is no cringeworthy miscalculation; he seems to be entirely in on the joke. In such a short space of time, we cycle through feelings of confusion, disgust, and finally sympathy. Say what you will about the accent: this is how you steal a film.

 

Day 7: High Life (2018)

Where to watch it: Amazon Prime Video (rent)

End this mini-season on a (ahem) high. Robert Pattinson pursued the lead role in this strange and violent sci-fi thriller, written and directed by respected French auteur Claire Denis. High Life unravels with the mediative pace of an arthouse film, but is punctuated with moments of extreme violence and cosmic mind-fuckery. Totally dialled into his role as a convict tasked with an interstellar mission aboard a laboratory-like space craft, Pattinson brilliantly sells us his fatherly attachment to his infant shipmate. Head shaved and muscular, this isn't a showy turn by any means, but one that's perfectly matched to the story that Denis sets out to tell (or not tell). This is Pattinson proving his actorly worth without any big tricks; an impressively restrained but subtly nuanced performance, revealing deeper layers every time you watch it.

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