Sunday, June 19, 2016

R.I.P. Anton Yelchin (1989-2016)

Anton Yelchin, taking care of some ducks.
Many things in the 2009 reboot of Star Trek caught my eye, but perhaps most noteworthy of that movies revelations was a then little-known actor named Anton Yelchin playing the role of Chekov. Just having turned 20 two months prior to the films release, Yelchin popped onto the screen as a plucky, young and instantly likable personality. Amidst the impulsive Kirk, the pessimistic Bones and the logical to a fault Spock, he (along with Simon Pegg as Scotty) provided a sense of light-hearted enthusiasm to the proceedings, the kind of optimistic drive that propelled man to want to explore the cosmos in the first place.

This would be the first time I encountered the actor despite his steady amount of TV and film work since the 21st century got underway. As one would imagine, it would be far from the last time I saw him on the silver screen and remained impressed by his work. Two years after Star Trek he played the troubled son of Mel Gibsons puppet-obsessed protagonist in The Beaver. Here was a complete 180 from his perky turn as Chekov, instead playing a teen who finds himself at the center of his Dad's puppet triggered breakdown. He has to go darker here, but also try not to fall into the trap of just coming off as playing a rote troubled teen. Guess what? The guy nails it, carrying the best performance in the film and commanding a sense of realism from an individual who could have easily gone down the path of just being a one-note stereotype.

Scarcely a month ago, me and Yelchin met yet again in what may be the best role of his entire career. In Green Room, Yelchin finds himself playing a normal everyman, a guy who just wants to play in his band and score a decent paycheck. He didn't want to get wrapped up in murder and all of the senseless violence being dished out by the Neo-Nazi's that have captured hum and his friends. Yelchin is tremendously successful in conveying his characters ever escalating fear as things spiral more and more out of control. That everyman spirit that he entered this movie with helps give the audience something easily identifiable as normal to cling to as the craziness of Green Room masterfully reaches its apex.

So great was Anton Yelchin in Green Room that I was convinced wonderful roles were in store for him in the future. Alas, like so much in life, what would have been for Yelchin in both his acting and personal life has been cut short by horrific tragedy. Your time on this Earth was too short Mr. Yelchin. You offered so much in your range and talent on the big screen, and more importantly you were also a human being who emanated kindness and grace. I and so many countless others will miss you beyond words.

Whatever band you wanted to listen to on that desert island...I hope you're listening to them on repeat right now. Rest in peace good sir and thank you for bringing so many people, including myself, so much joy in your work.

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