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Actor Spotlight: Cillian Murphy is the pinnacle of complex characters

Beginning his career in the late ‘90s, Cillian Murphy started on the stage, playing everything from a cocky teenager to Konstantin in a rendition of Chekov’s famous play, “The Seagull.” Murphy stayed on stage into the early 2000s until he was offered his first film role as an apocalypse survivor in the horror film “28 Days Later,” wherein he plays a man wandering a desolated London after waking up from a coma. 

Not only was the film Murphy’s breakout role, but it also cemented itself as one of the greatest performances in his career. If you haven’t seen that film yet, I highly recommend it because of its plot and, how Murphy portrays dread and the intense plight of human survival. 

The film’s success brought more opportunities for Murphy to hone his skills and show audiences just how stellar he is at portraying serious and brooding characters. During this time, he became a household face. 

After starring in “Batman Begins” as the supervillain Jonathan Crane (soon to be known as Scarecrow), he worked on many indie films and shows that always ran on the dramatic side. One of these shows includes one of his most well-known roles to this day: Thomas Shelby in Netflix’s original drama series “Peaky Blinders.” 

Between playing villains, morally gray leading men and even a highly controversial historical figure, I hope more people finally realize what they’ve missed out on by not watching Murphy’s work. Many people know him now as the Irish actor who never plays happy or unserious roles, and honestly, it makes sense looking at his filmography. 

Murphy has made it evident throughout his career that his strengths lie in complexity. The confusing and sometimes morally ambiguous choices we make as humans come easily in his roles. Even in his more forgotten films, his performances are always intense, focused and full of life. 

Many Hollywood actors are type-cast into simple heist flicks or cliche rom-coms where they aren’t necessarily able to branch out or showcase the entirety of their talent. On the other hand, Murphy is an actor who leaves you with questions and whose characters challenge how we understand ourselves and human behavior. His work is something to behold, and if you haven’t had a chance to look through his filmography, I highly recommend opening yourself up to some stories that will stick with you long-term. 

If you don’t know where to start, I would recommend beginning with the 2002 horror film “28 Days Later,” directed by Danny Boyle or Christopher Nolan’s classic 2010 action “Inception.” If you find yourself looking for even more mind-bending films from Murphy, consider watching his most recent 2023 film, “Oppenheimer,” a historical film that’s also directed by Nolan. 

I’m confident any of these films will give you an idea of who Murphy is as an actor and why many studios consider him one of the best actors currently working in the industry today. 

Mia Ashby is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Mia by emailing her at

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