The many faces of Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington has teamed up once again with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua in The Equalizer. Denzel may not get the superb Press he got in his heyday, but that doesn’t mean we forget that he’s been in some superb films. Here are our top 5.

Glory (1989)

Director Edward Zwik has directed Denzel in three films to date, but it was their first project that really stands out.

Glory told the story of the first volunteer Black regiment to fight on the side of the Union during the American Civil War.

Starring alongside Morgan Freeman and Mathew Broderick, Denzel shone through as the angry-young-man questioning why he should fight and die for the very men who enslaved his people.

Glory is a poignant reminder that no matter what differences may lie between people, on the battlefield the enemy is the only target.

Packed with graphic battle scenes, and the late Kevin Jarre’s fantastic screenplay, Denzel had enough ammunition to let his rage, unhampered by philosophic musings, spew forth.

This is a brilliant film that tackles the question of war and why brothers-in-arms transcend skin colour and race.

Philadelphia (1993)

This film about the Aids pandemic and its repercussions on society and its shaky moral foundations was always going to be an awards season favourite. With Jonathan Demme at the helm and Tom Hanks on song — as a victim of a disease that few people knew anything about but almost everyone had an opinion on – Denzel would have to be at the very top of his game.

Admittedly this is a Hanks vehicle from start to finish, but Denzel’s performance as his lawyer Joe Miller was astonishing in the very realism it brought to this exceptional film.

As Joe battles his own prejudices and his outlook on life and society’s diktats slowly evolves through the film, we see the growth of a character with the clarity we rarely see.

Crimson Tide (1995)

If you asked any actor who they’d never want to be up against on screen, a lot of them would probably say Gene Hackman. But that’s exactly the role Tony Scott gave Denzel when he cast him in Crimson Tide.

Denzel plays Lt. Commander Ron Hunter, second in command to Hackman’s Captain Frank Ramsey on board a US naval nuclear submarine.

When an order comes in telling the sub to launch its nukes, the captain is set to follow the orders, but his XO isn’t quite sure the message is right.

What develops is a clash of titans and titanic wills as the two men battle it out as the world waits on the precipice.

A superb script and the submarine’s inherent sense of claustrophobia add to the kinetic tension between the two players. This is a must-see for anyone who loves a good dialogue and two actors more fierce than the fires of Hades.

The Hurricane (1999)

Director Norman Jewison is no stranger to strong male characters in his films: The Cincinnati Kid brimmed with confidence built on stuttering fallacy; Virgil Tibbs epitomized the Angry Young Man with an intellectual streak the size of Brazil; Thomas Crown was the quintessential cad with no shortage of mischief.

So when he decided to film the story of Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder and who spent nearly three decades in prison, he needed someone with grit and that steely glint in his eye.

Denzel brought both in spades and ably supported by his supporting cast, a cracking script, and soundtrack by Bob Dylan (who actually penned the song Hurricane) turned what was already a gut-wrenching story of an epic judicial travesty into a modern day fable of grim determination and a self-sustaining belief in a man’s innocence.

Training Day (2001)

This was the film that proved that Denzel had a side of him that screamed menace and shouted malice.

Playing a narcotics detective Alonzo Harris, in Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day Denzel gives rookie cop Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) a tour of the sleazy LA drugs underworld that is anything but inspirational.

Hard-edged and always looking for the next take, Denzel’s detective is seemingly the worst of the worst, but like in most of his roles there’s something that doesn’t quite fit into the narrative; something that lies under the surface waiting for the right moment to rise up and turn the entire film on its head.

Training Day not only recognizes that but uses it to its fullest effect to create a truly memorable film.

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