Ben Foster is one of our most dependable actors, but his performance in Barry Levinson’s The Survivor is one of his best. Taking on the responsibility of telling a real person’s traumatic past is something that Foster didn’t take lightly, and he wasn’t even aware of Harry Haft’s fight for survival. In one of the most astonishing performances of the year, Foster deserves to rise to the top of the list of Outstanding Actor contenders.
One of Foster’s most impressive qualities as an actor is when he doesn’t give everything away. In films like Leave No Trace and The Messenger, you wonder what Foster’s characters don’t say, and his restraint speaks volumes. As Haft, he channels into the turmoil of seeing his community violently ripped away–sometimes even at his own hands. Foster’s scenes with Bill Magnussen are some of the best in the film.
Shortly after the war, Haft lived with his trauma on his own, but after he has a family, that pain sinks inward. He doesn’t want to burden his wife or their children with what happened to him. The suffering physically weighs Foster down, and he can’t punch his way out of it. The only way to salvation is through.
The Survivor is streaming on HBO Max.