In Nocturnal Animals, Aaron Taylor-Johnson Terrifies

By Eleanor Laurence

In a movie of heavyweights (Michael Shannon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams), it’s Aaron Taylor-Johnson who mesmerizes on screen. Taylor-Johnson — who inspired swoons as a teen heartthrob in Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging; transitioned into understated dramas with Nowhere Boy; forayed into blockbusters with Kickass; and got historical with Anna Karenina — proved himself nothing short of riveting in Nocturnal Animals.

He’s the “baddy” of Tom Ford’s thriller and imbues chilling charm to psychopathic behavior. What’s his motive? Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, Taylor-Johnson doesn’t have clear drives, and is only too happy to fulfill on the promise of terror his mere presence inspires. He’s the fictitious villain within Nocturnal Animals, coming to life as Amy Adams’ character reads a manuscript sent by her ex-husband. Character and viewer alike are sucked into the murky landscape of a deserted strip of highway and an encounter that turns one man’s life into a nightmare. Taylor-Johnson exists at the center of all this, inflicting chaos but also holding all the pieces of the story together.

His performance earned him a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor. But more than awards, he broke from the cookie cutter mold of “handsome leading man” that so often dogs young Hollywood. Not just a pretty face, his performance is a strong indicator of the potential to come.