Shia LaBeouf has had one of the most fascinating careers to watch evolve over the past couple of decades.
He first gained popularity by starring in “Holes” and “Even Stevens” in the early 2000s. From there, he went on to star in the first three films of the live-action “Transformers” franchise, as well as the fourth “Indiana Jones” film. The widespread disappointment of those films hurt LaBeouf’s career, and the man himself was turned into a meme thanks to a few funny YouTube videos and some questionable life choices.
The most surprising feat of LaBeouf’s career isn’t how derailed it became, but rather how he has managed to turn it around and become a truly incredible actor in the process.
LaBeouf has become a legitimate dramatic actor. Through films such as 2014’s “Fury," he has shown that he has some real acting chops, and he's more than the kid from "Transformers." The latest film that he stars in, "The Peanut Butter Falcon," serves as yet another showcase of his talent.
"The Peanut Butter Falcon" is a film that tells the story of two men on the run in the swamps of the present-day South. One of the men, Tyler (LaBeouf), is a down-on-his-luck fisherman on the run from law enforcement. The other, Zak (Zack Gottsagen), is a man with Down syndrome who ran away from the nursing home he was living in. Zak wants to become a professional wrestler, and he's traveling to a camp that will hopefully teach him what he needs to know. Tyler finds Zak hiding in his boat, and the two decide to travel together in a Mark Twain-inspired adventure story.
"The Peanut Butter Falcon" is an incredibly inspiring, funny and heartwarming story about two men overcoming what society has told them to be.
Zak has lived his whole life with people telling him that he can't do things because he has Down syndrome. He was taken from his parents by the state and put in a retirement home because they weren't sure what to do with him. On his journey with Tyler, he learns to not think of himself as lesser. He becomes confident and learns that the only person that can tell him what he can't do is himself.
Tyler is running from both the law and his past. He was caught stealing from other fishermen, and they threatened to kill him if they find him again. Tyler is trying to find where he belongs. He believes he's responsible for the death of his older brother, and he has no other family to turn to. Tyler finds his own emotional redemption through his relationship with Zak. Taking up the role of an older brother to Zak, Tyler helps him along and offers words of encouragement when they're needed.
The two of them are completely different individuals and an unlikely pair, but their incredibly genuine relationship serves as the heart of the movie. The audience laughs and cries with these two. When they're scared, so are the viewers. You can't help but root for them to achieve their goals and dreams. You want them to be successful, which makes it more painful when they're not.
The performances from both LaBeouf and Gottsagen are what really bring these characters to life.
Gottsagen, who, like his character, chases his dreams despite his Down syndrome, brilliantly showcases the array of different emotions his character is feeling. Zak has been through a lot, and Gottsagen is able to convey that in his performance without being too heavy-handed, which is a difficult thing to do.
LaBeouf completely disappeared into this role. After the first few minutes of him on screen, I completely forgot it was him; I just saw his character. Tyler was in a constant struggle of trying to do the right thing, and LaBeouf was able to provide incredibly real emotions in his performance. If he hadn't already, in this movie LaBeouf completely sheds the missteps of his prior on-screen roles, such as "Transformers," and brings a performance that is nothing short of impeccable.
The only small complaints I have with "The Peanut Butter Falcon" are these: They completely waste Jon Bernthal, who plays Tyler's brother, and the ending is a bit abrupt.
Bernthal, who people will recognize from "The Punisher," "The Walking Dead" and "Wind River," is a phenomenal actor, and he isn't given a single speaking line in this movie — not one. He just shows up randomly in a couple of brief flashbacks, and that's it. He isn't given anything to do, which is a real shame because he's one of those actors you can always count on to give a solid performance.
As for the ending, it's not a bad conclusion; it's just a bit rushed. It's apparent that the film is starting to wrap up, but then the credits start rolling. It leaves the audience with a feeling of "Oh, I guess that's it," which isn't the best note to end on.
"The Peanut Butter Falcon" is a great film. It's a fun story that has real emotion to it, and the cast provides great performances all around. It does stumble a little at its conclusion, but everything before that was well worth the price of admission. It might not be a big-budget action film like "Transformers," but it still deserves viewers’ attention.