Some of the best scenes in “Sound of Metal” take place between Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Joe (Paul Raci), the leader of a sober house for the deaf. Raci’s performance that has been heralded by critics as “defiant” and imbued with “gravitas.” With continuing discussion of Ahmed’s chances of earning his first Oscar nomination, some are also wondering if Raci could do the same if the Amazon film resonates with the academy on a profound level.
Raci’s naturalistic performance was a big discovery for many viewers, considering his lack of name recognition compared to Ahmed and co-star Olivia Cooke. When we first meet Joe in the film, he is the confident authority figure tasked with opening up Ruben’s mind to a brand new reality. There is a world-weary quality to Raci’s take on Joe, a veteran who lost his hearing while serving in the Vietnam War. Joe is patient with Ruben, but he is also no pushover, and his moral code forces him to make tough but firm choices. This is where Raci’s work shines, particularly in a key scene in which Ruben has made a choice behind Joe’s back, and Joe can barely contain his disappointment.
SEE Riz Ahmed (‘Sound of Metal’) on playing a heavy metal drummer losing his hearing [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]
While Raci’s performance is not the stereotypically flashy, scene-stealing type that usually earns an Oscar nomination in the supporting actor category, it does surprisingly fit the mold of recent winners and nominees. Examples include Joe Pesci in “The Irishman” (2019), Willem Dafoe in “The Florida Project” (2017), Richard Jenkins in “The Shape of Water” (2017), Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” (2016) and Mark Rylance in “Bridge of Spies” (2015). Not only were all of these performances quietly compelling in their own ways, but many were, like Raci, the moral center/mentors of their respective films.
Raci is currently in the top 20 of the Best Supporting Actor Oscar contenders, according to the latest Gold Derby odds. As award season proceeds and Raci potentially earns notices from critic groups, he may rise in the rankings. Of all the acting categories, Best Supporting Actor feels the most fluid as of now, so he should not be counted out yet.
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