Jewish actor Ben Foster’s 5 performances you should see before ‘The Survivor’ arrives in theaters

Dan Buffa, SPECIAL FOR THE JEWISH LIGHT

Ben Foster is an actor you can always count on giving an unforgettable performance, no matter the class or genre of its movie. A cinematic crackerjack of a different order, he has played a wide variety of roles in a career that has spanned 25 years and 60 credits. Often the supporting actor and not the lead, Foster is the guy who steals scenes from the star and makes you want to see more of him in the next role.

HBO Films is giving him an opportunity to carry a film of own this winter. The cable behemoth is picking up his latest film, “The Survivor,” about a Polish Jew who escaped a death march at Auschwitz and went on to have a fine boxing career. Foster’s character, the real-life hero Harry Haft, would post a record of 13-8 in the ring, finishing his career against Rocky Marciano–a fight that Haft stated in his biography that the mafia forced him to throw.

Whether we get the juicy details of that is left to be determined-you can read Haft’s book, “Harry Haft: Survivor of Auschwitz, Challenger of Rocky Marciano” to get the details-but one thing is for sure: the role should generate Oscar buzz for Foster. He’s long overdue for an Oscar nomination, something that was apparent in his performances from the past five years.

Foster, who was raised Jewish and is married to Laura Prepon, has a slew of roles that are indelible and should linger in your mind for a good while. Before “The Survivor” hits HBO, which should be sometime before the end of the year so he qualifies for the awards season, let’s examine a few movies for you to get to know Foster and his immense talent.

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“Hell or High Water”

Co-starring Chris Pine, Foster played the “Star Trek” star’s loose cannon brother as the two go on a bank-robbing spree with good intentions. “Yellowstone” co-creator Taylor Sheridan wrote the script, which adds a lot of character seasoning to the propulsive and fast-moving heist plot. While it’s a standout role for Pine, Foster just about steals every scene he’s in–whether it’s scaring the life out of a bank clerk or walking down a deserted road with an AK-47 pointed at four parked trucks. The film co-starred a terrific Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham, but Foster stole it.

“Lone Survivor”

Foster played real-life Navy Seal Matt “Axe” Axelson, one of four men who drop into Afghanistan on a recon mission but find themselves in a shootout while being heavily outnumbered. Peter Berg’s directing has rarely carried more gravitas and power, and the film features a slew of solid performances from Mark Wahlberg (as the title character, Marcus Luttrell), Taylor Kitsch, and Emile Hirsch. Axelson was another role that Foster just made his own in the opening moments of his first scene, where Matt is talking to his wife the morning of deployment. It’s not the easiest movie to watch-a war movie where the good guys really don’t win-but the acting, especially Foster, make it a highly-memorable experience.

“Leave No Trace”

Easily Foster’s most soulful performance, Debra Granik’s drama followed a father (Foster) and daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) living off the grid in an Oregon urban park who find their lives upended forever by a small mistake. You’ll rarely see the actor more vulnerable onscreen, playing a caretaker of the unconventional variety adjusting to a different kind of life with his daughter, one with more overwatch and rules. It’s a haunting rendition on what exactly makes and defines “home” for families trying to stay afloat in a rough economy and ugly world. (Available on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video with a subscription.)

“3:10 to Yuma”

One of the better remakes you will find, James Mangold’s film centered around Russell Crowe’s outlaw and Christian Bale’s noble rancher–but Foster’s Charlie Prince always looms in the background. Playing Crowe’s main henchman and friend, Foster leans into the malice of a rotten soul by being as malevolent as possible. Sporting albino skin and scars, he’s not exactly recognizable, which just heightens his performance even more. A good all-around movie. (Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video for $3.99.)

“The Mechanic”

Another solid remake, and Foster’s performance is a big reason for it. You see, this would have been a normal Jason Statham action vehicle without Foster, but he raises the level of the genre by pulling a better performance out of his British co-star and giving the plot a little mystery. You are never exactly sure if you can trust his loner who becomes Statham’s assassinating apprentice in the movie, and Foster keeps you guessing. A particularly brutal fight scene between him and the much-larger Jeff Chase’s Burke early on is a highlight, because it proves scrappy fighters should never be counted out. (Available to rent on Amazon Prime Video for $2.99.)

That would include Haft, who won the biggest match of his life when he found a way out of a Nazi prison camp. The fight with Marciano was icing on the cake, a true sign that Harry has survived. HBO Films may have grabbed themselves an Oscar contender. For Foster, it would be long overdue.