Five essential Chris Pine roles



Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

When it comes to “Star Trek” for the modern age, Chris Pine is who moviegoers think of when Captain James Kirk is mentioned. He piloted J.J. Abrams’ relaunch in 2009, and that crystallized his status in Hollywood as a leading man in the following 10 years.

While he has supplanted himself in the role with two well-made and lucrative sequels (with another one reportedly on the way), Pine (whose maternal grandfather is of Russian-Jewish descent) has made his mark in several other roles since his official debut in 2003 via a guest spot on NBC’s “ER.”

With his 41st birthday Aug. 26 and the sun beating down on St. Louis like never before this year, here are five essential Pine roles that don’t include the name, “Kirk.” Starting with one of the best movies from the past 15-20 years:

“Hell or High Water”


If any film convinced me Pine could be a movie star and a high-caliber actor at the same time, the Taylor Sheridan-scripted “brothers robbing banks to save their mother’s farm” sealed the deal. The 2016 drama is one of those perfectly calibrated thrillers with only story development and character depth on its mind. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham offered fine support, along with Ben Foster’s visceral co-lead performance. But the quiet soul of the film sat with Pine’s Toby, a good son doing a series of bad deeds to make things right. (Available on Hulu with a subscription, or to rent on Amazon Prime Video.)

“Wonder Woman”

We’ll go ahead and agree that this summer’s porous sequel doesn’t exist, at least for Pine’s sake. While his throwaway revival couldn’t rescue a misguided sequel, Pine’s effect on the 2017 box office smash original was plentiful. His character, Steve Trevor, kicks off the story, flying into the private island of the Amazon warriors, where he takes Gal Gadot’s avenging heroine back to the states for a classic adventure. It was the unforced yet potent romance that gave the comic book adaptation real heart and infused the central tale. This is where we found out he could be just as charming and authentic, even in a supporting role. (Worth a watch on HBO Max.)


Rule of thumb: Hold your own with Denzel Washington as a co-lead in a Tony Scott-directed action drama, and you have something. This meat and potatoes runaway train thriller bobbed and weaved so well due to the chemistry between the two stars, and the emotional resonance the late filmmaker attached to it. It’s also a pulse-pounding 98 minutes. Another role where Pine added something extra to the character without doing too much. Solid film. (Available to rent on Amazon Prime.)

“Smokin’ Aces”

Consider this one Pine unleashed. Unlike any other role he’s played, Darwin Tremor, one sibling of a deadly family crew of assassins, gave the actor plenty of meat on the bone in Joe Carnahan’s nonstop blast. With one card magician ratting on a powerful mobster, every target lands on his head. Pine’s Tremor is gnarly, hilarious, and diabolical… in just a supporting role. He made you want to spend more time with this “Natural Born Killers” refugee. One particular early scene between Pine and a comatose Ben Affleck is flat-out funny and original. Warning: This is a very violent film, but isn’t that what we go to the movies for? (Available to rent on Amazon Prime.)

“Finest Hours”

The Craig Gillespie helmed sea drama didn’t exactly sit on Pine’s shoulders, but he stood out in a fine ensemble cast, including Ben Foster and Casey Affleck. You could swap out the train in Scott’s aforementioned drama and put a boat in its place, as Pine’s Bernie Webber must head out on the Coast Guard in 1952 to save the survivors of an exploded oil tanker. This is the actor back in his action hero sweet spot, not having to stretch his talent too far or resist the urge to add some depth to a script that needed an extra push. (Available with a Disney+ subscription, or to rent on Amazon.)

At the age of 41, Pine has already built a versatile career on invigorating characters adding something to the movie or blending his star power and gravitas inside the same role. He’s a special breed of talent, one that still has a way to go.