Most people know John Lithgow for starring in 3rd Rock from the Sun or Dexter, but every movie I’ve seen him in furthermore underlines how he is one of the greatest actors of his era, a versatile performer who has excelled in a wide range of roles and genres.
What makes Lithgow such a great actor is his ability to fully inhabit a character and bring it to life in a believable and nuanced way. He has a talent for finding the heart and humanity in even the most complex and flawed characters, and he has a natural charisma and charm that endears him to audiences.
This shows in Distant Thunder which would not be much of a movie without Lithgow’s stellar performance, as he is able to elevate both mediocre manuscript and a pack of mediocre actors to excellence with his portrayal of the many Vietnam veterans failing to rejoin civilian life, living a vagabond life as one of the mountain men in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. Lithgow perfectly captures all the right nuances of socially awkward and traumatised veteran’s clumsy efforts to once again rejoin the society and reach out to his son.