Jason Mitchell, 'Mudbound'
Say what you will about Dee Rees' ambitious, if severely overwrought movie about two Mississippi families in the mid-1940s and its attempt to shove a TV season's worth of Southern Gothic soap opera into two hours: There's a dynamite performance at the very center of it, courtesy of Jason Mitchell. His WWII veteran, who comes home from fighting fascists to face down prejudice, both grounds the saga and gives it a sense of forward dramatic momentum; the more you watch him and fellow ex-soldier Garrett Hedlund bond over their experiences, the more you wished the whole movie was simply about them. Folks who were paying attention to his work as Eazy-E in Straight Outta Compton walked away thinking this young actor had star potential. This is where he confirms it. (A quick shout-out as well to Mary J. Blige, virtually unrecognizable as Mitchell's hard-suffering mom.)