Before I go on I'd like it on the record that I think that Bale is one of this generation's greatest actors. His Patrick Bateman is one of the best breakthrough performances. Its distinct, entertaining, terrifying, intelligent and several other superlative adjectives that will have to be implied for the sake of time. But he seems of late to be content to play a gracious second fiddle, albeit in some great movies. Lets take a look.
1. I'm Not There: Plays the flimsiest Dylan incarnation, barely getting any screen time. Better roles go to Heath Ledger, Cate Blanchett and the Child Dylan.
2. 3:10 to Yuma: Plays the stoic rancher to Russell Crowe's scene stealing bad guy. Crowe gets the best lines and the more interesting character. This movie has a ridiculous ending though.
3. The Dark Knight: Shocking, given he has the title role and all, but that's the way it goes. Heath Ledger as everyone knows is astounding and remaining crumbs got to Aaron Eckhart. Bale's Batman takes a backseat. He had the run of the ball in Batman Begins though.
4. Public Enemies: I know this isn't out yet, But Johnny Depp has the Dillinger role, while Bale gets the fed tracking him down. I can't say for sure, but I would bet enough money that this continues the pattern.
There are some exceptions to this rule, but they seem to be in smaller films, like Rescue Dawn or The Machinist. In which Bale shows audiences how great he can be when given a great role. But if he is to take what I think is his rightful position as one of the best he needs another Bateman. Another performance to blow us all away. But something tells me that it won't be in Terminator: Salvation