Simon Baker is more known for his role as the unscrupulous, but extremely charming Christian Thompson in the "Devil Wears Prada". That role was so inconsequential that any seasoned actor could have just gone through the motions.
However, I found his bit-role as Petengill in "Red Planet" much more intriguing. It might have been a bit-role but it asked for much. A team from Earth lands on Mars - and owing to various mishaps - they all know they are going to die in about a quarter of an hour and in those last stages Petengill inadvertently pushes Santen to his death. And this happens - about 55 million kilometers away on the desolate redscape. Guilt-ridden Petengill re-joins his other comrades - but lies to them that Santen jumped off the cliff. Gallagher and Burchenal don't quite believe it but let is pass - they are all about to die anyway - since their Oxygen supply has almost run out.
However, they discover to their surprise they can breathe after all - Mars seems to have a thin but sufficient layer of oxygen. One would think at this stage remorse would set in and Petengill would redeem himself - but no - he continues to move along his selfish path - and in true movie vengeance meets a gory, horrible death.
Nicely acted part that.
Another good role was in "Something New". That movie had a lot of potential - but was totally spoilt by trying to hard to present a upper-middle-class black woman (Kenya) trying to level both the racial and sexist playing field. Simon Baker plays her counterpart - white, low-class, not-so-well-to-do Gardner (landscape architect - my foot!).
Throw the couple into a hot inter-racial relationship. Kenya has to work hard to overcome her prejudices - she is expected to date a successful, educated, upper-class BLACK man - you see. Baker as Brain on the other hand is unbelievably sympathetic and readily puts up with Kenya's tantrums. To screw up matters further - into the fray enters - the perfect black man that Kenya had been searching for before she met Brian.
Unfortunate - this movie could have done so much better. The racial aspect - stands so blindingly out - that it seems to be a mockery. And there was no need to add that extra character - just to show what Brian is not.
Anyway, coming back to Simon Baker - I am not a fan of his. It was just the co-incidence of seeing him in one movie after the other that prompted this post.
Simon Baker aside - Carrie Ann Moss (of Matrix fame) stars in Red Planet - she carries off the role well. But I think her best role is that of Natalie in "Memento".