Chris Pine’s More Subtle Acting
This is what the script says regarding this scene:PIKE Something I admired about your dad... he didn't believe in no-win scenarios. KIRK He sure learned his lesson. PIKE Depends on how you define winning. You're here, aren't you? (off Kirk's look) That instinct to leap without looking-- that was his nature, too. And in my opinion it's something Starfleet has lost. KIRK -- why are you talking to me? PIKE Because I looked up your file while you were drooling on the floor. Your aptitude tests were off the charts-- so what is it? You like being the only Genius Level repeat-offender in the midwest?
Despite the bare-bones outline, I think Pine’s reactions here give a lot of depth to this scene. The first gif is Kirk’s reaction to Pike saying “you’re here aren’t you?” Now, Jim first thanks the barman for a drink, but then we see his reaction to Pike’s words — the incredulous raise of the eyebrows, the bitter smile, the sad resignation — and it’s clear that Jim doesn’t think him being here is a win for his father. He doesn’t believe that his own life and what he’s made of it is worth his father’s sacrifice.
This is an aspect of Kirk’s personality that we see reinforced with the second gif — after Kirk asks why Pike is talking to him, Pike brings up Kirk’s off-the-charts aptitude and we see how quickly Jim sobers, the smile drops, and he looks to the side, unable to meet Pike’s eyes. There’s a weight implied in that gaze that gives you some idea of the disappointments and failures Jim has dealt with. His lack of self-worth and how he knows he is not living up to his potential.
Pine’s acting is really what brings all of this to life but it’s quite subtle — you can easily miss it if you’re not looking for it. But it tells you a lot about Jim Kirk’s character — these moments of vulnerability where you realize how much the bravado is a front. He’s an excellent actor, Mr. Pine, as he manages to convey this information in seconds, without words, just through his facial expressions.