Words: J. Senior
Yes folks, it is now June and the mid-point of our cinematic year, so it’s time for another list.
2016 has been a fantastic year for films so far, so we thought we’d do a quick run through of our six favourite films of the year released in the UK… you guessed it… so far…
So in no particular order:
Captain America: Civil War
To say this is the strongest Marvel film so far is an understatement. Joe and Anthony Russo have managed to better Joss Whedon’s Avengers Assemble in what is essentially The Avengers 2.5. But they have done so with a massive ensemble cast that still manages to give every individual their moment. Captain America is responsible for carrying the MCU in each of its phases, his solo outings are the strongest of them all, and he is really the back-bone of the entire shared universe. Despite this film not quite being a proper solo outing his actions drive the narrative forward and create the framework around which events unfold. It’s also notable for finally managing to get Spiderman right on screen, something two directors and five movies haven’t been able to do thus far. He only plays a bit part, but his reveal will take you back to childhood in one relentless action sequence in an airport terminal. Other newcomers like Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Daniel Bruhl’s Zemo are also excellent additions to the MCU. If the comic book movie is starting to grate a little, this film is confirmation of every reason you can imagine as to why these films are so bloody addictive.
Jacques Audiard has directed some of the most stunning and challenging independent movies of the last decade or so. Whether that be the muscular prison drama A Prophet or the romantic epic Rust & Bone. Audiard finally won the much coveted Palme d’Or at The Cannes Film Festival last year for Dheepan. The story of a Tamil Tiger soldier (the Dheepan of the title) who forms a fake family with a woman and a young girl he has never previously met, in order to gain migration into France so that he can escape the atrocities of war in his home land. However, life in a down trodden Paris suburb doesn’t remove Dheepan far from violence and the darker elements of his soul begin to seep back when he is confronted with challenging moral conundrums. The film’s rise in tension is expertly executed here, and as a visual piece, this film really succeeds in being utterly mind blowing. It is also a very relevant and human story whilst being surreal and dream-like at the same time.
A one take thriller? “But didn’t they already do that in Birdman?” I hear you say. Well no, because that film used cinematic trickery of the highest form to appear as if it was filmed in one take. Victoria goes one better, as in the whole film was captured in one fell swoop. The premise is interesting but not that impressive until you’ve watched the film and you realise just how complex and large this film really is. The logistics involved alone don’t bare thinking about. What starts as a harmless night out in Berlin ends up landing our Spanish protagonist Victoria in the middle of a bank heist, and exposes her to the dark underworld of the city in which she lives. The planning that must have gone into each shot and scene is truly mind boggling. Director Sebastian Schipper has crafted a story that is so unique and compelling in his first directorial effort you really do worry for his next project and how it can compare to this. Victoria really is that good, it has to be seen to be believed though. Words just don’t do it much justice.
Forget all the hype, the Oscars and the bear rumours and what you are left with here is a true cinematic experience. The Revenant is just that, an experience, if you can stand the fact that it really is just another revenge thriller and instead revel in the visual genius of Emmanuel Lubezski and the cool and calculated direction of Alejandro Iñárritu you will be justly rewarded for your time. It’s an intense tale of survival and man’s primal instincts that never flinches from moments of pure violence, but that is all juxtaposed against beautiful moments of calm and serenity. The Revenant is at its strongest when it takes a step back and relaxes, the build up to the key conflicts is what really hooks you into the story. The bear mauling is oddly grotesque and the final showdown is textbook Wild West fare, but the real genius here is experiencing one man defy all the odds of nature to avenge his betrayers. It’s the journey and not the destination that count ultimately.
10 Cloverfield Lane
*if you don’t like spoilers, probably best to avoid this one… it’s hard to talk about without them*
Coming off the back of hand-held camera monster movie Cloverfield, this “spiritual sequel” shares little with its namesake bar the Cloverfield in its title, and a zany ending that completely defies the films main narrative thread. Overall, 10 Cloverfield Lane plays out as an intense thriller about captivity. When Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up after a car crash, she finds herself trapped in a basemant bunker with the strange Howard (John Goodman) who claims there has been an alien invasion and that she must remain with him below the surface for a couple of years at least until it is safe to venture out. He has equipped his hide away with everything they need and more such as; food, water, clothes, vinyl records and… board games. Dan Trachtenberg’s film is an intricate and intense one, that constantly twists and turns before your eyes. The narratives that run alongside each other are completely at odds, the very real and oppressive captivity thread vs. the bizarre notion of science fiction which sits around the setting. Both Winstead and Goodman deliver knock out performances, and as their ideals begin to clash the film swerves into a frantic and thrilling third act which is confrontational viewing and also pretty hilarious (in parts) as well. Michelle is a strong and admirable character but she goes from being just slightly industrious to being the reincarnation of Ripley from Aliens towards the finale, as she has to fight against ridiculous odds to survive. There hasn’t been a blockbuster like this for some time, where you go in completely unaware of what you are about to watch, it compares to something like District 9 perhaps in that aspect, which is testimony enough surely?
If you haven’t seen Spotlight yet, have you been living under a rock? This snappy and expert tale of a team of journalists who uncovered a mass of child sex abuse cases in the Boston catholic church is probably the highlight of the cinematic year so far. Here’s what we said in our review, on the day after it picked up The Oscar for Best Film:
The Academy Awards love to shell of the Best Picture Award to films that show America at its best. Now, it is clear to see that the film isn’t positive in its portrayal of Boston in the 70’s and 80’s. But, it is an incredible example of Americans coming together to solve a problem in their own society. The only way it could be more patriotic is if Michael Keaton ran around waving a giant Stars and Stripes as he chases leads and hounds lawyers. For that fact alone, it makes it a more likely winner than The Revenant, which is a staggering artistic effort but says little about the world in a wider sense.
I think it extends beyond pro-Americanism and is really pro-humanity. It is a film about people doing the right thing in expense of their own lives. It is something that we should all aspire to, and it gives the film an incredibly worthy punch. Unlike other films of recent years that have followed a similar vein like Argo for example. We can forgive Spotlight its schmaltzy American values for the simple fact that is not just a film for America. It is a film about the human spirit in its purest; free of ego, personal gain or selfish achievements. For that fact, and that fact alone. It deserves its Oscar and will truly live longer in the memory than the others than ran against it this year.