My Top 10 Films of 2017

In July I posted a mid-year list, and you can read it here to compare how much it has changed in the last 6 months or so: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/26/my-mid-year-top-10-films-2017/.  This is a list for UK 2017 releases, so there may be one or two that were up for awards last year, but us Brits didn’t get to see them till a couple of months later.  It has been a good year for film, and I have managed to see 46 movies, whether in the cinema or on a smaller screen.  This list is my own personal choices – the films that I connected with the most.  It’s not necessarily a ‘best movies’ list, but an opinion piece, that should give you a sense of my own particular film tastes.  There are also films that I have sadly missed this year, which could have made the list (such as Film Stars Don’t Die In Liverpool).

 

  1. Good Time (November)

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This is like a contemporary New York set Shakespearian tragedy, with neon.  Nothing goes right for Robert Pattinson’s Connie Nikas as he races through a series of criminal mishaps.  This film is brilliantly paced and strikingly shot.  It moves fast, and a slight twist in the middle kicks it up a gear.  The frantic nature of the plot makes supremely watchable and Pattinson at the centre is really engaging.  His colourful performance matches the colourful film, though there’s no shortage of harsh or violent scenes.  Would recommend for anyone looking for a good, though ultimately wrenched, time.

 

  1. The Disaster Artist (December)

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The ‘so bad they’re good’ kinds of films have never been my thing, and so The Room has never pulled me in.  Perhaps this is why the film worked for me, because I saw it as wacky insight into a strange man and his strange film.  James Franco’s direction has been criticised by some, though I think he does an okay job at pulling this film together.  His performance is very comprehensive, and his brother Dave plays against him quite well.  More than anything, I found it warm, and comforting.  Overall it’s a pleasant film that can be universally enjoyed.

 

  1. Wind River (September)

Wind River - 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 19 May 2017

When I saw this film in the cinema it utterly blew me away.  I found it so suspenseful and well directed.  It’s quite a tough movie with tough themes and director Taylor Sheridan handles them well.  There’s nothing remarkable about the film other than the way it’s told.  It’s a master-class in the pacing of a simple narrative and a strong American tale.  And has a twist that works to perfection.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/09/20/wind-river-film-review/

 

  1. 20th Century Women (February)

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This film is gorgeous in every way.  It is purely acted, with some of the best chemistry between characters this year.  The cinematography is as simple as it is artistic, with every shot carefully put together.  All of the emotional beats land, resulting in a really honest picture.  It’s almost like a catalogue of a few different lives, something I’m interested by.  Like the Disaster Artist I can universally recommend it, and safely say the world is better because of its existence.

 

  1. Baby Driver (June)

Ansel Elgort;Jon Hamm;Jamie Foxx;Eiza Gonzalez

Edgar Wright is a curious director.  The Cornetto trilogy is fun, but really just remakes of lots of different films.  With this film he delves almost completely into originality with a gimmick that is joyous.  A soundtrack backing the entire film gives it’s a natural beat and flow.  The scenes inter-connect like a dance, and create an escapist feeling.  It’s exciting, and loveable – with believable performances at the centre.  In the cinema it was a visual and audio journey that yanked you along with it.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/baby-driver-film-review/

 

  1. Call Me By Your Name (October)

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When this film came out it passed me by, and I’ve only seen it just recently.  Within the first few minutes I had instant connection to the films style, and setting.  It’s a nuanced tale – more interesting than a simple gay romance with deep touches on friendship and desire.  Armie Hammer does well in what can be seen as a brave performance (31 playing a 24 year old having sexual relations with a 17 year old who’s played by a 21 year old), and his chemistry with the young actor Timothee Chalmet is acutely present.  The film is gushingly watchable because of what surrounds them – intellect, history, a picturesque small Italian town, sun, open conversations and pretty people.  Its surroundings I’d like to visit.

 

  1. Manchester by the Sea (January)

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Almost perfect, this has become one of my most beloved films of the last few years.  I adore the subtleties of it, and the patience Kenneth Lonergan takes with the story.  Casey Affleck (despite possible personal issues) deserved the Oscar, as he’s desperately compelling in the film.  His character is real, and troubled with a past weighing him down.  Next to him is the young Lucas Hedges who is also a standout of the year.  The film deals with its themes with caution and is never crass about them.  It’s a movie that will age well, and be stuck in my mind for a good while longer.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/manchester-by-the-sea-film-review/

 

  1. Free Fire (March)

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Definitely the most underrated film of the year, this is a messy film, but my kind of film.  It’s sharp and dirty, with a series of events that is heavy metal film-making.  The cast is brilliant, ranging from a democratic Brie Larson, a romantic Cillian Murphy, and an impossibly cool Armie Hammer.  These and the rest of the billing (including a hilarious Sharlto Copley) gel together in this small environment to give visceral action.  It’s transparent with its audience right up until the end, and has some of the most memorable moments of the year.  Often jarring, though always appealing this is a must watch for film fans.  Full review: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/07/03/free-fire-film-review/

 

  1. Blade Runner 2049 (October)

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Another pretty much perfect movie that is a breathtaking experience, with my favourite scene of the year in it (the sex scene).  Denis Villeneuve is probably the best director on the planet right now, and so I had high hopes going into this.  The original is a film that I equally love and hate – this sequel I just love.  On a visual level it’s a masterpiece, shot by the lighting genius Roger Deakins.  In terms of story it’s beautifully slow, and misdirecting.  There are some moments in this film that absolutely floored me, and I was left incredibly moved by the experience.  Piece on Blade Runner 2049 and death: https://robsfocuspull.blog/2017/10/08/blade-runner-2049-i-dont-want-to-die/

 

  1. Dunkirk (July)

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This film is a spectacle, and when I saw it in iMAX it was a cinema practice like no other.  Christopher Nolan is one of the greats of our time, and this is by far his best film.  He narrows his focus in to tell a story that needed telling.  It has emotional draw because of its subject matter, and he balances that well in the runtime.  The structure he uses really is an accomplishment in film-making and gives the film an arresting pace.  Coupled with a Hans Zimmer ticking soundtrack and you have a thriller of the highest form.  It’s a film that must be seen by everyone due to its importance to history, but mostly because it’s astonishing cinema.

 

Here’s 11-20 with points reviews based upon Presentation (P – look of the film), Performance (PA – the acting), Narrative (N – the story) and Effect (E – Did the film have an impact on me?)…

  1. T2: Trainspotting – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  2. Logan – P: 2.5/3, PA: 3/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  3. The Death of Stalin – P: 2/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2.5/3, E: 0/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10
  4. John Wick: Chapter 2 – P: 3/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 1.5/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 7.5/10
  6. The Florida Project – P: 2/3, PA: 3/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  7. Silence – P: 3/3, PA: 2/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8/10
  8. Okja – P: 2.5/3, PA: 2/3, N: 3/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10
  9. La La Land – P: 3/3, PA: 2.5/3, N: 2/3, E: 1/1 – Final Score: 8.5/10
  10. Nobody Speak: The Trials of the Free Press (Documentary) – Final Score: 8/10

 

I’m always open to hearing what other peoples top 10’s are!

Free Fire: Film Review

There is a two problems that come when you are excited to see a film.  The first being that it will never live up to your expectations, and the second being that it can make you ignorant to the films faults.  Ben Wheatley’s new film Free Fire is my most anticipated film so far this year, and so these problems do arise.  This review is an attempt to move past those problems and mark the film on its own merit.

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The set up is simple, it’s Boston in 1978 and the IRA are in town to buy some guns.  They meet, via a couple of middlemen, a dealer and his goons in an abandoned warehouse. Through some coincidences and ambiguous antics the nights before, tensions arise and quickly a 60 minute shootout begins.

Now Wheatley is directly playing with genre conventions here.  He is taking a small piece of action movies and stretching it out to cover almost all of the run time.  There is an element of picking and choosing genre devices to use as plot points.  For example, it’s a period piece, yet set in the middle of nowhere.  This means he can use 1978 by having the IRA at the centre, and abandon any use of mobile phones.  Consequently the plot becomes isolated and grounded around one premise.  The premise – build up doesn’t last that long either, and the opening has enough time to establish all of the players.  Without much time passing, we are familiar with traits of each character.  Then, as the film plays out, these traits are fleshed out in correlation with the characters actions.  What I’m trying to say is that the premise and genre selections allowed the shootout to make sense on a narrative level.  The writing of the plot allows the deus ex machina’s to be sidelined by a coherent purpose.  This is all minor stuff if you put it against the film as a whole, but I think it’s brilliantly done, because without it there would be no weight to all the shooting.

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When the shooting comes, it is cartoonish, yet it was more visceral than I was expecting. The film definitely has moments of Kill List (Wheatley’s first feature), as the violence is graphic and at times quite sadistic.  This worked for me and sat side by side in the grounded nature of the plot and characters.  Bullets are flying everywhere and it’s shot in a style where it is not completely clear who is shooting who.  There are quick cuts and shaky footage as concrete blocks ricochet, which at times makes the film quite disorientating.  I think perhaps this might unsettle some viewers, though I feel there is enough gravity to each bullet fired to make it an entertaining performance.  There was a real impact every time someone got hit or injured, often by their own failings.  A lot of this comes down to technical design, and the team behind the sound and the set deserve the credit for this.  Every character is crawling in pain for at least half of the film and the moments of quietness are what make the louder moments so enthralling.

The films shines as just a piece of sheer enjoyment.  Sharlto Copley is fantastic as arms dealer Vernon, who manages to be hilarious with every line of dialogue, and Armie Hammer is unbelievably charming and nuanced as the main middle man Ord.  These two characters alone are why the film is such a pleasure to watch.  However there is also a feeling of heroism in the film, with Cillian Murphys IRA buyer Chris taking on a role that you can root for.  He even has a budding romance with Brie Larson’s Justine, who is in some of the trickiest scenes of the film. All of these personalities jell together and the art of dialogue flow is incredibly well done between them.  Wheatley has crafted a room full of psychopaths trying to kill each other, whilst also inviting them to be likeable and cared about.  The film certainly has a lighthearted tone because of this, but does dip into somewhere dark every now and then.

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It is safe to say I have gushed about this film too much, though like Green Room last year, it is a film almost made directly for me.  A film with interesting characters, that never dwells on the drama nor looks past it.  A film with a limited amount of ways to breathe, that keeps a focus throughout.  The tone of the film leads it to be desperately fun from the opening credits, and the execution is just as remarkable as the idea of a feature long shootout.  Must watch.