Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Best Films of 2017

2017 might be best remembered as the year when certain people in Hollywood and their unpleasant behaviour was finally made public. With luck, it will hopefully shine a strong spotlight on this sort of behaviour to ensure it is stamped out for good. But anyway, aside from all that unpleasantness, this year also brought us a plethora of exciting films. A female led superhero film, a return to the world of replicants, a couple of incredible true stories about war, the end of one man’s remarkable portrayal of a character that he has played for nearly two decades, and of course the continuation of the new trilogy of adventures taking place in a galaxy far far away. Lots of great films, and so it is now time for me to cast my eye back on the last 12 months of so of film and select what for me ranks as the best of the best of the ones that I have seen.

A few things to note. There are certain releases on this list that you might be thinking were released in 2016. well certain films didn’t reach UK shores until 2017 and so that makes them eligible for this year’s list. But as is the case every year there are a select few films that get their main release in early January and if I get a chance to catch these in the first few weeks of the month, they will qualify for this year’s list. Also I unfortunately didn’t see every film that was released this year so apologies if your favourite film didn’t make my list as I may not have seen it. Lastly, anything that is released from this point onwards (e.g. Phantom Thread, Lady Bird) will be considered for the best films of 2018. These studios and their bizarre release dates…

Second, grades here have little impact on the ranking of these films. One film may get a higher grade or the perfect grade, it will not necessarily mean that film will be the best film of the year, this is my list of my favourite movies that I had the most fun with or enjoyed the most.  Before I get into the body of my list I do have some honourable mentions, films that were awesome and that didn’t quite make the list with there being 10 spaces, but were still a lot of fun. First up…

mother! (review) if ever there was one film that divided audiences right down the middle, this would be one particular example. Darren Aronofsky’s tale about a woman whose home is invaded was riddled with metaphors aplenty that explored a collection of really interesting and thought-provoking themes. Yet there were some scenes that were just downright messed up (if you have seen the film, you’ll likely know what I’m referring to.) Despite that, it was refreshing to see such a completely original concept be brought to the big screen, and this is a film that will be analysed for years to come.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (review) Yes I know I can hear the shockwaves around the galaxy already as to why this hasn’t made the actual list. It was a great addition to the saga as it took the characters that were introduced to us in The Force Awakens and took them in interesting new directions. For many fans, the big problem with Force Awakens was the fact that it felt too similar to A New Hope. As such director Rian Johnson was clearly trying to take the franchise in new directions, and while not everything was perfect, it was an enjoyable ride and sets up nicely for Episode IX.

Wind River (review) Taylor Sheridan made his directorial debut good and proper telling the story of the investigation surrounding the death of a young woman in the brutal Wyoming winter. Jeremy Renner perhaps gives his best performance as a hunter who discovers the young woman’s body and Elizabeth Olsen as the FBI agent leading the investigation. It’s a tense film that keeps you on the edge, particularly when we reach that third act and the action is turned up to the maximum.

Molly’s Game (review) Telling the true story of Molly Bloom, the woman who ran elite high stakes poker games, until she ran into a bit of bother with the law. In a superb leading performance, Jessica Chastain carries the film on her shoulders as we watch her go the crushing lows that wrecked early career aspirations to the ensuing trouble that surrounds her poker career. Under the stewardship of master screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who also makes his directorial debut, in triumphant style.

The Big Sick (review). When there’s a lot  of films in one particular genre that are very similar, it runs the risk of all just becoming a bit stale. Thankfully every once in a while, one comes along that is a breath of fresh air. Based on the true story of Kumail Nanjiani who despite his parents attempts to arrange a marriage for him, falls for a woman, except when she falls ill, it really tests their relationship. With sincere heartfelt performances at its core, alongside tremendous comedic turns from Holly Hunter and Ray Romano. A very refreshing new take on the rom-com genre.

Honourable mentions done, time to crack on with the main list and we begin with…

10. Wonder Woman

Full Wonder Woman review

Just what the doctor ordered for the DCEU. Fans might have had little hope of seeing a great DCEU film after experincing a rough start. This is until Diana of Themyscira came along. Telling the origins story of Wonder Woman and how she came to be the all powerful hero we know and love. It was so thrilling to see a female led superhero film, the first one that we have really had since the genre has been thriving since the mid to late 2000s, be such an exciting blast.

Gal Gadot picked up where she left off from BVS and delivered a truly exceptional performance. Chris Pine was also in excellent form as Steve Trevor, Diana’s love interest. The action, particularly that superb No Man’s Land sequence was enthralling. While the last act did drag the film down a bit, it was still a wonderful breath of fresh air for the superhero genre, and one would hope that more female driven superhero films will follow.

9. Darkest Hour

Full Darkest Hour review

The film that is surely going to end Gary Oldman’s long wait for that first elusive Oscar. With the country, indeed the entire continent of Europe at war, the United Kingdom needed a leader, and that man was Winston Churchill. The rest, as they say, is history. Oldman gives such a convincing and authentic performance and he carries the film tremendously well as he battles with those who are desperate to undermine him and his position.

Oldman is strongly  supported by the likes of Kristen Scott Thomas and Lily James. With excellent production design and cinematography that captures 1940s London superbly, with a stirring screenplay from Anthony McCarten. This is another fascinating insight into one of the most intense periods of British history.

8. Baby Driver

Full Baby Driver review

One of the main contenders for the coolest characters of 2017 is Ansel Elgort as the lead character in Edgar Wright’s latest film, which was perhaps the most stylish film that has been released all year, as well as being a rare piece of completely original story-telling. Elgort was electric in the lead role as the getaway driver who works for a mob boss in order to pay off a debt. The action scenes were so well cut together and with an absolutely stellar soundtrack to boot, it made for some superb edge-of-your-seat entertainment.

With an equally stellar supporting cast including great turns from Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and he-who-shall-not-be-named. It was a heist film with a lot of heart and one of Wright’s finest films.

 

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Full, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri review

When someone you love passes away, the grief and sadness can be extremely difficult to recover from. So what do you do when that someone is murdered but there have been no arrests? Well one woman’s answer is to rent the use of three billboards outside her town to force the authorities into action. Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this is an extremely dark comedy focusing on one woman’s relentless mission to get justice. With a stunning performance from Frances McDormand and tremendous turns from Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell, it is a film that will keep you on your toes from beginning to end.

6. Thor: Ragnarok

Full Thor: Ragnarok review

Third time was certainly the charm for the God of Thunder. His first two films while enjoyable were not exactly the cream of the MCU crop. However in comes New Zealand director Taika Waititi to give us by far and away the best Thor film, and also the funniest and maybe even the funniest MCU film we have had yet. As the villainous Hela comes back to claim the throne of Asgard, Thor finds himself in a mission with everyone’s favourite green rage monster in a mission to reclaim the throne.

Waititi fuses his delightful brand of humour, in a film that is buddy cop comedy meets superhero. Hemsworth is once again brilliant as Thor, likewise for Tom Hiddleston as Loki. In addition, we got introduced to Jeff Goldblum basically playing himself in a fancy costune, and Tessa Thompson as the badass Valkyrie. It’s vibrant, colourful and oh yeah, it has one of the best MCU side characters ever in Korg who steals every minute of screen time he has. Korg solo film anyone?

5. Dunkirk

Full Dunkirk review

Christopher Nolan is without a doubt one of the finest directors working today. His films are always so immaculately well made and he has almost never disappointed. Here with his latest, he continues that trend and gives us a truly superb war film that tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation. Telling this story in three separate strands and weaving them together so expertly is a ballsy move, but Nolan made it work. The use of practical effects in as many scenes as possible added so much authenticity to the film.

A gripe that many seemed to have was the lack of character development on any of the characters, and it would be fair to say that while this was in short supply, the acting was superb from just about everyone and it made it such a hard-hitting, emotional watch to the extent that the impact of the film is vast and along with another war film that is yet to appear on this list, it will go down as one of the most breath-taking war films ever made. With yet another nearly flawless film added to his filmography, it makes you wonder is there any genre that Nolan cannot conquer?

4. War for the Planet of the Apes

Full War for the Planet of the Apes review

APES. TOGETHER. STRONG. After two stunning films in this rebooted franchise, the stage was set for the perfect film to close out this superb trilogy and boy did director Matt Reeves do just that, and in incredible style too. Andy Serkis’s work in bringing Caesar to life is just simply extraordinary and it’s about damn time his work was recognised with an Oscar nod. Despite the film’s title, there isn’t much of a war to be found in terms of all out guns blazing warfare. Given how we have watched Caesar grow from a young chimp to be this battle hardened leader of the Apes, to see him at the end of his tether here made for some insanely riveting viewing.

Nevertheless the film still managed to be a gripping story this is still a superb film about family, conflict and your place in a very chaotic world. Caesar once again stole the show, but Woody Harrelson deserves praise for his work as the vicious Colonel. Though more films are bound to follow, this closed the book on what is an absolutely fantastic trilogy.

3. Logan

Full Logan review

Every once in a while, a superhero film comes along that becomes so much more than just your regular superhero flick. A film that becomes something more, a deeply personal story that transcends the comic book genre, and that is precisely what Logan is. Right from the off, you just know that is going to be a very different type of Wolverine film than what we had previously seen. The violence is turned up to the maximum, which made absolutely perfect sense given the nature of the character.

Hugh Jackman has made this role his own, and given that it was his last time playing the role after 9 films and 17 years, he couldn’t have gone out on a better note, it might just be his best ever turn in the role. Likewise for Sir Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. It was a tough watch to see these two guys at pretty much their lowest ebb as they work to protect a young mutant named Laura played superbly by Dafne Keen. The prospect of a solo film with her is certainly a very intriguing one.

2. Blade Runner 2049

Full Blade Runner 2049 review

After directing the exceptional Sicario and Arrival, up next for Denis Villeneuve was the sequel to one of the most influential films of the sci-fi genre maybe ever. It was an enormous challenge and fans might have wondered if it was ever going to live up to the original. Thankfully, this is one of the finest sequels ever made and a perfect companion piece to Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece. It honoured what came before it, but also created a truly riveting and compelling story to tell, with some of the most beautiful cinematography that has graced the big screen this whole year. Each frame of this film was just dripping with breath-taking visuals that were dazzling to the eyes. Seriously give Roger Deakins a damn Oscar already!

Ryan Gosling was superb as K, and Harrison Ford once again excelled in the role of Deckard. It was everything fans of the original could have hoped for and delivered an exceptional film that might just be even better than the original, and that is a remarkable accomplishment. Villeneuve emphatically proved that as a director he is at the very top of his craft and it will be fascinating to see what project he takes on next.

And so my #1 film of 2017 is

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1. Hacksaw Ridge

Full Hacksaw Ridge review

I won’t beat around the bush here. No film that I saw in 2017 had a bigger impact on me than Hacksaw Ridge, and no film left me just completely speechless walking out of it as this film did. As a history student, the Second World War was always one of my favourite periods to study, and the fact that I hadn’t come across this story just astounded me as it is one of the most inspirational stories of the war. Telling the story of Desmond Doss, a man who wanted to serve his country but due to his religious beliefs, refused to carry a gun. It seems ludicrous to even do such a thing but the film does an exceptional job of making you understand why Doss believes the way he does.

It’s once we get to Hacksaw Ridge itself is where the film completely changes its focus and becomes an absolutely brutal war film, with some of the most pulsating action sequences in perhaps any war film since Saving Private Ryan. The violence here isn’t glorified, it just feels so frighteningly realistic and it makes you realise that war is brutal. Andrew Garfield as Doss gave a career best performance that for my money should have won him an Oscar. I won’t reveal the true extent of this man’s heroics in case you don’t know, but the fact he did what he did, all while refusing to carry a gun is just absolutely incredible. It is one of the best war films ever made and is my number 1 film of 2017. After I saw it, I wondered if anything would top it all year long, but nothing managed to displace it.

That is a wrap on my list of the best films of 2017. What are your top 10 best films of 2017?  Be sure to follow my Twitter and don’t forget to like Through the Silver Screen on Facebook to ensure you never miss another review of mine! Let us hope that we are treated to more cinematic gold on the big screen in 2018.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Wind River (2017)

Image is property of The Weinstein Company, Thunder Road Pictures and Ingenious Media

Wind River – Film Review

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Synopsis: In the depths of Wyoming, USA, a rookie FBI agent and a veteran hunter to solve the mystery of the death of a young woman…

Review: Winter, a season that can be extremely punishing and harsh if you venture out in the wilderness not fully prepared for the brutality that that particular time of year can deliver. And it’s in winter in Wyoming, USA that sets the stage for the second directorial effort of Taylor Sheridan, the scribe behind the quite brilliant Sicario and Hell or High Water. Much like both of those films, there’s some crime involved. But this time there are no drug cartels or bank robbers to be found, it’s the mystery surrounding the death of a young woman’s body that is found in the brutal wilderness and the job of law enforcement to investigate what happened.

Leading the investigation is  Jane Banner (Olsen) a rookie FBI agent who’s called to the scene of the crime after the discovery was made by Cory Lambert (Renner) Together, Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye  these two go on the hunt for the clues that they hope will lead to finding out those who are responsible for this young woman’s death. In the same way that The Revenant might have made you feel cold whilst you were watching, the use of practical sets makes the audience feel like they are in the deep wilderness of this harsh place which can send a cold shiver down your spine. Clearly choosing to shoot on practical locations gives the film a real authenticity and adds to the gritty nature of the story.

Avengers on a mission…

Sheridan showed his writing credentials with the aforementioned films he scribed, and once again his script though it does wobble in places is strong and is ably backed up by well developed, interesting characters. As a man who married into a Native American family, Cory is a man driven by his desire for justice due to the connections he has with the deceased woman in question and Renner’s performance is excellent. Though initially reluctant he joins Banner on her quest for justice, and in this frozen land where nearby help is not exactly forthcoming, the two of them must use their experience to help solve this case. Olsen is also on good form, if perhaps not as well developed as she maybe could be in the officer leading this investigation but nevertheless, the characters are well written to keep you engaged in the story.

The pacing is a bit slow to begin with as the investigation begins and the hunt for clues begins. However despite the slowish pace in the beginning, the story remains riveting to watch. Once the investigation has yielded some substantial results is when the film really picks up the pace and delivers some pulsating and tense scenes, particularly when you reach the third act and the key details of this investigation begin to emerge. Sheridan showed his skill when it comes to screenwriting, and he transfers those skills to directing tremendously well with great wide shots of the territory that really make you feel that this place is cold, vast and very unforgiving.

Though the crux of the movie focuses on the hunt for clues surrounding the deceased young woman, the film does have a bigger picture focus that while is an important part of the film isn’t explored perhaps as much as it ought to be, at least not until the end credits when it really hits you like a wrecking ball. The score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps keep the tension up particularly in that mesmerising third act that will ensure you feel those cold chills in your body, almost as if you were the ones in this brutal environment that makes you realise, that in spite of whatever horrors humanity may commit, that Mother Nature is a merciless force you dare not mess with.

Tremendously well made, with two excellent performances at its core, and a story that will shock you and send a cold shiver down your spine.