As much an ode to space set movie classics such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Alien’, ‘Sunshine’ is a master class in suspenseful examinations of people within claustrophobic confines in its own right. So too it matches some of the best visual treats of the year with its simple, yet excellently executed story.
Yes this is a shamelessly girly movie, in fact a girl sat crying behind me during one scene in which our heroine sang to her unborn child while making pies. Nevertheless this earns a mention for being the type of insightful romantic comedy I want to see more of, one that manages to undo the damage inflicted by a hundred Meg Ryan movies – the problems are real, unwanted pregnancies, abusive husbands – the humour is real, it is the type that strives to distract from misfortune and the overall effect is that this movie is full of real charm and enjoyment. The lead, Kerri Russel , is set to deservedly make a name for herself. I read during the year she had auditioned for the role of Lois Lane and her work in ‘Waitress’ makes me wonder what she could have done with the role.
The surprise of the year for me, in the vein of ‘The Princess Bride’, this intelligent, funny and heartful treatment of a fairytale is a great adventure, ‘Stardust’ is the post modern take on fairytale conventions ‘Shrek’ could only ever manage pop culture digs at. The combination of spectacle, young talent as well as stalwarts such as Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer refusing to take themselves too seriously combines to deliver a great movie.
7. Half Nelson
Ryan Gosling sitting slumped in a dingy hotel room, looking both apologetic and unrepentent in his need for drugs, as one of the students he must teach high school English to the following day delivers his supply, earns in my eye the performance of the year for Gosling. This story of conflicted conscience, class and race divide and human frailty is perfectly tied together in the redeeming friendship struck up between student and teacher. Subtle, effective film-making.
6. Michael Clayton
Along with this year’s ‘Breach’, ‘Michael Clayton’ is a good old-fashioned thriller, with issues and political commentary taking a passenger seat to the driving force of tension, pacing and great performances. Tom Wilkinson can do no wrong in my book and so too George Clooney and Tilda Swinton lend great credibility to this story of corporate greed. More of the same please.
The most fun and original of what I am classing the popcorn set of output which filled our summer. Good simple mindless plotting, sees Shia Le Beouf somehow evoking Allenesque neurosis while managing to be a hero and get the ridiculously hot girl from the wrong side of the tracks. All the while transforming robots have arrived from space to track down a box and that’s as much exposition as we shall be getting so as not to take from the time given to blowing stuff up and directing destructive killing machines towards populated areas. Ridiculous fun.
The underdog story of the year, this movie could not but melt even the coldest heart. A story set within a naturalistic world of bitter sweet romance told through music, the audience is gripped to the story of characters whose names we never even learn. This is the first film I saw having moved to Dublin this year and it served as a perfect reminder of the wonder of small stories set to a big canvas. The closing sequence is my scene of the year, which is posted below, though nothing will match the great experience of watching the entire movie.
3. The Bourne Ultimatum
Few films can come along and set the standard that an entire genre of film will subscribe to and more so the standard that the longest running franchise of films in history will reboot to match. The Bourne Trilogy has achieved this and the third and final entry is a perfect testament to why these films have such impact. Demanding, fast paced and making innovative use of film making tools to add to the effect ‘Ultimatum’ is an apt resolution to the trilogy, with a Moroccan roof top chase and a Waterloo Station chase being amongst the best sequences of the year.
2. The Darjeeling Limited
I begrudge the characters of Wes Anderson films, they get to live in worlds where their dysfunction and eccentricities are unapologetically on show. Whether I subscribe too much to the world around me or the reality is these fictional characters could never exist in the real world, I know that these films and their moments of reflection are always stand out and ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ is one in a canon of consistently great films coming from Anderson and the talent he draws together. My exchange of the year is a train stewart asking Jason Schwartzman ‘What’ wrong with you?’, his response being simple ‘I’ll have to get back to you’.
1. The Dossing Times Movie of the Year: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
In terms of the films I have seen, I feel something new was achieved in film this year and it came in the shape of this movie. Set to one of the bleakest, yet most beautifully evoked surrounds, the film has neither a traditional structure nor a crowd-pleasing pace. The film is full of pensive, stalled tension with characters minds riddled with paranoia and mistrust a world away from the gun totting legend of Jesse James and his gang. Pitt has the least to work with but does a stellar job in evoking a man tormented by his own legend and Casey Affleck delivers the most unnerving, layered portrayal of a man. An outstanding piece of work, a perfect marrying of image, characterisation and atmosphere to create a unique film experience.