Thursday 18 January 2018

From Dunkirk to Sacred Deer - the top 10 movies of 2017

Barry Keoghan as Martin in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.
Barry Keoghan as Martin in The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.

Chris Wasser

That was one hell of a year at the pictures. We laughed. We cried. We had the pleasure of welcoming a bear named Paddington back into our lives. Good times, indeed. And, with awards season just around the corner, they can only get better. But what were the films that blew our minds in 2017? Well, I don’t know about you, but this lot did the trick for me…

∆ Dunkirk

You’ve never seen anything like this before. Christopher Nolan’s extraordinary World War Two drama might yet change the way Hollywood makes war movies.

There is no padding in this here story; no personal accounts, no exposition and no time-wasting. Nolan deploys the bare minimum of dialogue as he goes about reconstructing the terror of Operation

Dynamo (the evacuation of almost 340,000 Allied troops, stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France in 1940). Indeed, Dunkirk bares all the hallmarks of an intricate survival thriller, capped off with a nerve-shredding score, courtesy of the reliable Hans Zimmer. Intense doesn’t even begin to cover it. Pure cinematic spectacle. And, yes, Harry Styles can act.

 

∆ Get Out

A whip-smart social satire, all dressed up as a comedy-horror, Jordan Peele’s Get Out touched a nerve. It also made an absolute fortune ($254m against a $4.5m budget, in case you were wondering).

Daniel Kaluuya stars as Chris, an African-American photographer whose white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), invites him to stay with her family for the weekend. Things get really, really weird.

A house of horrors like no other, Peele’s unsettling display explores racism in America in a way that has never been done before. It’s witty, inventive and more than a little Hitchcockian. It’s a damn fine horror.

 

∆ La La Land

Don’t mention the Oscars. La La Land — Damien Chazelle’s finely-tuned, musical love letter to the Hollywood of yesteryear — is a fabulous piece of work. It is, of course, the story of an aspiring actress named Mia (Emma Stone), who meets and falls for a grumpy jazz hound named Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) in present-day Los Angeles.

Showy, irresistible and more than a little magical, La La Land will put a great, big, dopey smile on your face. Ignore the so-called ‘backlash’: La La Land is the business.

 

∆ Call Me by Your Name

Finally, the great Armie Hammer picks a winner. An exquisite coming-of-age story, set in 1980s Italy, Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name is easily the best romantic drama of the year.

Based on the acclaimed novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name focuses on 17-year-old Italian-American, Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet), who spends the summer with his folks in the Italian countryside, and falls for his father’s academic assistant, Oliver (Armie Hammer). Warm, natural and wonderfully acted, Guadagnino’s film is every bit as beautiful as you’ve heard. There will be Oscars.

 

∆ Blade Runner 2049

What the hell happened here? We’re talking about the box-office figures, obviously. Why didn’t people go to see Blade Runner 2049? Dunno. But it may have something to do with the fact that Sony/Warner went out of their way to keep every last detail a secret, spending upwards of $150m on a belated sequel to a sci-fi cult classic that made very little money in the first place.

Anyway, we’re getting distracted. Let’s remember the important thing, shall we? Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is a masterpiece; a mesmerising sci-fi flick with a brain, a heart and frighteningly good Harrison Ford. Ryan Gosling was deadly, too. Of course he was.

 

∆ The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Greek film-maker Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) turns our world inside out again. This time, he’s got a sinister-looking Barry Keoghan to help him out.

Basically, an open heart surgeon named Steven (Colin Farrell) is offered a rather horrendous ultimatum by a teenager named Martin (Koeghan) after his child falls ill. Oh, and Nicole Kidman is Anna, Steven’s other half. Got it? Good, because I dare not say anymore.

It’s a little bit Beckett; a little bit Twilight Zone. It is absurd, disturbing and totally bananas. Utterly compelling, though.

 

∆ The Florida Project

Of course we’ve included Sean Baker’s beguiling, unconventional drama about a young mother named Halley (newcomer Bria Vinaite) struggling to raise her six-year-old daughter, Moonee (Brooklynn Prince), in a cheap motel off a Florida highway.

Willem Dafoe plays the stern yet kind-hearted manager, Bobby, who, on more than one occasion, is forced to intervene. An astonishing little film about family, childhood and poverty in modern America, The Florida Project will bring a smile to your face and a tear to your eye. Dafoe will win awards.

 

∆ The Disaster Artist

James Franco, his brother Dave, and several of their mates, make a film about the making of the worst film ever made. That sort of makes sense.

Based on the madness behind Tommy Wiseau’s cult favourite, The Room, The Disaster Artist is certainly bizarre, but it’s also hilarious, charming and surprisingly moving. The best comedy of the year? Probably.

 

∆ My Life as a Courgette

A stop-motion animated triumph for adults, Swiss film-maker, Claude Barras’s outstanding debut, My Life as a Courgette, will turn you to mush. Yes, it’s about a nine-year-old boy (Icare, aka Courgette) who is sent to a foster home after he accidentally kills his alcoholic mother, but don’t let the bleak plot outline turn you off.

Courgette tackles some very grown-up issues, but there’s a sweetness in there, too. Plus, it’s only 66 minutes long. That’s a bonus point, right there.

 

∆ Paddington 2

This is what children’s films are supposed to look and, indeed, sound like. There’s not a false note in place in this funny, exciting and joyously assembled sequel about our favourite anthropomorphic bear, who somehow ends up in jail, charged with a crime he didn’t commit. Hugh Grant laps it up as the villain, Brendan Gleeson has a blast as the bear’s new BFF.

Oh yes, the Paddington movies make the world a lovelier place. Magical and magnificent? You betcha.

Independent.ie's guide to the best films you'll see in 2018

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