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Inception (2010) Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Coutillard, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page. Dir: Christopher Nolan.
DiCaprio extracts secrets through people’s dreams, but can he plant an idea in the same way? A dense mind-bending blend of concepts that can dazzle, baffle, inspire and confuse all at once. Easy to pick holes, but sweeps you up with such creativity, mystery and spectacle, that it barely matters.
The Secret in Their Eyes (2010) Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Guillermo Francella, Pablo Rago. Dir: Juan José Campanella
A retired detective revisits an old case he wishes to turn into a novel, reawakening old emotions and an unrequited love. Touches on many themes, love, loss, justice, regret, letting go; the actors and direction are immaculate and constantly manages to surprise. Best film of the year?
Cloverfield (2008) Michael Stahl-David, T. J. Miller, Jessica Lucas, Odette Yustman, Lizzy Caplan. Dir: Matt Reeves.
A monster attacks New York while beautiful teens have a party; they capture the action on camera as they flee. An interesting conceit, but not one that ever really convinces thanks to the clichéd characters, consistent camera work and movie plotting. Nevetheless, it does provide plenty of excitement.
Hunger (2008) Michael Fassbender, Liam Cunningham, Liam McMahon, Raymond Lohan. Dir: Steve McQueen.
When the no-wash protest fails to restore their rights as political prisoners, Irish Republican Bobby Sands goes on hunger strike. A brutal and troubling film about people so determined to win at all costs that they lose sight of what they’re trying to achieve. Fassbender and Cunningham are electric.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Jeremy Renner, Sam Rockwell. Dir: Andrew Dominik.
Robert Ford idolises outlaw Jesse James and the two of them develop a strained relationship. A slow burner which pays off in the final hour, though it always proceeds at a stately pace. Stunningly shot, the title is misleading, but then again, legends aren't built on truth.
The Good German (2006) George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire. Dir: Steven Soderburgh
A military journalist encounters his old flame in post WW2 Berlin and gets sucked into a murder investigation. Cleverly wraps a noir storyline around a convincing historical scenario, and the cinematography is striking, but Clooney’s character is thin and the twists become irritating rather than intriguing. A missed opportunity.
Cat People (1942) Simone Simon, Kent Smith, Tom Conway, Jane Randolph. Dir: Jacques Tourneur.
Irena is afraid of showing affection for her husband for fear of transforming into a vicious cat. The first of Val Lewton’s horrors virtually invented the technique of never showing your monster. Psychologically complex and featuring Tourneurs characteristics shadows, it has style and depth that few other horrors can match.