I would be lying if I said I'd seen huge amounts of new films during 2010, but I've seen a fair a few and below are my five favourites. This is based on films released in the UK in 2010, at least one of these was first out in 2009, but not over here, so I couldn't have seen it. It was a tough job, several films almost made it onto the list* but these 5 superlative effort are the one's I feel stop out for me the most.
5) Four Lions
Starring: Riz Ahmed, Arsher Ali, Nigel Lindsay, Kayvan Novak, Adeel Akhtar. Directed by Chris Morris.
A comedy that’s hilarious, but really isn’t very funny. For the first hour we can laugh at the wannabee jihadists incompetence and their ridiculous half-baked ideology, but when they descend on London for the final part, strapped to explosives, their antics become truly frightening. It’s an intelligent and insightful film, which makes a convincing argument that the threat comes less from terrorists, but from more familiar outcasts of society. Just ones with explosive ambitions.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Hardy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy. Directed by Christopher Nolan
A rare example of the intelligent summer blockbuster. Dark, mysterious and complex; it combines spectacular effects with thought-provoking concepts about our perceptions of reality and the sanctity of our own thoughts. It sweeps you up with a formidable pace, and yes, it’s very convoluted, and there may be too many layers to the puzzle box, but excitement and intrigue by far win out.
3) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Starring: Michael Nyqvist, Noomi Rapace, Sven-Bertil Taube, Peter Haber. Directed by Niels Arden Oplev.
A thriller par-excellence. A case of a powerful, incestuous family, with dark secrets is not especially original, and could’ve been given a rather mundane treatment. But the success of the books is in its characters, the formidable morale crusader Blomkvist, and more interestingly, Lisbeth Salander, the goth-computer hacker with a disturbing past and a determination never to be defeated. Nyqvist and Rapace evocatively bring both characters to life, and the icy cold cinematography and careful pacing makes this one of the most exciting and tense mysteries to hit the screen in many years. It was such a hard act to follow that the second and third parts of the trilogy had a tough time competing. And by default, the prospects for the American remake already look bleak.
On a personal note, seeing this film also gave me one of my own personal all-time favourite cinema moments. During one particularly tense scene, one revelation gave a member of the audience such a shock that he literally jumped out of his own chair, and threw his hands up in the air, resembling a solo, spontaneous Mexican wave.
Directed by Sylvain Chomet.
One of two films that left me emotionally drained (see the other below) the Illusionist is the belated second feature animation from Sylvain Chomet, director of Bellevue Rendezvous. It’s based on a never-produced script from French director and comedian Jacques Tati and it follows a stage musician who finds his act going out of date during the sudden cultural upheaval of the 60s. His search for work takes him all the way to Scotland, where in a village he meets a young girl who believes in magic, who then becomes his travelling companion.
The film is melancholy when at its most jolly, and absolutely tear-jerking when at its most tragic. The magician’s life is saved when he meets this young girl, while his contemporaries are not so fortunate. Their careers over, they turn to alcoholism and suicide. The music halls close, and the theatres fill the bill with new beat combos, and our leads future continues to look uncertain. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to feel for those left behind at the cost of the changing times; their long practiced arts suddenly devalued and rendered obsolete. And the animation is stunning; the streets scenes of old Edinburgh are so gorgeous. A downer, but a beautiful one.
1)The Secret in their Eyes
Starring Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella, Pablo Rago. Directed by Juan José Campanella
It’s hard to know where to begin with a film that just has so much going on. To summarise the plot, an Argentinean detective returns home after many years away, planning to write a novel based on an old rape case. Although nasty, the case itself does not immediately appear to be exceptional, but then of course, much more is going on. The detective was in love with the young prosecutor on the case, and their meeting years later rekindles old feelings. And the case turns out to have been far from easily resolved.
This is a film that never quite reveals its full hand. Even when you think you have the full story, it still manages to produce a surprise from nowhere. And although it eventually delivers a happy ending, it’s far from sugar coated. It’s rich with symbolis:, love, loss, regret, corruption, revenge, action, intigue – it has it all, and never feels overcrowded, overblown, contrived, or earnest. The blend is perfect, and the film more than deserved it’s Oscar. Simply one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
* oh Human Centipede, you were so close.