Let’s take a look at some of last year’s cinematic highlights, including high-flying action, muddy gunfights, and quirky cops. But which adventure was my favourite?
5. Top Gun: Maverick
Top-tier small-scale high-stakes action. And everything looks real. No crummy CGI.
It’s tight: there’s very little flab here! Top-tier small-scale high-stakes action. And everything looks real. No crummy CGI. Characters have mission, form team, experience personal rift, must complete mission regardless. Boom: the film’s a tidy story with a beginning middle and end. More than that, though, Top Gun Maverick offers nail-biting tension.
Yes, so-and-so wants to fly a plane in a certain direction, at a certain altitude, and at a certain speed — big deal — but we also know why. Characters’ motives range from reckless bravado to building team morale. None of them are particularly ‘deep’ but we’re given precisely the information we need to care about the mission: nothing more, nothing less. It’s very effective writing, executed brilliantly by the master of action himself, Tom Cruise, and his director, Joseph Kosinski.
Having watched the original Top Gun since Maverick, I can safely say that, a) the new one’s much better and, b) you don’t need to see the original. The overall vibe is different too: 2022 is all about heroics, full-throttle plane chases, and teamwork against all odds, whereas 1986 is all about locker rooms, sexy music, and licking people.
4. Triangle Of Sadness
If you enjoyed watching the Fyre festival fall apart, you’ll take a great deal of pleasure in this.
I love everything about this, except the ending. It’s incisive, confident, cutting; it dissects gender roles, social class, and privilege. Writer/Director Ruben Östlund goes all in and everyone shines. If you enjoyed watching the Fyre festival fall apart on Netflix and/or Hulu, you’ll take a great deal of pleasure in watching these rich characters suffer — and I mean really suffer —the worst indignities.
They’re braced for an influencer-worthy luxury cruise, full with champagne, selfies, and seafood; they’ve even had a couple of jars of Nutella parachuted in by helicopter. The staff are told that the customer is always right and to never say “no”. It’s precisely this lack of boundaries that sets off a chain reaction. But this amounts to more than a gratuitous crisis: there’s method in Östlund’s madness and something quite poetic about how he distributes misery.
It's certainly a shame to hear of Charlbi Dean’s passing. She plays Yaya (opposite Harris Dickinson’s Carl) particularly convincingly: a truly toxic narcissist. She takes full advantage of her boyfriend’s insecurities and her manipulation tactics genuinely made me angry. But the third act comes as so much of a surprise that I actually started feeling sorry for her! What a journey.
3. All Quiet On The Western Front
This expertly conveys war as a machine, the antithesis of anything human.
It’s BRUTAL. Fucking awful. I mean, it’s an amazing film. But Jesus. Don’t go in expecting an optimistic take. This expertly conveys war as a machine, the antithesis of anything human. Director Edward Berge underlines the futility of such a conflict, which soullessly churns people up like they’re fuel, nothing. Of course, the war didn’t start itself — and All Quiet On The Western Front revels in its juxtapositions.
We flit between scenes of young lads trudging through trenches, getting their limbs blown off in muddy gunfights (quite a shock considering their last wars were fought on horseback), and scenes of rich warmongers, far away, deciding which documents to sign over tea and scones. It’s infuriating and revealing. This is not so far removed from today’s conflicts: people sit around desks ‘making calls’, while a drone swans off to shoot a baby.
Some have criticised this German perspective for its self-indulgence, but it shows quite clearly that whatever side these soldiers were on, no matter how much they wanted to go home, they had no choice but to fight. Never mind the physical threat, it’s the sheer psychological bombardment that kills them. And once the tanks start rolling forwards, a desperate panic replaces any remaining shreds of hope.
2. See How They Run
It’s rare to find a film so keen on having harmless, inoffensive fun.
It’s the kind of movie that gets better the more you think about it. This has the flavour of a Wes Anderson flick, but it’s nowhere near as pretentious as the likes of The French Dispatch (it’s closer to the quirky thrills of The Grand Budapest Hotel). I realise that this is quite high up on my list, but as a Brit living in Berlin and desperate for banter, I adore its subtle offbeat humour.
Something tells me someone made director Tom George sit through London’s rendition of The Mousetrap more than once; the longest-running theatrical play in the world. Perhaps as a direct result, he takes aim at whodunnit tropes and goes meta — tongue firmly in his cheek. If you’re into classic crime literature (anything Agatha Christie), you’ll appreciate a great many nods and winks.
A very silly, understated farce. Just my cup of tea. It’s rare to find a film so keen on having harmless, inoffensive fun. And with such a goofy score from Pemberton who has a reliably impressive ability to accompany a vibrant range of material.
Composer Michael Abels imbues that “thing” in the sky with unquestionable malevolence.
“Is there a word for a bad miracle?” “Nope.” If you’re a fan of The X-Files, Nope is for you. This is Director Jordan Peele’s third film — and it feels Spielbergian. OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) and Emerald (Keke Palmer), horse wranglers in a lonely west coast gulch, are witness to a horrifying, inescapable force of nature.
There’s so much to unpack and discuss. Not unlike TV’s Lost, whenever we’re given the answer to a question, it’s usually attached to another couple of questions. And though the film’s plot is objectively resolved by the end credits, many of Peele’s directorial choices are left totally unexplained. For instance, a subplot involving a violent monkey has left some viewers perplexed, even irritated. But, consider this a parallel to the main story and it serves as a clue.
Composer Michael Abels imbues that “thing” in the sky with unquestionable malevolence; there’s a very real sense that we’re being surveilled. Nope borrows various genre tropes but nobody’s screaming. The characters are survivors who only return to the scene of the ‘crime’ reluctantly and with good reason. Very cinematic, perfectly balanced, and thematically satisfying. Just how I like my horror: cosmic.
- Puss In Boots: The Last Wish — Gorgeous, innovative animation, with brilliant characters, jokes, and drama.
- The Pale Blue Eye — Set in a harsh, gaunt environment with a morbid tone; this is patient and shot beautifully.
- Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths — Absurd, surreal, wistful. It somehow excels in showing how it feels… to feel.
- Everything Everywhere All At Once — Obviously.