Monday 1 January 2018

My favourite films of 2017: #30-21

Top gun: Brie Larson fights for survival in Ben Wheatley's Free Fire

30. Neruda

Director: Pablo Larrain  UK release date: 7 April
Off-kilter but visually sumptuous biopic of the famous Chilean poet, Nobel Prize winner and communist. Luis Gnecco's titular lead becomes a fugitive in his own country during the 1940s as he is pursued by Gael García Bernal's disturbed policeman. Larrain (Jackie) takes all sorts of liberties with real events, while his portrayal of Neruda is enjoyably unflattering.

29. Dunkirk
Director: Christopher Nolan  UK release date: 21 July
Nolan expertly utilises three different timelines (a week, a day and an hour) to tell the story of the famous WWII evacuation in an artistically bold and emotionally potent way. Aided and abetted by Hans Zimmer's frantic score, this is immersive, inventive filmmaking to take the breath away. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance supply the actorly gravitas.

28. It Comes At Night
Director: Trey Edward Shults  UK release date: 7 July
Krisha director Shults turns up the paranoia to 11 in this post-apocalyptic thriller-cum-horror, grabbing you hard by the lapels in its first few minutes and refusing to let go until its haunting closing shot around an hour and an half later. A great cast - including Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, and Riley Keough - are the icing on the cake.

27. Free Fire
Director: Ben Wheatley  UK release date: 31 March
It turns out a 90-minute shoot-out in a filthy warehouse between two gangs of inept criminals is a hell of a lot better on the big screen than it sounds on paper. Michael Smiley, Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, and Armie Hammer are all on top form in a violent and riotously funny piece of work that doesn't owe quite as much to Reservoir Dogs as you'd imagine.

26. Land Of Mine
Director: Martin Zandvliet  UK release date: 4 August
Fact-based drama about young German POWS forced to clear thousands of land mines from Danish beaches after WWII. Roland Møller is the sadistic sergeant charged with completing the task - whatever the cost to his prisoners. An under-appreciated gem that powerfully explores notions of human decency and forgiveness.

25. The Age Of Shadows
Director: Kim Jee-woon  UK release date: 24 March
I Saw The Devil director Kim's blistering period piece set in Japanese-occupied Korea centres on members of the resistance and a cop (played by Song Kang-ho) with divided loyalties. It's breathless, it's brutal, it's sumptuous to look at - it also happens to be one of the year's richest and most rewarding action films.

24. Thelma
Director: Joachim Trier  UK release date: 3 November
A supernatural "coming out" story with shades of Carrie about a young university student, played by Eili Harboe, with terrifying psychic powers. This is far from a super-powered CG fest, though, as Trier (Louder Than Bombs) focuses as much on Thelma's burgeoning sexuality, and repudiation of her strict religious upbringing, as he does on her abilities.

23. In Between
Director: Maysaloun Hamoud  UK release date: 22 September
Hungarian-born Hamoud's directorial debut is a compelling story of three Palestinian women living together in Tel Aviv, and torn between embracing modernity and the more conservative diktats of their families' culture. Mouna Hawa as Leila is a revelation, while the friendships are beautifully explored and believable. The final shot is perfect.

22. Silence
Director: Martin Scorsese  UK release date: 1 January
Based on Shûsaku Endô's novel, Silence sees two Catholic missionaries (Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) searching for their lost mentor (Liam Neeson) in 17th Century Japan, at a time of great religious persecution. Bloated, self-important and old-fashioned? Maybe, but nobody does heavyweight epic with quite as much pizzazz as the Goodfellas director.

21. La La Land
Director: Damien Chazelle  UK release date: 13 January
Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone can't sing or dance like Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, but this musical love letter to old Hollywood, romance and jazz is utterly charming. The song and dance numbers are mostly terrific (especially the opener, Another Day Of Sun), and Chazelle serves up a bravura ending a million miles from the schmaltz-fest I was expecting.

**Up next: #20-11**

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