Top 10 Films of 2017
10 – Wonder Woman
It’s been a busy year for superhero movies and so in order to stand out from the crowd they really need to offer something that’s a little bit different. I thought that Wonder Woman did just that. Gal Gadot’s Diana Prince is everything that Superman should be, really. She’s selfless, genuinely heroic and is always striving to do the right thing. This feels very much the kind of superhero that we need at the moment; a bright message of hope and optimism rather than a gritty, conflicted and brooding character. I loved Wonder Woman, it’s definitely the highpoint of the DCEU with a great balance of nice character moments and superbly choreographed action scenes.
9 – Baby Driver
I love Edgar Wright, I’m a huge fan of the Cornetto Trilogy and I maintain that Scott Pilgrim is a massively underrated classic. As such I’d been looking forward to Baby Driver ever since it was first announced, even if on the face of it the plot could be a little cheesy. There was absolutely no need to worry. Edgar Wright delivers a breathless and dynamic action film with some excellent performances and a superb soundtrack. The action is masterfully choreographed to sync up with the soundtrack, to the point where this is more a musical than anything else. Baby Driver is a fantastic film that shows us something quite familiar in way that is unique.
8 – Thor: Ragnarok
I think I was always going to love Thor: Ragnarok. I’m condemned to love pretty much every Marvel film, but I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. I never realised just how much I wanted to see a Taika Waititi Marvel film until Marvel went ahead and took a gamble on him with Thor: Ragnarok. Waititi has produced some great films but they’re not really what I would class as typical Marvel fare. I thought that it really paid off, and in a year so heavily dominated by very good superhero movies (Logan, Guardian of the Galaxy 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Wonder Woman, Justice League) I think it’s high praise to say that Thor: Ragnarok is up there with the best of them. It’s a bold new direction for Marvel to take, Thor: Ragnarok is every bit as much of a comedy as it is an out and out superhero film but it really works. Who knew that Chris Hemsworth could be this funny?
7 – La La Land
I’m not quite sure where we’re up to with La La Land now. I remember that on its release it was widely praised, then there was the backlash, but I can’t quite remember if there was a backlash to the backlash? Either way, I loved La La Land and have done since I very first saw it. I’m by no means a fan of musicals, I can count the number of them that I’ve actually enjoyed on one hand but something about La La Land just worked for me. It’s a very traditional musical in some respects, harking back to the golden era of Hollywood, but it also feels fresh and innovative. The songs are very catchy and they’re beautifully choreographed. I’ve seen the film a few times now and I still can’t really figure out just how director Damian Chazelle pulled them off. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone are great in the lead roles but the real strength of the film is the chemistry that the two of them share when they’re on screen together. It’s fantastic film that exhibits real duality; it manages to feel familiar and yet is also a breath of fresh air and it is incredibly upbeat and yet at the same time contains some of the most bittersweet scenes I’ve seen this year.
6 – Manchester By The Sea
Manchester By the Sea is a really powerful film, and it’s one that’s not afraid to do things differently. Whereas most films look to tell the story of redemption, that anyone can be brought back from the edge with enough time, care and love that sadly isn’t always the case. Instead Manchester By The Sea is a story about someone who is almost beyond the point of coming back, and I found that a really interesting idea to play with. As the story unfolds and we learn about the characters’ histories it becomes apparent that maybe there isn’t always a happy ending, sometimes things are just broken and that’s the way they have to be. The film is built on stunning performances right across the board but Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams are utterly superb, there’s a scene they share that absolutely shattered me. It’s probably one of the most haunting and emotionally charged scenes that I have witnessed in a long time. Manchester By The Sea is by no means an easy film to watch but it is definitely worth watching at least once.
5 – Logan
Hugh Jackman has been playing Logan (aka Wolverine) for the last 17 years and while the quality of the films might be slightly variable, it’s rather fitting then that the one constant across all of the films is the quality of Jackman’s performances. Logan is the final time that Hugh Jackman is going to don the sideburns, although I’m sure it’s not the last we’ll see of the character. I’m not naive enough to think that Wolverine won’t be back on our screens soon enough. In a year so dominated by superheroes Logan does something truly different. This is a standalone movie that is not shackled by a shared universe or the need for broader continuity it’s just a character study and that character just happens to have mutant powers. Logan is essentially a western in the vein of Unforgiven with Logan reluctantly being brought out of retirement for one last hurrah. Originality and trying something new is very much a theme of my top 10 this year and Logan is no different. This is a superhero movie that’s like no other, it’s brutal and visceral at times but also has moments of utter heartbreak.
4 – Star Wars: The Last Jedi
When I watched The Last Jedi for the first time I was impressed, it was definitely Star Wars but it was also something very different. After a second viewing I am now convinced that this is one of my favourite Star Wars films to date and I think it will only improve with subsequent viewings. There are so many highlights in the film that it’s hard to really pick my favourite moments just yet. The Last Jedi has some superbly executed action set pieces, for example the opening scene sets an utterly breathless pace that never really subsides. This isn’t just an action film though, it’s a genuinely funny movie with perhaps more humour than we’ve seen in A Galaxy Far, Far Away before. Also I felt that the emotional beats really landed for me, I’m sure it must have been a very dusty screen that I was in because I definitely had something in my eye on numerous occasions. The Last Jedi has seemingly been quite divisive but not for me, I’m absolutely sold. I love it.
3 – Paddington 2
I must confess, back in January if you’d have told me that one of my favourite sequels of the year was going to be Paddington 2 I don’t think I’d have believed you. That being said Paddington 2 is an absolute breath of fresh (and relaxing) air in an otherwise stressful world. At its heart the film preaches a message that small acts of kindness can change the world, like It’s a Wonderful Life but with an animated bear. I think that’s quite a nice message to be sending out to the world at the moment. Paddington 2 is a rare thing, a sequel that is perhaps better than the original but that also adds to the original film. I can’t think of many words to describe it other than charming and completely delightful. In a year filled with superheroes and action films this is definitely the little piece of joy that I can’t recommend enough.
2 – Blade Runner 2049
I admire the original Blade Runner, it’s a beautifully created world and the visuals are truly stunning but the story always left me a little bit cold. I was vaguely interested in seeing this sequel but it more as a curiosity than anything else. Surely, a sequel 30 years after the fact isn’t really going to add too much? I was very wrong. I was absolutely hooked on Blade Runner 2049 from the opening few moments. Quite simply Blade Runner 2049 has some of the most stunning sequences that I have seen this year. That’s not to say it’s packed to the brim with explosions and breathtaking action set pieces, but more that pretty much every single frame is a work of art. There are some shots that are genuinely stunning and that have stuck with me long after I saw the movie.
Where the previous Blade Runner had left me quite cold I was completely drawn in by Blade Runner 2049. Ryan Gosling does a solid job as K (who is most definitely a replicant, no 30 year ambiguity here) as a detective trying to crack the big case. It’s a very modern take on film noir and it worked really well for me. There are enough familiar tropes to be recognisable but they’re carried off in such a way that it feels fresh. In reality the story probably isn’t that much deeper or developed than the original, it’s not incredibly complicated but something about it feels more engaging. I think perhaps it is just a more accessible story that still is able to ask some of the bigger questions.
1 – Moonlight
Moonlight is just magnificent. It’s superbly written and beautifully shot, there are things on screen that I’ve seen a hundred times before and yet they somehow manage to look different, unique and magical. The real strength of Moonlight is in its cast, this is potentially one of the strongest ensembles that I’ve seen for a very long time. I think that most films would be thrilled to have one or two performances like those on display in Moonlight. It seems almost unfair that pretty much the entire cast of Moonlight gives an absolutely flawless performance. There are times when the film could have descended into cliche but it masterfully sidesteps them. It’s a film that feels magical and ethereal at times but that is also grounded in real human struggles and emotions. I thought that Moonlight was a near flawless film, I could have gladly spent longer in Chiron’s company but what we do see is perfect. It’s a story that is both incredibly complex and incredibly simple but is utterly compelling.