Christmas Day, what better time to share my top ten movies of the year. They are not the best movies of the year, there is no right or wrong, they are just the ones I have enjoyed the most:
- Mad Max: Fury Road – That’s right, my favourite film of the year is a two hour chase movie: Thirty years after the last of the original trilogy, writer/director George Miller returns to the Mad Max universe. Part sequel, part reboot, the film shares a theme rather than continuity with the original films. Tom Hardy is a suitable replacement for Mel Gibson but the greatest success and biggest surprise of the movie is the way Max is overshadowed by another character, Imperator Furiosa played by a fantastic Charlize Theron in the performance of a lifetime.
- Sicario – So close to being my top film of the year: Emily Blunt plays an idealistic and naïve FBI agent who gets drawn into a shady joint task force in the war on drugs. Blunt and her co stars Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro are all fantastic. Roger Deakins photography is a spectacular as you would expect and Denis Villeneuve’s direction is sublime. It doesn’t have anything new to say, but equally it doesn’t tell the audience what to think. It is an old-fashioned movie in the best sense of the term.
- Ex Machina – January was possibly the single best month of movies I have ever seen with three movies making this top ten and another three making my best of the rest list. Alex Garland is the author of two novels I love from the 90’s and some fantastic screenplays. His directorial debut is so confident that it is hard to believe it is a debut. Aan exploration of what it is to be human, a psychological thriller or just a sci-fi drama? It really doesn’t matter, it is just brilliant.
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens – J.J. Abrams steps into George Lucas’ shoes and does what Lucas failed to do with the prequels, a film worthy of the original trilogy. Large ideas and parts of the story are taken straight from the original film, this works surprisingly well. The new characters are all good and fit well with the returning ones. Most importantly it is a fun action adventure that gives a new hope for the franchise.
- Whiplash – Another movie from January: A young drummer at a prestigious music school joins the band a of a demanding teacher/conductor Fletcher. One of the most tense and intense films I have seen in years, more so than most thrillers. The film picked up three well deserved Oscars including Best Supporting actor for J.K. Simmons
- Kingsman: The Secret Service – The final January movie on my list, it actually won my movie of the month: Both a homage to and a parody of James Bond. A film that divided opinion when it first came out, I re-watched it last week to make sure it was worth a place on the list, oh yes, it is worth its place on the list. A well constructed film that works on every level but finds it place as fun and funny film populated by characters we want to see more of. It is extremely violent and not always politically correct, that’s why it divides opinion, but that’s what makes it so good.
- Carol – Shot on 16mm film to stunning effect, a beautiful film with a dreamlike quality partly thanks to the stunning photography. Based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith and containing autobiographical elements. Cate Blanchett is as sensational as you would expect, Rooney Mara is a revelation and possibly the best she has ever been. Borrowing a framing device from Brief Encounter that it uses to great effect. There has been some debate as to the theme of the movie, for me it is a film about finding your identity, but it is both simpler and more complicated than that. Like all great films, it is about what you, the viewer wants it to be about.
- Inside Out – I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to animation, finally an animated film that makes my top ten of the year: Pixar’s latest and possibly greatest achievement to date. Set inside the head of an eleven year old girl in crisis, the characters are embodiments of her emotions. A fun adventure film the very young, and more sophisticated story for the rest of us.
- John Wick – The most trashy film on the list, reminiscent of number 4 on my 2012 list, Haywire: A Bonkers over stylised ultraviolent revenge thriller. Breaking from the current trend of fast cutting the film has some of the best fight scenes in recent memory. Keanu Reeves is perfect taking on elements of many of his previous characters to give a more rounded character than you first notice. A film that I don’t expect to see on too many top ten lists.
- The Salvation – Westerns are a dying if not dead art form, but once in a while one crops up and even more rarely a really good one appears as if by magic. I have heard great things about Slow West, but sadly it didn’t get much of a release and I haven’t seen it. But I have seen The Salvation, the second revenge thriller to make my top ten, it also happens to be a western: Surprisingly for a film shot in South Africa and directed by Danish Dogme95 director Kristian Levring, The Salvation is one of the best westerns of recent years. Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green are both excellent and the film looks stunning but there is more to it than that. You would expect a film about a European settler in America to have a John Ford birth of America vibe but there is more a Sam Peckinpah sense that things will never be the same again, an end of innocence or just an end.
Please note all selected films were released in the UK in 2015 regardless of when they were made, released in other territories or eligible for previous years awards.