This is it! This is the list that I’ve been wracking my brain over for ages. How can you whittle down so many great films into a list of five? It is a devastating experience being forced to cut a great film like Wonder Woman because it didn’t quite land its ending. Or there are films that just don’t quite deserve to make the cut, like The Big Sick, Detroit or Get Out. But by the time the dust had settled on the year, I was confident with my final choices. Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below.
5 – OKJA
Netflix haven’t had too much luck with the feature film business until 2017. Finally, they harnessed the female characterisation of their series with To The Bone and the social analysis with The Circle. They even had a neat finish with Bright, which while critically panned is earning respect from the audiences. But it was Okja that set that trend off with the first Netflix film that really got people thinking.
It is a film that throws up uncomfortable truths. The slaughtering of animals for meat is a tough topic to get into, but one that is fiercely argued in certain places. The issue with films like Okja is that they quickly turn into hippie vegan protests. Bong Joon-ho swerves falling into left wing propaganda by adding a fantasy twist to his movie. By the time you realise the morals behind the movie, you are far too wrapped up in the narrative to care. It is a breath-taking story about a girl’s friendship with her pet and using that love to take on the big corporations. It is the ending that sticks with you. As this girl pleads for her pet’s life to be spared and the cold-hearted face of the business simply not caring, you will hate everything about the meat farming industry. The ending isn’t the ending you are praying doesn’t happen, Joon-ho sparing us the ultimate heart-breaker, but it is tragic in its own right. It stays with you sometime and pushes the audience to do something. I haven’t turned vegetarian over this film, but since Okja, I have only eaten free range and responsibly farmed products. Political cinema at its finest.
4 – BABY DRIVER
Baby Driver was always bound to be that decent hit of the year. Edgar Wright is always a safe pair of hands when it comes to decent film-making. His pulpy alternative directorial style, as well as his quick-witted and sharply paced scripts, always combine to make something truly special. His Simon Pegg/Nick Frost comedies are the talk of UK cinema and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is a cinematic masterpiece, without the pretentious attitude that usually comes with that sort of film. Baby Driver takes these feelings and turns Wright’s style into an action thriller that doesn’t slow down.
For me it is all about the editing and sound design. The way this movie moves in time with its soundtrack is glorious. It is the small moments that earns Baby Driver its place over the other action blockbusters here. The smaller details that movies like Marvel won’t think of. The way the songs incorporate with the character’s backstory, so that recurring song you like manages to blow your mind in the final third. It is so much more than borrowing from Guardians of the Galaxy’s pop culture stylings. Add in some glorious performances: Ansel Elgort breaking character, Jamie Foxx at his best, Jon Hamm wowing us… There is not much to moan about when it comes to Baby Driver as a product. Edgar Wright is making the rest of the movie industry look like amateurs.
3 – BLADERUNNER 2049
I am expecting to see Bladerunner 2049 at the top of most people’s lists. It truly was an astonishing piece of cinema, especially when you consider it being a belated sequel, which rarely work out. The success of Denis Villeneuve’s movie is down to the fact it moves away from the film that came before and simply looks at the universe: what stories are left to tell? And Villeneuve comes up with something exhilarating different, a movie that breathes atmosphere into the smallest scenes. It does not rush, allowing its world to do the heavy lifting for it. As you watch this movie, you are aware you are watching something incredible.
Yes, the reason I haven’t put it higher is the length. This is a patience-testing film and isn’t as easy to slip into as the likes of Baby Driver. There are one too many scenes where you wish it would speed up. Jared Leto’s contribution doesn’t feel as powerful as it once did, simply because it feels too indulgent. But you cannot fault the breath-taking visuals, the moody score or the stunning scenery. This movie is a labour of love and as a piece of art, it really does stand out. Villeneuve deserves a lot of credit for doing what he has done here.
2 – BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99
Ever since I saw this movie, it hasn’t left my mind. When I first heard whispers of it, I thought it was worth checking out. The idea of seeing Vince Vaughn as a hard man, with no echoes of comedy in the performance, interested me enough. The talks of honest fight choreography appealed to the action purist in me as well. I thought it would be a neat alternative to the other movies out there. I was not prepared for just how astonished I was with the final piece. A gritty crime thriller that just sinks its claws into you and won’t let go. Vaughn’s characterisation of a haunted man determined to do right by the ones he loves is riveting. You just hang on the film, waiting to see how he reacts to the terrible hand he has been dealt in life. S. Craig Zahler never takes the easy option with this film, giving us a shot of pure thrills. Part of me was dying to make this my favourite film of 2017…
1 – LOGAN
But I never got over my love for Logan. It was one of the first films of the year I saw and it just gripped me and never let go. Perhaps my true appreciation for this movie is simply because it was the Wolverine movie I have been begging for since I first met the character. A movie that realised it didn’t need the complicated storyline of the big CGI villain to work. All it needed was a close examination of the character. As Hugh Jackman decided he was hanging up the claws, it looked like I would never get my film. But Mangold and Jackman wanted to give the film series a swansong and wrote the epilogue to Logan’s story. Closer to a Western than a superhero movie, this is a film that puts Hugh Jackman’s world-weary Wolverine first and everything else second.
What follows is a slightly patience-testing, yet ultimately rewarding journey, as Logan is forced back into the hero mode, when shady government figures come after his home and a young girl’s life is put into danger. It feels Superhero Movie 101, but Mangold’s picture lifts it above the stock expectations. The end result is an emotionally harrowing tale of an ageing mutant, who is too tired to carry on. There are several scenes that get to you, heart-breaking losses and stubborn fall-outs. But the best thing about the film is that, even in the bleak final throes of Logan, it lands on a superb ending. The ending that feels right. Hugh Jackman can put the character of Wolverine down, walk away and know that he gave the character one final shot of glory. Please, please… let this sleeping wolverine lie.