Compiling my top ten films of the year was far more difficult than expected. My top ten list began as a top 15, and cutting the list down to only ten was a frustrating process. It was this frustration that led to the realization that my inability to create this list was a sign of a truly great year for film. Obviously I was unable to view every film that was released this year, but after seeing several this week, I feel comfortable writing this list without seeing any more films. I may take back that statement early next year when I catch up on a couple of films, but for now I stand by it.
10. The American
Anton Corbijn’s The American is my tenth favourite film of the year. It is also the coolest and classiest film I saw this year. The film follows a retiring hit man, played by George Clooney, as he lays low in the beautiful Italian countryside. The story and script are nothing new, but it is Corbijn’s direction that makes the film so intriguing. The American just oozes the look and feel of 70s thrillers while never appearing as if he is purposely imitating the style. Certainly the film is not for everyone as it moves at a deliberately very slow pace, however, those taken in by the film are sure to love every second of the run time.
9. Scott Pilgrim Versus The World
Scott Pilgrim is a film which is special to me for many reasons, least of which being that it was the first film I reviewed for The Deleted Scene. Edgar Wright, a favourite filmmaker of mine, does a perfect job of adapting the material, even improving it in many ways. The cast, writing and direction is perfect in every single way. It is layered in such a manner that it works on countless viewings, as I have proven by seeing it more than a dozen times. That being said, a strong emotional heart was lacking or at least hidden behind all the style and hilarity. It is because of this that I do not have the film higher on my list. While it may not be my favourite film of the year, it is still the film I have seen the most.
8. Toy Story 3
Growing up two films dominated my VCR, Toy Story and Toy Story 2. The latter of which is also my earliest theatre-going memory. I had no doubt that the second sequel would live up to my very high expectations, and this optimism was well-founded. Toy Story 3 is a near perfect film, an exciting kids film with huge amounts of heart. The film is clearly made for people like me, those who grew up on the franchise, those who grew alongside Andy. While the film tread on similar thematic ground as the second film, it still brought enough new emotion to the table to feel honest and fresh. This in no way is a blemish on the Pixar name, in fact, it is one of the best films in its catalogue.
Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to The Dark Knight was bound to be a huge success and luckily, Nolan used the momentum to create one of the most ambitious films of the last couple of years. With the chance to see the film a week before its official release, I ignored the fact I had just had surgery and could barely move. The result was one of the best film-going experiences I have ever had even if it was very uncomfortable. Inception is not a perfect film, yet what is accomplishes lets you ignore some of the on-the-nose dialogue and plot holes. I have yet to experience the film on DVD or Blu-ray as I fear it won’t play the same as it did on the big screen, however, there is no doubt that it will stillbe a great film.
6. Let Me In
Matt Reeves’ Let Me In proves Reeves is one of the most interesting young directors working today. While the film owes a lot to the original Swedish film, Let The Right One In, it improved the original in almost every way. Reeves was not simply rehashing the original, instead, he took notes from his own childhood and fused it with the original’s story. What we get is a film that rings true even with the violent, disturbing vampire storyline. Similar to films like E.T. and Where The Wild Things Are, Let Me In is a perfect portrait of growing up.
5. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky has always left me conflicted with his films, half of which I love, the others not so much. That being said, Black Swan is the perfect fit for Aronofsky’s style and sensibilities. The film captured me from the first frame to the last, tightening its grip as it went along. Subtlety is not something this film could claim to have, as it revels in melodramatic emotions. This is a great change of pace, as the melodrama is perfect for the story being told. The film follows a ballerina, played by Natalie Portman, as she loses grip with reality. The story mirrors the ballet Swan Lake for which the ballerina is preparing and it is because of this that the melodramatic story telling works so well. Certainly not a film for everyone, however, it is a truly masterful horror film that should not be missed by anyone looking for something challenging.
4. Shutter Island
While many called Shutter Island minor Scorsese, I saw a master filmmaker at the top of his game. Scorsese was able to lift what could be mediocre material into one of the most impressively made films of the year. As the film featured a third act twist, Scorsese layered the film in such a way that repeat viewings not only improved the film but change it almost entirely. Of course a filmmaker of his stature is held to high standards, yet the level of dismissal of this film was far too high for something that was as well made as this film. It wasn’t simply a thriller or a horror film, but rather one of the best crafted and well acted films of the year. For those who dismissed it, I always recommend seeing it a second time, as the second viewing reveals its greatness.
3. 127 Hours
Danny Boyle is the rare director that can find the life affirming light within the darkest material without ever feeling forced or cliched. This is what makes 127 Hours such a special film. The film tells the true story of Aaron Ralston, a canyoneer trapped by a rock who was famously forced to cut off his own arm. As everyone knows, the film features an extended scene of gruesome violence, and while this scene is very punishing, the film as a whole leaves you feeling full of hope. Boyle’s frenetic style may seem inappropriate for the material, never the less, it is his style and search for hope that makes the film work and lets us realize how Aaron survived his horrible ordeal.
2. True Grit
The Coen Brothers have reinvented themselves countless times over their career, in fact, almost with every film. This reinvention and prolific creative release has allowed for some misfires, however, True Grit is truly a work of master filmmakers. Starring Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges, the film tells the story of a fourteen-year old girl as she searches for her father’s killer. Filmed with a restrained hand, the script and performances allow for one of the funniest and most gripping films of the year. Every single performance is both memorable and unique, without ever feeling forced. True Grit may have a sequence or two of harsh violence, yet it is still a film that nearly everyone would enjoy.
1. Never Let Me Go
Without a doubt, Mark Romanek’s Never Let Me Go is the best film of the year. Featuring fantastic performances, beautiful cinematography and a pitch-perfect script, Never Let Me Go is one of the most emotionally devastating films I have ever sat through. If a film tries hard to create sadness within the audience, I usually end up feeling nothing, however, when a film naturally creates sadness it is all the more effective. Never Let Me Go allows the feelings to come naturally, and while it is devastating it is also beautiful. It is as close to a perfect film as I have seen this year, I just hope it finds the audience is so badly deserves.