I’ve been quite stringent here. I’m only including films that had a UK theatrical release between January 1st and December 31st 2007. This means that there are plenty of great films from the tail-end of 2006 that I saw for the first time in 2007 that can’t be included in this list. I’m sure the makers of The Prestige and Children of Men will be devastated by this. Oh, well.
I’m very fickle with stuff like this. I like to convince myself that this is because artistic judgments are, by their very nature, ongoing processes subject to perceptual re-evaluation. I might even claim that my shifting sands of perception are due to the fact that I am a verb and not a noun. The sad truth, though, is that I’m fickle with stuff like this because I’m fickle. If you asked me again tomorrow I’d probably give you a very different list.
Here’s how I feel right now:
10. Beowulf (in Gob-Smackingly Glorious 3D!!!)
We’re all allowed guilty pleasures, and this one’s mine. I thought it was visually breathtaking and tremendous fun, a Frazetta portfolio brought to life and set loose on an unsuspecting crowd of popcorn-chompers. Not everyone agrees with this, of course. In some quarters – even amongst some of my friends – disparaging comments have made about this film. Phrases like “crass” and “noisy” and “CGI wankfest” have been uttered, but I don’t care. They can leave Beowulf off their Top 10s. This is my list: I say who gets in.
9. 28 Weeks Later
I like to think that over the years I’ve developed an natural immunity to the horror genre, but this film proved me wrong by genuinely scaring the blue-bejesus out of me. A superior sequel.
8. 3:10 To Yuma
I love Westerns, I do. I was raised on them. Despite the fact the genre’s obits were written-up decades ago, 2007 saw the release of two high-profile Westerns, namely, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and 3:10 To Yuma. I haven’t seen the former yet (otherwise I suspect it would have featured prominently in my Top 10), but I did see 3:10 To Yuma and loved it to bits.
A remake of a half Century-old Glenn Ford flick (which was based on a short story by the mighty Elmore Leonard), it was helmed by the somewhat dodgy euphemistic-sounding director James Mangold and starred Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. It was refreshingly old-school in its storytelling. A far cry from the post-Leone/Peckinpah Revisionist take on the genre, it was more in the tradition of John Ford and Howard Hawkes and featured meaty-yet-nuanced performances from its leads.
While I expect nothing less of Bale, Crowe’s performance was less a revelation than a reminder of what I liked about him in the first place. His every glance, gesture and movement seemed to capture, channel and convey the classic, archetypal Western anti-hero. I’d go as far as to say that Crowe’s Ben Wade might have earned himself a barstool in the Eternal Saloon alongside the likes of Eastwood’s Josey Wales and The Duke’s Ethan Edwards.
7. The Bourne Ultimatum
In my humble opinion, The summer blockbuster of this year from The action film franchise of the decade. Kinetic, smart and slyly subversive.
6. The Darjeeling Limited/Hotel Chevalier
Wes Anderson is one of those filmmakers who seem to polarise audiences. Some people love his self-consciously quirky, stylised tales of dysfunctional oddballs. Other people hate his self-consciously quirky, stylised tales of dysfunctional oddballs. I fall into the former camp, but those in the latter camp would probably dismiss me as a self-consciously quirky, stylised, dysfunctional oddball.
While not quite up there with 2004s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – his masterly splicing of the life of Jacques Cousteau with the cult 80s oddity The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai – this tale of three estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody) embarking on a train journey of heavily-medicated reconciliation across India was a welcome despatch from Wes World.
Special mention should go to Hotel Chevalier, the short film that accompanied – and acted as a sort-of prologue to – The Darjeeling Limited. A lovely little whimsical gem that probably deserves an entry of it’s own.
5. The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen)
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s directorial debut is a mesmerising, meticulously crafted thriller set during the final years of Communist-rule in East Germany. It’s 1984 (appropriately enough) and a loyal, methodical, unambitious Captain of the Secret Police or Stasi (the late Ulrich Mühe) finds redemption and reconnects with his humanity while carrying out a surveillance operation on a playwright and his actress lover (Sebastian Koch and Martina Gedeck).
I hear a Hollywood remake is in the works. For some reason, when I think of the casting of the central character the name “Tom Hanks” comes to mind, but I might be wrong. Let’s hope so, huh? Watch the original now so you can annoy people later on by saying: “It’s not as good as the original, you know.” That’s what I plan to do.
4. Hot Fuzz
I was a fan of Spaced. I was a fan of Shawn of the Dead. Now I’m a fan of Hot Fuzz.
It’s as simple as that.
3. Tell No One (Ne le dis à personne)
Director Guillaume Canet proves that no one does Hitchcockian suspense quite like wot the French do. In this taut and twisty psychological thriller, paediatrician Alex Beck’s wife is brutally murdered and he is left for dead. After a three month coma he awakens to find he’s the prime suspect. The charges are eventually dropped, eight years’ go by but he’s still grieves for his wife. Then an email arrives that seems to prove she’s still alive…
A great story brilliantly told – with faultless performances from François Cluzet, Marie-Josée Croze and the always-dependable Jean Rochefort – make this an instant classic. The fat old misogynist from Leytonstone must be rubbing his hands with glee.
2. The Fountain
Darren Aronovsky’s follow-up to his mindfuck masterpiece Requiem For A Dream (2000) wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The fact that it had about a lunchbreak’s worth of screentime at my local multiplex seems to confirm this. Maybe this was due to the fact that genre-breaking meditations on love, loss and duty rarely appease the popcorn-munching masses. Or perhaps it was on account of the film’s unorthodox narrative structure, which featured three interwoven plotlines spanning a thousand years.
I suspect, though, that the real reason for the film’s meagre bum-to-seat ratio was because it featured Hugh Jackman travelling through through the cosmos inside a big glass bubble, with a tree. Some people can’t get their heads around stuff like that.
Fuck ’em, I say.
After the misstep that was Panic Room, the news that David Fincher would be returning to the world of serial killers generated a sizzle of anticipation amongst moviegoers, cinéastes and Birmingham-based, blather-prone Irishmen alike. This, after all, was the genre in which he made his reputation. Zodiac, though, is more than just a re-tread or sequel-of-sorts to Se7en (“Ei8ht“?). It’s a different beast altogether. Based on the true story of the hunt for
Film critic Roger Ebert called it the “‘All The Presidents Men’ of serial killer movies”, and the mood, themes and grown-up storytelling – as well as the bewildering abundance of clues, counter-clues and Goddamn misdirections – certainly reminded me of the Robert Redford/Dustin Hoffman classic. In fact, Fincher’s meticulous attention to period and personal detail is so authentic and evocative you could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve stumbled across some lost classic of early-1970s Hollywood.
Whoever said “They don’t make them like that anymore?” might want to think again.