It’s now 2018, which means it’s time for our obligatory top 10 films of 2017 list. 2017 has been a fantastic year for cinema and this was not an easy list to compile. I’d like to give honorary mentions to Thor: Ragnarok, Taika Waititi’s excellent venture into the Marvel Cinematic Universe – let’s hope he’s here to stay; Spider-Man: Homecoming, which finally gave us a great Spider-Man teen movie; and The Last Jedi, which I loved but I’m still considering how much. Gifted was a film I found myself really emotionally connecting to and God’s Own Country is a brilliant debut by Francis Lee, which just misses out on a place in my top 10. The Big Sick was another one of those pleasant surprises, which again just misses out.
This list is based on UK release dates.
10 – Dunkirk
Chris Nolan’s latest film tells of the infamous evacuation of four hundred thousand troops from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War Two. Dunkirk’s narrative is focused on three main locations and Nolan being Nolan, Dunkirk also takes place over thee time periods. Each timeline wonderfully woven together. It’s masterful storytelling. What this structure does is create a relentless pace and tension that doesn’t drop for even a moment of its 106 minute runtime. It’s a total immersive experience from minute one.
Dunkirk isn’t just an exercise in clever, immersive filmmaking, it’s also a surprisingly moving film. Considering that we have hardly any time learning about any of our characters, we still feel for them. This is a testament to the directing and writing of course but also to the level of acting with each actor managing to make the most of what little dialogue they have.
9 – A Ghost Story
Casey Affleck, on the back of his Oscar win for Manchester by the Sea, plays a recently deceased man, known only as C, who returns to his house as a ghost guised as a white sheet with two eye holes cut out of it. Still living in the house is M, his partner, portrayed excellently by Rooney Mara. The film offers a truly unique perspective on the themes of death and grief. Instead of telling us the story from the grieving’s point of view, these themes are explored from the perspective of the deceased. It’s heartbreaking, powerful stuff. The way A Ghost Story is filmed, with the most lingering of shots, allows the audience to contemplate things that they might not have had the director called cut when perhaps, conventionally, he should have. It’s thoughtful, precise and deliberate.
A Ghost Story is a truly masterful, intellectual and novel exploration of death and legacy and it’s a film that leaves you time to ponder these issues thanks to the patient style of storytelling used by Lowery.
8 – Logan
It’s the year 2029 and all but a few mutants are extinct. Logan (Hugh Jackman) is older and losing his healing factor and Charles (Patrick Stewart) is even older, living with dementia and struggling to control his incredible powers. Living in exile, Logan and Charles come across a young mutant, Laura (Dafne Keen), and become involved in protecting her from parties that don’t have her best interests at heart.
Logan benefits hugely from being a contained story, focused on the characters in it, only concerned with telling the story it’s there to tell. And because of this, we can explore the characters and relationships in ways that I don’t feel has been done in any other comic book film. It’s not about the story, it’s about the relationships and the drama. More of this in comic-book films, please.
7 – The Handmaiden
The Handmaiden is an erotic psychological thriller following the story of a young girl, Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri), who works as a handmaiden for noble Japanese woman Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee); who is heiress to a large inheritance. The story follows the people trying to obtain this fortune but The Handmaiden is a love story behind the mask of a mystery-thriller. There’s layer upon layer of plot and character making it such a compelling watch.
The Handmaiden is beautifully shot. The translation from Victorian England to Korea is great, offering a rich tapestry of culture, imagery, and style to the story. The soundtrack is also stunning, providing the perfect backdrop to this love story.
6 – The Death of Stalin
Armando Iannucci, the mastermind behind The Thick of It, Alan Partridge and Veep returns to the big screen with this fantastic black-comedy. Iannucci’s brand of political satire courses through this film poking fun wherever it can. The king of the political satire manages to make the mundane and the terrible equally as farcical. From dealing with a piss-soaked body, to deciding who organises the funeral, to executing traitors – it’s all hilarious in this film. It’s a film that revels in the awfulness of its lead characters – a black comedy at its very finest.
5 – Blade Runner 2049
THIRTY-FIVE years and 2047 sequels after Ridley Scott’s seminal genre-defining Blade Runner, comes Blade Runner 2049 helmed by acclaimed director Denis Villeneuve. As with the original, 2049 asks the grand old philosophical question of what it is to be human. What it is to have a soul. And as with all great sci-fi, it leaves the audience to make up their own minds. The film takes these ideas and organically builds on them to progress the story in a way that not only feels fitting but necessary. Blade Runner 2049 is another triumph for Villeneuve and while much of the focus will be on the film’s gorgeous aesthetics, it’s so much more than that.
4 – Baby Driver
Baby Driver is a triumph in style and charisma with a soundtrack made up of songs that would all pass a Tom Haverford “Is it a banger?” test which is masterfully worked into the script. It’s over the top and hilarious with moments that almost break the fourth wall and yet the tension, the action, and the drama all feel so real. This is thanks to some stunning stunt and camera work; the car chases are all phenomenal and the danger feels real. Mainly because it is. Move over Vin Diesel, this is how you make a film about cars going really fast.
3 – Get Out
Get Out is a satirical, socio-political horror-comedy directed by Jordan Peele and starring Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams. It’s a horrifying satire on white supremacy and slavery. And it’s quite brilliant. It’s unpredictable and expertly plays upon classic horror tropes while also offering a terrifying look into race relations. Get Out is a stunning debut for Jordan Peel.
2 – La La Land
La La Land is Damien Chazelle’s beautiful homage to classic cinema. It’s a film that’s heartwarming and full of joy which is grounded in moments of realism and melancholia. Gosling is brilliantly charming and often hilarious but it’s Stone who really provides the heartbeat of the film with a beautifully vulnerable performance. It’s exciting and joyful, visually stunning and emotionally hard-hitting. An instant classic.
1 – Manchester by the Sea
Oscar winner Casey Affleck delivers a career best as Lee, a man who is struggling to deal with past traumas when his brother passes away, leaving him as his nephew’s (Lucas Hedges) guardian. Manchester by the Sea is a stunning film. It’s beautifully written and structured by writer/ director Kenneth Lonergan. The film is tragic and melancholic yet funny and awkward. It is a stunningly realistic and raw view on grief and loss. A truly remarkable film.