Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top 25 Films of 2014: Part One

With 2014 drawing to a close it's time for me to compile my favourite films of the year. Instead of my usual 20 I've had to opt for 25 as there was just far too many I couldn't leave out of my list. If you think I have missed something off then let me know as I am always open to new suggestions.

25. The Congress


Robin Wright delivers a career-defining performance in this mind-bending tale of an actress who is convinced to sell her virtual identity, with her humbling decision to play herself adding gravitas to the emotional core of the film. Director Ari Folman also made a bold yet unconventional decision when he chose to animate the second half of his film. The Congress doesn't quite reach the brilliance of his previous animated effort Waltz With Bashir but still comes pretty damn close.



24. Edge of Tomorrow



I thought the last thing the world needed was an explosive take on Groundhog Day starring Tom Cruise as he tries to save the earth from marauding aliens but it turned out to be exactly what we needed. This intelligent and exciting science-fiction film was all kinds of fun, with its cerebral action proving far more engaging than the endless onslaught of Liam Neeson helmed action films.



23. Nightcrawler


This character-driven piece showcases Jake Gyllenhall at his finest, with his incredible turn as a manipulative crime-scene journalist being a million miles apart from the vacant stare that fuelled Donnie Darko. Worth seeing for Gyllenhall's performance alone, Dan Gilroy's directorial debut is a vicious black comedy that will leave you feeling both violated and awestruck.



22. The Double


Richard Ayoade's follow-up to his much lauded debut Submarine demonstrates a passion for film-making that is drenched in references to some of his favourite directors; Polanski, Hitchcock and Gilliam. The work of all three is a solid foundation for his adaptation of a Dostoevsky novel that sees Jesse Eisenberg confronted with a man who is identical in appearance but has a much better grasp of social situations, and explores the turmoil this encounter has on both of their lives.



21. L.F.O.


This imaginative Swedish science-fiction film was a surprise favourite of mine during this year's Grimmfest, with its thought-provoking and very funny script offering a welcome respite to a weekend that was mainly focused on horror. When a sound technician stumbles upon a frequency that can hypnotise the listener he begins to experiment on his neighbours with little care for their well-being. Imagine the humour and heart of Robot & Frank mixed with the low-budget inventiveness of Primer and you won't be far from this year's most under-rated film.



20. Guardians of the Galaxy


Just when Marvel films are beginning to feel tired and predictable they blow all expectations out of the water with Guardians of the Galaxy; a space opera that captured the imagination of children (big and small) everywhere this summer. I am Groot.



19. Calvary


Brendan Gleeson is a priest with a past in this dark Irish drama that delves into the troubles of a close-knit community when an unknown person announces his intentions to kill the priest in three days time during a confessional. The stunning Irish setting is used to great effect as this gripping tale of redemption gradually reaches its unforgettable conclusion.


18. The Grand Budapest Hotel


Wes Anderson's latest provides us with more whimsical yet wonderful characters and a colour palette and set design so precise it feels like he must have tinkered with them on many long and lonely nights. His artistry is second only to his storytelling, with Anderson's nostalgic view of life at a now derelict hotel in the mountains providing audiences with thrills, laughs, and potential heartbreak, when his cast of regulars regale yet another kooky but fascinating tale.


17. The Railway Man


This harrowing true account of an officer who was mistreated in a labour camp during WWII, who sets outs to confront his assailant upon discovering he is still alive years later, is a difficult but rewarding watch. Colin Firth stars as the former British army officer who decides to face the demons from his past as the only solution to move on with his future.


16. The Golden Dream


Treading similar ground to 2009's hard-hitting portrayal of life for South American emigrants heading to the USA, Sin Nombre, The Golden Dream is a similarly stark but more realistic drama based upon the real life experiences of numerous emigrants who were interviewed for the project. I was lucky enough to attend a Q & A session with the director and his heartbreaking film certainly captures the passion he feels for a situation that harbours danger in many guises for the people who are forced to tackle the perilous journey to the USA to reach their ultimate goal of a better life.


Part two of my countdown can be found here