Another year reaches the finish line, the lap times seem to be improving each year. One thing that hasn’t been improving each year is the quality of cinema. Maybe a touch harsh, but remakes, licensed film adaptations and money-making super hero flicks of widely varying quality don’t make 2011 a year to remember. I missed out on the likes of Drive, Black Swan (which isn’t an original premise, see Perfect Blue), Sherlock Holmes 2, Moneyball, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and no doubt a whole load of niche classics I will discover in a few years time, but the selection I saw left me feeling cold. Well, not all. And so begins my personal top five of the year!
5. True Grit (11th February 2011)
A remake and one which follows the original perhaps a little too closely, sure. But also a film which delivers a gripping Western tale, as drunken bounty hunter Rooster Cogburn sets out to help a young girl hunt down the man who killer her father. Jeff Bridges provides a sightly gruffer version of Rooster than John Wayne, and the cold winter scenery makes for a darker rendition. It is hard to decide which version is the best and there is only one way to find out… fight! While they brawl away, the 2011 remake of True Grit can be safe in the knowledge that it hasn’t tarnished a classic and stands out as one of the years must see flicks. And Cowboy Westerns are so unrepresented in this day and age!
4. The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (22nd October 2011)
Perhaps the big surprise of the year. I had zero faith in director Spielberg doing the classic comic series justice, and besides a few slightly creepy dead soul cgi moments, the film is one of the most entertaining family films in years. No reliance on popular fads for gags, Tintin tells a grand adventure of hidden treasure, world travels and fantastic action scenes. Drunkard Captain Haddock steals most of the show, but the two combine to show the new generation of children’s franchises how it’s done. Has one of the best chase scenes in cinema, thanks to some clever scene linking and mind-boggling computer programming. More adventures from boy and his dog are likely, and if they maintain this quality I’ll be happy to go on another treasure hunt with them.
3. The Ides Of March (7th October 2011)
I like George Clooney, no hiding that. His crispy voice and suave make me weak at the knees, so to see him directing a film is especially exciting to me. Taking my Clooney hat off, the Ides Of March delivers a tale of politics, love and the bitter truth behind human nature. Ryan Gosling, the man who is in everything, takes centre stage, leaving Clooney to play the bumbling presidential candidate. It doesn’t throw the viewer into thick gloopy political terminology, instead focusing on the protagonist, Stephen Myers, who goes from a loyal supporter of the candidate he is backing, to a man who sees the truth of politics and the greed and mistakes the people leave behind.
2. Super 8 (5th August 2011)
Super 8 is a reincarnation of the summer blockbuster magic. A bunch of kids set out to make a zombie movie for a film competition, but after the ‘best set piece of 2011’, the kids end up dealing with far bigger things. ET meets Cloverfield, but without the annoying shaky cam and monstrous death count of the latter, Super 8 has a real sense of mystery and fun behind it. The retro setting of the 80’s also brings some excellent music, people not relying on mobile phones and a sense of nostalgia. It really does feel like it has the spirit of Jurassic Park and ET behind it with the build up to shocks and suspense, plus the interaction between the gang. If it wasn’t for the rather weak ending, Super 8 would have taken number one, but alas it doesn’t quite reach the heights of those films of old. Close enough to be one of the year’s top films anyway.
1. Source Code (1st April 2011)
And here stands number one, Source Code. One man must stop an explosion in a train within eight minutes! After a complete balls up, he ends up in a dark room wondering what the heck happened, along with the viewers. It seems he is locked into a program called Source Code which can replay an incident perfectly, again and again. The explosion has already happened, and Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to keep going back to find the perpetrator. Unfortunately Colter begins to gain attachments to the people he is involved with in the simulation, and so will you. The clever plot, characters and increasingly depressing revelations make for my film of 2011. I know some people who weren’t fans of the repetition Groundhog Day style, but they think Harry Potter is the most complex and peak of 2011 movies. Not hating on Potter of course, I liked the first three books.
So there you have it. Looking back at my choices, omissions and films still yet to see, 2011 wasn’t all that bad. Funny how things always end up being better when you think carefully about it all. Just 2012 seems likely to be a mega eruption of quality, and that volcano has been brewing up all year. New Batman, Wes Anderson, Alan Partridge, Alien, Muppets, Avengers, Hobbit, Ghibli, Bond, Tarantino western, World War Z, Expendables… I think I need to lie down.