As we bring in 2013, here at Impact Film we asked our readers and writers to look back at the past year in cinema to create our Top 10 Films of 2012.
Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt earns its place in the top ten for two distinct reasons. The first being Vinterberg’s unparalleled grasp on the relationships that characterise family and community; their claustrophobic nature and destructive closeness. Such an eye for realism in relationship dynamics has not been seen since his first success at Cannes, Festen.
Secondly, it is the delicacy in which the theme of child abuse is dealt with in this film. But even more importantly, it is what surrounds the idea of such a crime that interests us as film-goers somewhat more. The hysteria that follows the accusation of the crime in respect to the central character is played with exquisite integrity by Mads Mikkelsen, and it is difficult to imagine any actor better suited to the role. What is more, the pace of the hysteria that follows the accusation can draw us back to another era and place, perhaps that of McCarthyism – the ‘witch hunt’ for secret Communists in America that poisoned friendships and communities. It is this collision of the past and the knowledge that this theme is also firmly positioned in the present that makes The Hunt truly sensational.
It’s been an outstanding year for Michael Fassbender and once again he steals the show in Steve McQueen’s haunting tale of sex addiction. Brandon is a successful thirty-something in New York, whose consuming rituals of addiction are interrupted by his sister (Carey Mulligan) when she arrives unexpectedly in town. Brutal yet vulnerable, Brandon’s habits are beginning to control him as he delves deeper into an isolated world governed by lust. More and more, he turns to compulsive masturbation, online resources and prostitutes when frequent fleeting encounters dry up.
This adult movie is no porn film. The sex is taut with ritualistic control and the need for a fix, embroiled in the painful disgust of addiction. Fassbender’s portrayal is astounding – a nuanced, stripped-back exposition of humanity, where relationships are fragile and intimacy becomes an obstacle. Carefully researched and written by McQueen and Abi Morgan, the script is minimalist and beautiful, as is Harry Escott’s appropriately poignant score. The atmosphere is painstakingly tenuous due to some daring direction, lingering long shots and the quality of the acting. Both Fassbender and Mulligan’s performances bring a whole new meaning to the word ‘naked’.
In a screwball blend of political thriller and movie mock-up, Argo is the tense tale based on the real life events of the Iran hostage crisis between 1979 to 1981. With six American hostages stuck in Tehran in the midst of a diplomatic crisis, one CIA agent heads the crafting of a fake sci-fi movie in order to rescue them.
With a strong script by Chris Terrio and Ben Affleck in the director’s chair, Argo moves along at a rollicking pace which will have you squirming in your seat. Despite playing the central role of Tony Mendez, the CIA officer with the loopy exfiltration idea, Affleck’s true skills lie behind the camera as he balances the genres and executes the characterisation in a seemingly instinctive way, capturing the emotion of the large (but stellar in their own right) supporting cast.
Argo captures the era in a whip of shaggy hair and mustard yellows, and despite the dramatic licence taken on the events in Tehran, it’s fully engrossing, suspenseful and fully deserves its place within the top ten films of this year. It’s clear Affleck has a full handle on the history and politics surrounding the events, and Argo soars in such capable hands.
We almost didn’t get to see this film. Filmed in 2010 and originally slated to be released in February of that year, attempts to convert the film to 3D and the massive financial problems of studio MGM meant the film was pushed back to April of this year, and it was worth the wait.
Co-written by Joss Whedon and directed by Matthew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods is a love letter to the horror genre. Almost every scene contains Easter eggs and references to past classics which reward re-watching. The story of five teenagers stuck in a deserted cabin seems unoriginal, but is twisted on its head by two technicians, played brilliantly by Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, who increasingly force the characters to make increasingly stupid decisions, as although it is a love note to the genre, it is also an intervention. The Cabin in the Woods inverts all the horribly overused tropes in many recent horror movies. The characters’ personalities don’t easily fall into any of the recognisable horror character stereotypes, so the technicians tweak their personalities until they do.
Included in this is a very good story, with characters that we actually care for and some decent scares along the way. It’s a film that subverts expectations and shows that horror movies can be original, don’t have to follow the path most travelled and the world won’t end. And it has a guy getting speared by unicorn – who doesn’t want to see that?
The Hunger Games, based on a young adult fiction series, focuses on survival in a futuristic, dystopian world. Katniss Everdeen volunteers to compete in The Games in her sister’s place, and must defend herself against her 23 other components from the 12 districts of Panem, or die trying.
Whilst some would argue that The Hunger Games has lost much of the book’s blood-thirsty violence, I believe that director Gary Ross truly captured a realistic, dark feel in his vision of the science-fiction world without the unnecessary gore. The battle scenes are tense, but there is a focus on the brutality of The Games and the ruthlessness of the other competitors. The emotion behind the action pushes the plot forward, which is aided by the great cast. Jennifer Lawrence leads as Katniss and delivers an excellent performance, a highlight of the movie, and beyond Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson has a great breakout role as Peeta.
Visually, The Hunger Games is stunning; the gloom of the districts contrasts fantastically with the rich, bright colours of The Games training area. Whilst a great film in itself, The Hunger Games also sets up the premise and the characters for the rest of the trilogy. After this venture, audiences should be more than excited for future instalments.
Once you get over the fact that this isn’t the book, the first part of The Hobbit trilogy is not as bad as you might think. Like The Lord of the Rings before it, Peter Jackson has never been one for simply adapting what’s on the page onto the big screen, he needs to go all out, and the short there-and-back-again tale of The Hobbit has not suffered because of it. True, it could be a bit too epic in some places and the overuse of computer graphics may hinder the narrative at times, but there are so many other elements that outweigh these minor irritations.
Martin Freeman is surprisingly perfect as the flustered and tentative Bilbo and his one-to-one moments are where you really start paying attention; Riddles in the Dark does not disappoint and could well be Andy Serkis’s finest “on-screen” moment. Similarly, the dwarves are hilarious, their back story is actually very interesting and their deep throated Misty Mountain song is phenomenal. The Hobbit films will never be as masterful, or as tightly directed as the Rings trilogy, but An Unexpected Journey slots into the world of Middle Earth very nicely.
Universality in filmmaking is perhaps the most difficult quality to capture, nonetheless Rian Johnson’s third project, Looper, achieved just this, attracting the adoration of film scholars and laymen alike. The simple brilliance of Looper lies in its dedication to an engaging and absorbing narrative, which delivers on the potential of what is by far one of the most intriguing film premises of the year.
The performances are universally fantastic and the uncanny predictions permeated by this unnerving glimpse into the future were beautiful to see on screen. Although it may sidestep some of the more in-depth questions raised by its liberal use of time travel, it more than makes up for that fact by delivering an intelligence to the science-fiction genre that is often abandoned in favour of superficial excitement and spectacle. Channelling the best aspects of the time travel, dystopian, action and pastoral genres, Looper is a blending of many ideas to achieve one goal: imaginative storytelling.
Much like Moon or District 9, Looper is everything modern Science-Fiction needs to be – streamlined, bold and inventive.
2012 was the year the mighty partnership of Disney and Marvel studios pulled off the most ambitious multi-film project in cinematic history. First created in 1963 as a mash-up of Marvel’s most eclectic superheroes, fifty years later The Avengers have now, quite deservedly, become the subject of the third highest-grossing movie of all time.
When the nefarious God of Mischief, Loki, launches an all out assault on New York City, S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury assembles Earth’s mightiest heroes to tackle the exiled Asgardian’s alien army. However, as with any comic book crossover, things don’t immediately go to plan, as our heroes clash in forests, get possessed and find themselves falling from the sky…
Director Joss Whedon delves into Marvel’s toy box of comic characters to create a humourous epic that has both adults and children alike wanting to don a cape and hurl a dustbin lid at their foes. With its smarmy villain complete with a dastardly plot for world domination, a dream team of all the best action figures around, and Samuel L. Jackson in an eye patch, Whedon has brought Saturday morning television onto the big screen – which is exactly what a comic book adaptation should be.
Four years in the making, Christopher Nolan’s “epic conclusion to the Dark Knight Legend” was more than the end of a franchise, but rather the end of an era.
While Rises may be the weaker element in the trilogy for some, never before has the Caped Crusader faced adversity on such a grand scale, from forces both figurative and literal. Out of the crime-fighting game for eight years, Batman is thrust into a war against Bane to save Gotham. If his internal demons weren’t enough, Bane’s physical manifestation of them represents a brutality and cunning far beyond his own limitations. But he must survive, endure and reclaim his city. Perhaps Heath Ledger’s Joker was foreshadowing more than he realised when he said, “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object.”
From the origins story of Begins, to the crime saga that was The Dark Knight, to this final tale of heroism, Nolan has, in every step of his re-imagining of the Batman mythos, upped the ante and set the bar for all future comic book adaptations. His visceral and ultimately human portrayal of such a timeless character will be remembered and treasured for years to come.
James Bond himself would hesitate if given the mammoth task faced by Sam Mendes. An underwhelming predecessor left the franchise on uneven ground and, as history has shown, even the most critically acclaimed filmmakers can’t escape studio interference. With an all-star cast and crew of Hollywood talent, expectations were high.
Skyfall superseded all expectations.
Where Skyfall excels is its characters. Bond has never been more vulnerable and the stakes never so personal; Daniel Craig adds further complexity to his already tormented portrayal; Judi Dench flourishes in her role as M, providing a gratifying human element to Bond’s otherwise dour higher-up; whilst Javier Bardem successfully straddles the line between theatrical and menacing as antagonist Raoul Silva.
Mendes recognized the talent of the crew behind him, allowing each department to achieve some of their best work to date. Mention must be given to Thomas Newman’s engaging score, making use of memorable cues and motifs from past entries, and to cinematographer Roger Deakins who provides an outstanding array of images and some breathtaking establishing shots which should guarantee an Oscar nomination.
Skyfall really is a triumph, succeeding as a riveting action flick, but more crucially an important and satisfying entry in the James Bond franchise.
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