Classic film making trounces worn out CGI – my movies of 2013

In a year of genuine surprises beating Hollywood’s overtrailed blockbusters, hopefully the movie moguls will realise the folly of endless remakes and reboots. (They won’t.)

Captain Phillips

Weird to say it, but possibly Tom Hanks’s finest acting turn since the outrageously well made body-flipping Big in 1988. Too often remembered for the schmalz of Sleepless in Seattle or Forrest Gump, it’s easy to overlook the ease with which Hanks carries a big concept on celluloid – think Apollo 13Philadelphia or even Saving Private Ryan.

Director Paul Greengrass (he of the Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, though not the better first one – shame that) somehow brings unbearable tension to a story that could only have a couple of endings.

In the final reckoning it’s hard to feel more sympathy for the well-off commercial ship captain than his Somali pirate captor, so desperate to burst free from a cursed life. This is how films should be made.

No

One that popped out of nowhere to thrill with charm, humour and a gripping tale of an apparently doomed rebellion against an oppressive Chilean state.

Gael Garcia Bernal is an absolute legend as the film-maker turning his back on the easy life to spearhead a hapless coalition of the willing.

He needs to do more like this – or maybe it’s high time I raided his plentiful back catalogue to find more gems like The KingThe Motorcycle Diaries and Y Tu Mama Tambien. Watch this space.

The Place Beyond the Pines

A modern classic if ever there was one, I thought I knew where this was going but after 20 minutes began descending uncontrollably into the world depicted.

Another take on lives with no escape, the bad seed planted and the inevitability of crime, jealousy and rejection, and Ryan Gosling heads a brilliant cast with some sublime supporting actors.

No shortcuts, no excuses, this is film-making at its gritty, expansive, straightforward best.

The Three Colours trilogy

The masterpiece set from Krzysztof Kieślowski (nope, I can’t say it either), depicting the three shades of the French flag and the Gallic ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity – sort of.

Juliette Binoche is flawless as the grieving widow in the first, Three Colours Blue, painting the full horrible canvas of life lived in the shadow of death. The second film –White – is a bit of a let-down, too weird for its own good but still, strangely, utterly true to life.

Irene Jacob leads the final instalment, Red, as possibly the most gorgeous woman ever likely to be on film – I’m not kidding. Three Colours Red came out in the same year as another stone-cold fave of mine, Pulp Fiction, but feels a universe and half away in film-making quality and vision. Kieślowski (however you say it) is without doubt a flippin’ genius.

Mud

Matthew McConaughey? Good? In a film? Yes, turns out it is possible, despite all the squandered promise of yesteryear. Give him a down-and-out character and a few tragedies to skirt around and it turns out he’s diamond.

Something of a thinking man’s Stand By MeMud is one of those mercifully CGI-free films that delivers on a solid story and sound characters to satisfy just as movies should.  Don’t worry if Mud turns out to be the end of McConaughey’s new renaissance, this one’s a corker.

Gravity

Mixed feelings on the Clooney-Bullock showcase, but a space peril yarn that deserves a hearty mention. The technical achievements are astounding, even if the characters are about as deep as Miley Cyrus on her fifth Snowball and cherry vodka.

The 3D is awesome, the future of film-making HAS ARRIVED, PEOPLE and they even stay faithful to silence in space – seeing as it’s a vacuum, innit – just a shame it’s a string of decent ideas linked by ‘oh, if we have to’ dialogue.

For all the people who say it is worth seeing, I agree. Just about.

Flight

Denzel Washington is always brilliant even if the film he’s in is not.

Flight threatened to be one of his lamer vehicles, but Robert Zemeckis – who hasn’t done anything good since the Back to the Future trilogy (sorry Bob, but it’s true) – mixes a cocktail of action, ridiculous humour and some pretty dark times to give ol’ Denzel a movie worth watching. That sequence when he flies the plane upside down is A-MAZING.

Not actually released in 2013 but that’s when I saw the DVD (just roll with it, it’ll be fine).

Prometheus

An honourable mention for one of my go-to films of the year, which quite plainly wasn’t released in 2013 either (what can I say, I’m really a rebel).

I know it’s a love or hate affair with this one, especially when the two panicky gals are running away very badly from the falling spaceship near the end, but the rest of it is stove-stokingly brilliant.

Michael Fassbender is supreme as the plainly and happily sadistic robot, jostling along in a plot that has no kind of resolution at any point during the film. Gripping. Ripping apart filmic convention. Awesome.

© Matthew Bell 2014

See more at the Good Film Blog

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