The 20 Best Films of 2017
It’s not easy coming up with a list of the best movies of any year, let alone one as rich in worthies as 2017. Still, nothing gets a good film debate going like a ranking, and so we here at Goomba Stomp have finalized* our picks for the cream of 2017’s crop. We’ve covered a ton of films this year, from major theatrical releases to the plethora of film festivals, like Sundance, TIFF, and Fantasia, so there were some tough choices to be made. No list is perfect of course, and there will always be some disagreements, but in the end, this list is a fairly accurate reflection of our staff favorites. Enjoy, and if you haven’t seen some of the film’s below, what are you waiting for?!
*In case you’re wondering, the content and order was determined by polling our Sordid Cinema staff writers, then compiling the data by assigning points depending on a film’s rank within each personal list. Rest assured, it’s a highly scientific process that delivers solid, unbiased results.
Editor’s Note: While it is impossible for our writers to see every movie released this year, I felt we should mention that although we are all huge fans of Paul Thomas Anderson, none of us have had the chance to yet see Phantom Thread, since it has not yet been released where we reside.
20) Personal Shopper
Kristen Stewart has received countless, even historic accolades for her role in this fantastic film, but this overstates its difficulty level in that she really only has to play herself in this bruising deconstruction of her persona. Her Maureen sits in the shadow of the celebrity employer she hates, curating a husk of a public image separate from her truer self. Her particular style of acting, a consummate naturalism that oscillates between fidgety and effortless cool, makes her ideal for a work with these meta concerns. In its more mundane moments of sharper focus, the film’s tone is as weary-yet-nervous as Maureen, embodying the quiet turmoil of the Worker, a utilitarian slave to situation under capitalism. This tension tightens up as the film makes incarnate its metaphoric body/soul separation, genre hopping as Stewart does from arthouse to supernatural.
Maureen is also a medium waiting for a ghost from her past, hazarding more hostile ones and half alive herself, allowing Assayas the opportunity to pull out some serious genre filmmaking chops. Maureen’s interest in paranormal-inspired abstract art gives him an exciting tension to play with in blending these modes and crafting frames our similarly abstracted lead glides through. Stewart centers these common and fascinating shots in a haunted house or mopeding down a Paris street like a true specter, with shallow digital focus fuzzing her surroundings into nondescript shapes and darkness, herself a liminality of genre, fame, and diegesis. Overstuffed but executed with unwavering control, Personal Shopper is a welcome addition to a woefully underappreciated legacy: that of the masterful mess. (Molly Faust)
19) The Red Turtle
It’s surprising, and perhaps a testament to how limited most filmic storytellers are, that more films don’t try to exploit the possibilities of working without dialogue. Dialogue-free films face no language barrier, no need for subtitles or dubbing, giving them an obvious advantage when it comes to distribution (The Artist should really have acted as a major clue in this regard). Co-produced by Wild Bunch and Studio Ghibli, The Red Turtle was last year’s requisite “Best Animated Feature nominee no one’s seen,” though in fact it was likely the best of the bunch. An allegory as wide-open for interpretation as the sea itself, Michaël Dudok de Wit’s film takes a half-dozen small pivots that shouldn’t be spoiled for unassuming viewers; needless to say, this is not just another story about a man getting marooned on a strange island, or some kind of rote survival story. De Wit is much more interested in exploring notions of isolation, community, family, shifting priorities, and the appropriate scope of a life fully lived than in retelling some Robinson Crusoe myth. Beguiling and mysterious, The Red Turtle is a cleansing, calming exhale amidst sound and fury. (Simon Howell)
18) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
When Guardians of the Galaxy was first released, it was considered to be a huge gamble for Marvel considering that apart from die-hards comic book fans, most people wouldn’t recognize these characters nor care to see a movie about Marvel’s band of misfits. To almost everyone’s surprise, Guardians of the Galaxy opened to a nearly $100 million (domestic) first weekend and made well over $750 million worldwide during its theatrical run. Needless to say, the pressure was on James Gunn when making a sequel and as a result, Volume 2 is bigger than its predecessor. Unfortunately, bigger isn’t always better, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 isn’t quite as fun, nor is it as clever, as the original. That isn’t to say it isn’t any good, because obviously we like it enough to have it featured on this list. There is a lot to like here, and the pros outweigh the cons. Much like the original, Volume 2 features a wonderful cast, lively performances, one or two great action set pieces, stunning cinematography, a killer soundtrack and enough humor to call it the funniest film of the year so far. More importantly, it attempts to tell a heartfelt story about identity, loneliness, and belonging, and for the most part, it succeeds. (Ricky D)
17) Kong: Skull Island
Though hardly a cinematic masterpiece full of depth and meaning, Kong: Skull Island has more fun than any movie so far this year. Unlike past iterations on the 1933 classic original, director Jordan Vogt-Roberts knows exactly how to treat the ridiculousness of the concept of a giant ape without devolving into pure schlock, and keeps things light-hearted with the kind of sarcastic filmmaking that neither mocks the monster movie genre nor attempts to inject it with misplaced bloated reverence. Kong is Sy-Fy Channel B-movie goodness at its most colorful, slick, and thrilling, with an exotic setting that gives off an Apocalypse Kong vibe, a villain so operatic he actually rivals a 50-foot beast in intensity, and a kooky castaway whose fading social skills have given him the ability to speak for the audience and common sense.
Whip-smart editing and quirky compositions ensure that what could be mundane moments in another story are humorously engaging here, and action scenes are off-kilter just enough to occasionally actually surprise. Those who appreciate late nights watching glorious cheese will revel in how such entertainment could be so well made, and a franchise on life support gets a massive injection of adrenaline. Kong: Skull Island may not be heir to the throne, but this prince knows how to party. (Patrick Murphy)
16) I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
American genre film has gotten a bit of a kick in the pants lately from filmmakers willing to acknowledge America’s roiling class tensions, from the run-down Detroit setting and get-rich-quick scheming of Don’t Breathe to the world of It Follows, in which the young seem to have no future and no prospects. One of our staff favorites last year, Jeremy Saulnier’s punk thriller Green Room exploited the naked thrills of punk to take its hapless protagonists to whatever the opposite of a “safe space” is. One of Saulnier’s collaborators, Macon Blair, has made his directorial debut with another movie that fits neatly into this grimy quasi-movement. I Don’t Feel At Home is a raucous, funny, and disturbing look at disenfranchisement and disillusionment, with a perfectly-cast Melanie Lynskey finally getting a shot at a lead role. Blair takes advantage of Lynskey’s unassuming presence to offer a complete portrait of boiling-over resentment and rage, one that nevertheless stops just short of claiming our hero is really all that different from the roving toughs she aims to lash back at. That Jesus Lizard genius David Yow is the film’s sleazy head crook is just gravy. (Simon Howell)
15) It Comes At Night
Writer/Director Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night plunges the viewer into an ambitious story of creeping dread and paranoia. Joel Edgerton (The Gift, Warrior) delivers an earnest performance as Paul, a man determined to protect his wife and son from the desperate, downward spiral of humanity following the spread of a highly communicable disease. Isolated from society in a boarded-up house, they make a quiet and cautious life together until a stranger (Christopher Abbott) breaks in while seeking resources for his family. The careful integration of the intruder’s family into their household amplifies an already intense atmosphere that’s steeped in sorrow and agitation. The lack of specifics surrounding the plague creates an eerie atmosphere that sows doubt in the mind of the moviegoer as to a definitive reality and who may be perpetrating what.
The film treads around the familiar territory of survivalist peril, but by utilizing double meanings and ambiguous plot twists, it’s able to fully engross us in the psychological horror of a complete unknown that rips away lives without reason. Paul’s teenage son, Travis (the skilled Kelvin Harrison Jr.), is an innocent complicated by his situation and the darkness of sudden loss. By following his nosy behavior and disturbing dreams, we sample the grieving, unbalanced mind of someone who’s capable of anything and may not be able to register crossing a line. As no character is appointed the moral epicenter of the story, it leaves us to closely dissect the families’ tightly controlled lives with a suspicion that anyone could turn against the others or be influenced by the malevolent nature of the sickness. An immersive confusion and unrestrained potential for frenzied destruction imbue It Comes at Night with a palpable sense of danger without resorting to cheap or simple scares. (Lane Scarberry)
14) John Wick Chapter 2
Not many of us expected the 2014 Keanu Reeves vehicle John Wick to be much more than another forgettable action thriller in the post-Bourne mold. Boy, were we in for a surprise. In defiant odds of expectations, John Wick turned out to be the breakout action favorite of the year. When it came time for the sequel expectations were high, and the film no longer had the element of surprise on its side. Thankfully, John Wick Chapter 2 turns out to be more than a match for our newly heightened expectations of the young franchise, surpassing its predecessor in almost every regard.
Chapter 2 manages the exceedingly rare feat of upping the ante in almost every department without over-extending itself, deftly expanding on the unique and interesting criminal underworld established by the original, and doubling down on the precise, elegant gunplay that made that film a hit with audiences. The action scenes and narrative are larger in scope and more complex in execution, but never overwhelmingly so, making it feel like an evolution of the original that expands things just enough. Add in numerous fun additions to the already impressive “Wick-verse” cast, like Franco Nero, Common, Laurence Fishburne, and Peter Stormaire, and John Wick Chapter 2 cements the franchise’ reputation as the biggest new name in action. (Thomas O’Connor)
13) The Lost City of Z
Drawing equally from classic colonialist adventure films like Gunga Din and gritty, revisionist efforts like Herzog’s Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo, James Gray’s The Lost City of Z manages to weave an exciting tale of adventure and exploration that still has room for depth and artistry. Based on the true story of Col. Percival Fawcett, a British explorer who undertook numerous trips into the Amazon rainforest in search of a lost city he called Z, the film balances elements of adventure, war drama, character study, and historical epic with an unsurprisingly deft hand from writer/director Gray.
The cast, including Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, as well as Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Tom Holland and….Franco Nero again? Huh. Well, anyway, the cast all do a fantastic job at the demanding task of portraying characters throughout multiple stages of their lives, and the film creates an atmosphere that’s equal parts wonder and introspective melancholy. It shouldn’t come as any surprise when, in future years, The Lost City of Z is ranked among the greatest adventure/exploration films. (Thomas O’Connor)
12) The Shape of Water
For years, a distinction has existed between the English language and Spanish language films of Guillermo del Toro. The American works are either direct adaptations of comic books (Hellboy, Blade II), or so outlandish that they might as well have been (Pacific Rim, Mimic). The Spanish and Mexican films are more austere films that combine del Toro’s love of the macabre and the fantastic with an unabashed sense of love. With his newest film, The Shape of Water, del Toro has managed to synthesize his impulses to create one of his most satisfying works to date.
The ever-charming Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a mute woman who works on the night-shift cleaning staff of a government research center in the midst of the Cold War. Zelda (Octavia Spencer) is her only friend among the janitors, as well as her sign language interpreter to the rest of the world. When Elisa comes across a mysterious amphibian man (del Toro regular Doug Jones) who is being experimented on by the malicious Strickland (a gloriously over-the-top Michael Shannon), she at first feels compassion, then desire.
A lesser filmmaker would have portrayed Elisa as a tragic figure robbed of her voice, but del Toro and co-screenwriter Vanessa Taylor wisely depict a woman perfectly at ease with her life — she has all the voice she needs, but it’s up to others to listen. Hawkins is augmented by a fantastic cast, including an excellent (if small) role from Michael Stuhlbarg (Call Me by Your Name).
Del Toro was inspired to make The Shape of Water because of his childhood disappointment with Creature from the Black Lagoon, in which an inter-species love story is cut short by bloodthirsty humans. His new film works as a corrective, and his passion is evident (he depicts Baltimore in the early 1960s with as much love and care as he does the amphibian man). The Shape of Water is a fairy tale, and like the best fairy tales, it reminds us of our own childhood wonder and hope. (Brian Marks)
11) Baby Driver
Like every Edgar Wright movie, the director’s latest feature takes a ludicrous concept and runs wild with it. Six movies into his career, he delivers a wildly energetic movie that not only entertains from start to finish, but follows its own set of rules without ever losing focus on what matters the most: characters. The result is brilliant, an unexpected mishmash of genres that shouldn’t blend so well together, but does. Baby Driver is the director’s most ambitious work to date — a wildly successful romantic heist comedy fueled by a killer soundtrack.
Here Wright’s use of music has a reason to exist, since the titular character needs his melodies for practical reasons. After surviving a traumatic car crash in childhood (killing his parents), Baby is left with permanent tinnitus, and in order to counteract this condition, he scores his everyday life. Baby Driver has it all: non-stop action, comedy, suspense, romance, a star-making performance from Ansel Elgort, and all the twists and turns of a classic heist movie. Credit Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss for the razor-sharp editing, and Bill Pope for his luscious photography! This is Hollywood craftsmanship of the highest order. (Ricky D)
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! is quite possibly the most controversial film of 2017. Many critics called it the worst movie of the year, while others who sung its praise defended the film tooth and nail. Awash in both religious and contemporary political imagery, Darren Aronofsky’s allusive film opens itself to a number of allegorical readings, and depending on what you take away, you’ll either love it or hate it. The press release promised a home-invasion thriller “about love, devotion, and sacrifice,” and in several interviews Aronofsky referenced climate change, war, famine and how awful humans not only treat each other, but the planet we live on. It’s also a surreal, feverish nightmare about relationships and the creative process centered around a dysfunctional couple.
The film is all this and more, but in my eyes mother! is first and foremost a horror film, and like any good horror film, it’s one that gets a rise out of you — makes your palms sweat, your eyes widen, your jaw drop, and your hands grip on tight to the armrest. It’s a piece of taboo-breaking cinematic insanity, and something you’re sure not to forget. And like all great horror movies, it’s a movie that grabs your attention and dares you to look away. (Ricky D)
Stephen King’s 1986 magnum opus about a deranged murdering clown named Pennywise who haunts the children of Derry, Maine has now been adapted twice, to varying degrees of success. The latest adaptation, which lingered for a half-decade in pre-production, represents the first time It has been brought to the big screen (the first was a television mini-series) and it’s among the best Stephen King adaptations ever made — not because it is scary (because, truthfully, it isn’t), but because director Andrés Muschietti’s vision is extremely funny, entertaining, and most importantly, heartwarming. At 135 minutes, It covers only the childhood half of the book, saving the adult portion for the upcoming sequel, set 27 years later. The decision to split the movie in two was a wise move on the part of the studio, as it allows the filmmakers more time to flesh out both the story and the large cast of characters. As with Stand By Me, another Stephen King adaptation, what sets It apart from most modern Hollywood horror films is the stellar cast. In fact, the best parts of It have nothing to do with the cackling manifestations of the murderous Pennywise, but with the camaraderie, bickering, and curiosity among these kids, who unlike many on-screen teenagers, actually seem like real kids.
It is far from a perfect film, but the underlying allegory of these characters facing their deepest fears as they enter adulthood gives the movie emotional weight — and regardless of if we get to know these characters or not, It is a chilling examination of what it’s like to grow up living in fear, be it the onset of puberty, or something deeper and far more disturbing, such as neglect, abuse, discrimination, poverty, and/or violence. In fact, the film’s true villains — older kids like Henry Bowers (Nicholas Hamilton), and adults like Beverly’s abusive father or Eddie’s controlling mother — are monstrous themselves. Of course, this is still a horror movie, and when the children begin to disappear, our group of young heroes is faced with their biggest inner demons when they square off against Pennywise, whose history of murder and violence dates back for centuries. Emerging from the long shadow of Tim Curry (whose interpretation of Pennywise is the biggest highlight of the TV mini-series) is Bill Skarsgard who does a marvelous job stepping in as the creepy, dancing clown with outsize yellow teeth, a high-pitched squeak of a voice, and a knack for terrifying kids. Thanks to the combination of these performances and Muschietti’s direction, It is not only one of the best movies of 2017, but one of the best horror movies ever made. (Ricky D)
8) Blade Runner 2049
Though coming off a bit more replicant than human, Denis Villeneuve’s gorgeous and mesmerizing vision of the near future couldn’t help but stand out from from its 2017 peers. Making a sequel to one of cinema’s all-time science fiction masterpieces must have been a daunting task, but Blade Runner 2049 does an admirable job picking up where Deckard left off, even if it doesn’t quite meet its predecessors lofty ambitions. Set 30 years later, 2049 follows Ryan Gosling’s K as he slowly uncovers a secret about the nature of replicants that may change the world. Along the way there is a bit of mystery, smatterings of existentialist philosophy, and a smorgasbord of visuals to feast one’s eyes upon.
The extraordinary sights and sounds of Blade Runner 2049 are more than enough to sustain the film through its methodical approach. Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger Deakins, and a talented team of art designers have outdone themselves, painting a rich, colorful world of decay, the oppressive gloom masked by orange sandstorms and holographic neon billboards. This is not the gritty Los Angeles of the original; a slick veneer projects surface beauty, but it doesn’t take long for the rotten insides to stink. Special mention must also be made of Hans Zimmer’s pulsing score, a mix of synthesizers and what sound like revving engines — it’s a sensory experience like almost no other in recent memory. The potency of the story will probably fade, but the images and ambiance will likely stick. Blade Runner 2049 may not quite reach for the sci-fi stars, but it certainly shines like one. (Patrick Murphy)
7) The Florida Project
The Florida Project continues director Sean Baker’s realistic depiction of the unfortunate, but with a heartfelt look at the way our futures are shaped. The film pushes Brooklynn Prince into the limelight as another child star that hopefully maintains the same bravado throughout her career that she embodies in this. All the while, Baker captures the innocence of a child, as well as the factors that influence the person they’ll become — and whether that’s a good or bad result is up to you. Anchored by a brilliant performance by Willem Dafoe as a motel owner reining in a community of the lower class and less fortunate, The Florida Project shows the depravity and the goodness that can be found within the cracks of society. Utilizing bright colors in frequently ignored locations gives the film its sense of hope, where it would otherwise be easy to grab hold of desperation and let it drag you to your lowest lows.
While the film is primarily focused on Brooklynn Prince’s character and how she spends her days, the greatest impact comes from how her mother’s actions and behaviors influence and affect her daughter. You learn to dread the moments spent with the mom, but realize that decisions she makes are born out of a place of perceived desperation. And at the same time, you learn to love the relationship between the mom and daughter because it’s pure and real. The complications exist within their lives, but they power through them, even if it means dragging each other through the mud to get to the endpoint. The Florida Project mines the mother-daughter relationship for those brief moments that are relatable. It lets you care about its characters without having to like them, in a situation that is sometimes difficult to find joy within. The movie then caps itself off with one of the happiest tearjerker moments of the year, which is why it stands as Sean Baker’s most fully realized film. (Christopher Cross)
6) Good Time
Good Time had the best score of the year — that’s not debatable. Brooklyn composer Oneohtrix Point Never amplifies both the grime and the tension of the Safdie Brothers’ film, supplying a droning, screeching backdrop that is both tripped out and deathly urgent. Which makes sense; Good Time, and Robert Pattinson’s performance specifically, has a druggy unreality that seems tailored to the Adderall generation. It is purely energetic, propulsive, and unrelenting.
Not that Connie, Pattinson’s idiot-savant wannabe bank robber, would know anything about drugs. A defining wrinkle of the character is his inflated sense of superiority, the way that —for instance, after botching a bank robbery — Connie will lecture others about behavioral standards. He is, in actuality, a completely unlikable character, beyond even his pretensions. He is toxic, dragging his disabled brother into criminal schemes and preying on anyone he can to avoid the consequences of those schemes when they inevitably fail. This is who the Safdie’s align us with, asking us to stay with Connie has he spirals downward into the New York City night. If not truly pleasurable, the film is compelling in the way that a high wire act mixed with a car accident would be compelling.
Pattinson meets the bar set by Oneohtrix Point Never, transforming his lithe physicality into something more jagged. His movements lack grace and veer toward the arbitrary; he either can’t or won’t sit still. His face fills the frame throughout much of the movie, allowing us to see every dumb new idea dawn in his eyes as he hatches them. Good Time is the realization of the Safdie Brothers’ sensibilities, but it flows through Pattinson, who encapsulates the film’s live-wire energy with his performance.
There were bigger films, more optimistic films, more rousing films, and films with more to say than Good Time in 2017, but the Safdies’ movie, more than any other in the year — Dunkirk included — moved me to the literal edge of my seat early and refused to relent. It is experiential; you live through Good Time, rather than watching it. (Michael Haigis)
5) Call Me By Your Name
Director Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name stirs the senses, breathing life into first love and heartbreak. Timothée Chalamet (Miss Stevens) is Elio, a young man adrift in the summer of 1983, before Oliver (Armie Hammer of The Social Network) comes to intern for his professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) in Italy. The film’s playful decadence flows with an enchanting ease, as well as an enveloping score that brings us into the moment. Chalamet whips the teasing, temptation, and frustration of early flirtations into a mesmerizing enthusiasm, while Hammer’s assertive charm knocks down the audience’s guard. A knowing intimacy creeps into their interactions, and Elio’s interest transforms into confusion, euphoria, borrowed time, and inevitable heartbreak. Chalamet’s eager affection and dynamic emotional articulation define the movie, drawing us ever further into a world that briefly belongs to them.
Hammer and Chalamet expertly channel two men magnetically drawn to one another, lost in the physical and mental freedom of youth that is yet to be completely tethered to commitment or expectations. They are shown to be deliberate, intellectual, and aware of the complexity of their feelings for one another — traits not readily associated with romance. Call Me By Your Name embraces the fervor of an insatiable sexual pull, while skillfully honing in on what makes Elio and Oliver’s relationship something special. As Elio’s father, Stuhlbarg vividly delivers tender insights that are as uplifting as they are wrenching. Guadagnino (I Am Love, A Bigger Splash) lovingly builds a serious film about meaningful attraction and the tenuous control we have over circumstance. (Lane Scarberry)
4) Lady Bird
Portraits of youthful aspiration rarely come so authentic and honest as the sometimes touching, often funny, and always charming Lady Bird. Set in the Sacramento of her teenage youth, Greta Gerwig’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story contains the types of off-beat observations and unflattering comic scenarios she has written into previous leading roles, but never has this offbeat “character” worked so well; perhaps because this time it isn’t Gerwig performing it. That task instead belongs to Saorise Ronan, who goes beyond merely doing her best Gerwig impression, and crafts a bitingly sharp version of an aspiring young artist who deeply believes herself to be something greater than what she currently is — or may even be capable of.
All of the buoyant energy and awkward ugliness of formative years are on display, from the social politics of high school to the ever-increasing urge to break free from the cage of parental control. Lady Bird (as she has pretentiously dubbed herself) can be both magnetic and repulsive in a span of seconds, but Ronan plays scenes of selfishness and egotism with the same matter-of-fact approach as those when she is more considerate of others, and the frankness captivates — even when eliciting winces. Writer-director Gerwig beautifully takes advantage with a script that unveils poignant yearning and tender nostalgia cloaked in quirky wit and uncomfortably real confrontation, while wisely shooting in a straightforward manner that doesn’t draw attention away with shallow indie flash. Bold, brave, and never less than sincere, Lady Bird hits all the right notes without compromising its own song — one of the most melodious of the year. (Patrick Murphy)
A melancholic treatise on aging is not what one would expect from any corner of the cinematic comic book canon, let alone from a property with the Marvel logo preceding it, but James Mangold’s Logan is just that, a modern day Western that takes a lens to one of the most iconic action heroes of all time. Hugh Jackman’s last go-around as the near-immortal mutant with generations of pain and suffering caked on his metallic claws finds the loner unburdened by the X-Men (a freak accident wiped them and mutant kind out), and burdened with caring for an ailing Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, providing a giant performance of confusion and intimacy). Logan’s will to live is minuscule until a chance encounter brings him close to Laura (Dafne Keene), a mutant child with remarkable skills of her own.
Liberated from universe building and a 4-quadrant marketing mandate, the film is almost overwhelming in its violence (the farm sequence is expert in its mounting horrific tension), while providing a profound look at how wanton killing dilutes a person’s soul. In part, it’s a meta-commentary on the X-Men and comic book films themselves, deconstructing how heroes are made, remembered and forgotten in broad strokes, rarely allowed to have the complexities that we mortals ponder day to day. Logan is the anti-comic book film — patient, meticulous, and not eager to please. It’s a heavy experience where the stabs make you cringe, the blood runs a little too real, and the notion of the next chapter is not etched in ink. Logan reminds us that our favorite things end, and that finality can be its own reward. (Shane Ramirez)
No film in 2017 captured the pure magic of cinema better than Christopher Nolan’s exquisitely crafted thriller about the evacuation of the British and other Allied forces from the French coast during World War II. Dunkirk jettisons many of the storytelling crutches so many war movies have come to rely on, replacing those blunt philosophical speeches and manufactured character moments with the kind of exacting visuals and visceral sound design that communicate precisely everything an audience needs to know about the terror depicted. Not a minute is wasted in exposition; the images tell the tale, taking the medium back to its roots. Through pictures Nolan builds an army of genuine people, their mouths ominously silent, but their eyes and actions instantly relating volumes. His frame then constricts their freedom (and ours), ramping up unease by showing us packed lines of men desperate to escape, crammed onto piers just waiting, looking out to the vast ocean of blue skies and open water that offers something so close, yet so far.
Once it has us wound up, Dunkirk yanks on the thread, unspooling in a furious assembly of bullet pops, swooping dogfights, and fiery sea battles, all working in harmony to support each other. Rarely have I felt so utterly helpless in response to something so simple as the whine of an airplane engine, but Nolan pulls the strings perfectly, effortlessly navigating the peaks and valleys of tension and release. That he does this without a more traditional dialogue-heavy script is especially impressive — a reminder of how affecting cinema can be in its purest form. Dunkirk pushes the action genre forward by looking back, a triumph of filmmaking that dares to believe in the core fundamentals of movies. (Patrick Murphy)
1) Get Out
In the great annals of horror movie history, there are plenty of examples of backward, racist Southerners being used to amp up the terror in otherwise unremarkable places like small towns or nice Suburban neighborhoods. Get Out seeks to utilize this same strategy, but in a different way. By making the racist bad guys liberals who genuinely think they’re doing a service to the black community, Get Out supplants the idea that racism only exists on the right — or in the South — and forces wearers of the “Good Guy Badge” to take a closer look at their reflection.
With stand-out performances from Daniel Kaluuya (Black Mirror), Allison Williams (Girls), and Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich), Get Out is a surprisingly tight suspense-thriller that ratchets up the tension with great success throughout the entirety of its swift run time.
From Jordan Peele of all people (best known for his sketch comedy series, co-created with Keegan-Michael Key), a film like Get Out is a genuine surprise, and one that has been welcomed by audiences and critics almost unanimously. These kinds of new takes on racism as a plot device — and the place of the horror canon in general — are just what the genre needs every few years to remind folks that there’s still new ground waiting to be uncovered in this well-worn world of recurring horror tropes. (Mike Worby)