As 2013 draws to a close, it’s time to reel off One Room With A View’s Top Ten Films of 2013. Each writer will list their top ten and we’ll reach an ultimate list at the end. To achieve this, we’ll be using a simple points system so that a film coming 10th = 1 point, 9th = 2 points and so on until whichever film finishes top gets a perfect 10. The film with the most points at the end of our lists is our film of 2013.
Our final countdown comes from Pat; here are the films which he rated as the best from 2013:
ZERO DARK THIRTY: There a number of remarkable things about Kathryn Bigelow’s most recent film. For one, at the time of Osama bin Laden’s death, Bigelow and writer Mark Boal were working on bringing a finished screenplay on the long, unsuccessful efforts to find bin Laden to the big screen. The moment the news broke, however, saw them start from scratch. What emerged at the end of a very swift shoot was perhaps one of the defining films of the 21st century so far. Bigelow kept audiences on the edge of their seats, despite the fact that they knew the eventual outcome, yet reserved judgement on some of the more controversial methods used by the security services to track down their man. A must-see.
LINCOLN: Steven Spielberg’s reverential biopic of the great American president is not always an easy watch. Light-hearted, easygoing Friday night entertainment it is not. The script, arrived at following extensive collaboration between Tony Kushner and historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, rejects any notion of exposition and simply says to the audience “keep up.” Of course, no discussion of Lincoln can ignore the contribution made by Daniel Day-Lewis. Has there ever been a more magnetic and utterly captivating screen presence? Full deserving his third Best Actor Oscar, DDL elevates this film to a level which few other historical features have ever reached.
WRECK-IT RALPH: Notwithstanding Pixar’s John Lasseter’s heavy involvement in this year’s Oscar-nominated Wreck-It Ralph, it’s great to see Disney producing great animated films once more. Despite what some of the more cynical critics said at the time (I’m looking at you Peter Bradshaw), I happily went along with the tale of arcade ‘bad guy’ Ralph (John C. Reilly) and his quest to prove that he’s got what it takes to be a hero. Sure, some of the themes are not terribly original and it’s unapologetically nostalgic at times, but I found it remarkably good company.
SIDE EFFECTS: If 2013 has seen Steven Soderbergh hang up the directorial gloves, then this was not a bad way to bow out. The first third leads us to believe that we are in for a traditional thriller; Emily and Martin (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum) are a young couple whose world is turned upside-down when a new drug prescribed by Emily’s British psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) has some unexpected, err, side effects. Yet Soderbergh has much more in store and over the course of the rest of the film we are treated to a string of unforeseen and disquieting twists and turns. Ultimately, the film rests on Soderbergh’s ability to extract the right performances from his actors, a feat which he achieves with considerable aplomb.
DJANGO UNCHAINED: In many ways, only Quentin Tarantino could make a film about the brutality of slavery that is simultaneously shocking and fun. While some of his familiar traits are clearly on show, Tarantino tells a story as coherent as any he has produced throughout his career. His script – which won a deserved Oscar – offers a veritable goldmine for the talents of Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. Leonardo DiCaprio, as the repulsive Calvin Candie, puts in one of his finest performances to date. And, for once, Samuel L Jackson does not simply play a caricature of himself, but delivers a truly mesmeric performance as Candie’s right-hand man. Aside from an infuriating intrusion into the proceedings by Tarantino himself, this is one of his best works.
PHILOMENA: A hit at both the Toronto and Venice film festivals, Philomena is a simultaneously heartbreaking, enraging and life-affirming tale of one woman’s struggle to discover the fate of her long-lost son, who was taken from her whilst she was confined to a convent over 50 years ago. While Philomena Lee is played with predictable brilliance by Dame Judi Dench, it is Steve Coogan’s turn as Martin Sixsmith, giving voice to the audience’s righteous anger, who is the real surprise. The script touches effortlessly on some of the more unsavoury instincts of the media, without ever losing sight of its real aim.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE: I really enjoyed The Hunger Games. However, it was with trepidation that I entered the cinema to see the new instalment in the franchise, having read the books and concluded that they deteriorate in quality as the series progresses. This boded ill. Yet I needn’t have worried. Dodging expertly around the many pitfalls of the second-album syndrome, Catching Fire picks up the story with the curiously named Katniss and Peeta about to embark on their victory tour. Despite a running time of well over two hours, the pace is unrelenting as the protagonists are hurtled along a path that is seemingly beyond their control. Jennifer Lawrence, as ever, is brilliant in the lead role. However, Catching Fire surpasses its predecessor by bringing the supporting cast to the fore, with both Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland putting in stellar performances.
STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS: For my money, the only major summer blockbuster which produced the goods (the less said about Man of Steel, the better). Parochial it is not, and herein lies the triumph of JJ Abrams reworking of the franchise: there is something for everyone. Yes it’s silly, too long and doesn’t really make any sense if you stop to think about it, but who cares? Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto further cement their burgeoning reputations in the main roles, but for all the stunning visuals on display, it is Benedict Cumberbatch’s sinister turn as the villainous Khan which really steals the show.
GRAVITY: The list of superlatives used to describe Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film is becoming increasingly inadequate. That it is the first film of the modern era to comprehensively demonstrate how effectively 3D technology can be used is beyond doubt. Yet that statement fails to do justice to the scale of the achievement of Cuarón and co. I cannot remember the last time I was so totally absorbed in what was taking place in the screen in front of me. At one point during the nerve-wracking proceedings I caught myself jolting forwards in my seat, physically willing Sandra Bullock’s stricken character to grab hold of something solid. See it on as big a screen as possible.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS: Despite a rather functional title, Captain Phillips just sneaks in front of Gravity as my film of the year. Not only do I think it’s Paul Greengrass’ best work to date, it also features a Tom Hanks performance the like of which I was not sure he was still capable of. By now, we all know the true story of Richard Phillips, who was captain of a US cargo ship which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2009. Greengrass succeeds where many others would fail, in telling the story from a number of angles and steadfastly refusing to give in to stereotypes. Barkhad Abdi is simply remarkable in his first role and more than holds his own alongside a wonderful cast. The final third contains some of Hanks’ best work and Oscar nominations surely beckon for both him and Abdi. The person sitting next to me during this film emerged from the cinema in physical pain because they had been gripping the arm rest so tightly. “Intense” simply fails to do this experience justice.
FINAL SCORES WILL BE REVEALED ON 31ST DECEMBER!