Another year gone by. Has it been a good year for film? I’d say so. We said farewell to Middle Earth; The Hunger Games reached its penultimate feature; Tom Cruise and Michael Keaton are back on form and audiences exploded from anticipation waiting for Interstellar’s release. Here are my top five from the year gone by.
#5. Edge of Tomorrow (Dir. Doug Liman)
I like Tom Cruise. At times, I feel audiences go too far with their criticisms. He hasn’t had the most illustrious career ever, but he is an outstanding actor who brings huge amounts of dedication, enthusiasm and charisma to his roles. Edge of Tomorrow – which is based on All You Need Is Kill; a Japanese sci-fi novel by Hiroki Sakurazaka – is a film I expected to enjoy, but not one I thought I would love. A military officer named Cage gets caught in a time-loop during an invasion from near unstoppable alien creatures dubbed ‘Mimics’ and may be Earth’s only hope in ending the threat. Read like that, it comes across as rather bland – perhaps even cliche – but Edge of Tomorrow is engrossing from the get-go and both Cruise and Blunt excel. The designs of the Mimic creatures were impressive (in the manga adaptation, they’re rather hilarious) and the action sequences – considering the amount of repetition – never dulled. It’s a well directed, intelligent, captivating and at times very original sci-fi feature; far more absorbing than Interstellar.
#4. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (Dir. Peter Jackson)
As a fan of the work of Tolkien and someone who holds director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings adaptations in very high regard, to say I was looking forward to The Hobbit would be an understatement. Having recaptured Erebor, the Dwarven company vie to retain their stronghold and homeland from enemies on many planes. Probably my most anticipated film of the year, The Battle of the Five Armies didn’t disappoint, though there were a couple of aspects I wasn’t too keen on. Nevertheless, it remained an engaging, enjoyable watch; a fine farewell to Middle Earth – or is it? We may be revisiting it in thirty years; copyright for The Silmarillion expires in 2044 where, from then on, it will pass into the public domain. Maybe by then remakes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit will also be in the pipeline.
#3. Gone Girl (Dir. David Fincher)
Gone Girl was one of those rare movie experiences for me; I hadn’t watched any of the trailers; I hadn’t done any prior research; I didn’t even know what the film was about. The only thing I knew was that it was helmed by David Fincher. I went to see it on the off-chance one night and was completely blown away. Tired husband Nick Dunne see’s the media spotlight turned on him following his wife’s disappearance, when people begin to suspect he may not be so innocent. It’s a plot that could fall flat given the wrong performances, but the characters were completely enthralling; I have always liked Ben Affleck, but his acting calibre expanded tenfold here. Despite that, though, Rosamund Pike stole the show. A riveting film; wonderfully shot, fluently directed, with stimulating performances and a story so spellbinding I’m glad I had the pleasure of seeing it with no prior knowledge.
#2. Nightcrawler (Dir. Dan Gilroy)
The trailer was my first exposure to Nightcrawler, but Jake Gyllenhaal was the main selling point. He delivers an outstanding, entrancing performance as Lou Bloom; a fledgling journalist who blurs the line between observer and participant. I’ve seen people speak of his career peaking years ago, but I believe he’s on the top of his game right now. Nightcrawler was mesmerizing from the opening sequence all the way through to the stunning climax; a remarkable film with a hugely satisfying pay-off. A debut feature from Dan Gilroy – I hope to see much more from him in the future.
#1. The Theory of Everything (Dir. James Marsh)
I thought Nightcrawler would be my favourite of 2014, until I saw The Theory of Everything. Chronicling the relationship between master physicist Prof. Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane Wilde, both Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne have – thus far – delivered career defining performances. Redmayne, in particular, is masterful. He completely absorbs himself in the role; I was moved to tears a number of times by the emotion and powerful subtleties of his performance. Not only is the film superbly acted, but the score by Jóhann Jóhannsson is near flawless. Certainly my favourite of the year and likely one of my tops of the decade – so far.
So, there are my five stand-out features from the year gone by. In terms of performances, I believe Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl) have delivered the best this year. Jóhann Jóhannsson (The Theory of Everything) has without a doubt produced the best original score and, though its namesake hasn’t been released yet, Lana Del Rey’s Big Eyes is my favourite original song. Another film released in the United Kingdom this year that almost made the list was The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. A debut feature from Fredrik Bond, it had a phenomenal soundtrack and an outstanding performance from Shia LaBeouf, who attracts many disgruntled internet warriors, but is actually a very capable actor. However, technically it is a 2013 film, so I excluded it.
In terms of the most memorable excerpts and sequences, above all else I adored Nightcrawler‘s climax along with a number of scenes from The Theory of Everything; most notably the ‘Forces of Attraction’ sequence, along with the croquet scene and Hawking observing everybody eat at the dinner table. The latter was such a powerful, striking sequence. Definitely something I’ll remember for a very long time.
What were your favourites of 2014? Do you think it has been a good year for film, or are you much rather looking forward to next year? Thank you for reading!