This is the second part of my Best Films of 2015 feature detailing my Top Ten films. Click here to read numbers 20 to 11 and the Honourable Mentions.
Without further ado, here are my Top Ten films of 2016:
10) The Revenant
The first of four Westerns, ‘The Revenant’ is a visually stunning film and it boasts many outstanding sequences. It has some excellent central performances and boasts original cinematography and an atmospheric score. Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy are both mesmerising here and Iñárritu has really developed as a director. The battle sequences are wonderfully crafted and there are some beautifully shot landscapes to create the film’s atmosphere by Emmanuel Lubezki who deservedly won his third Academy Award in a row. This is probably the best-looking film of 2016. My only gripes with ‘The Revenant’ are its pacing is a little stretched at parts and its story is a little simplistic for a 156 minute running time. But the execution is where ‘The Revenant’ wows and it really is a work of art. (My original review here)
9) Bone Tomahawk
The next Westerns in this list, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ is definitely one of the most interesting films of the year. This is the debut of writer / musician / director S. Craig Zahler and he really is a talent to look out for. Although the film is overlong in its middle section, ‘Bone Tomahawk’ poses some interesting ideas and has a wonderful script penned by Zahler which really is so well-written. The cast are all brilliant with career-best performances from Matthew Fox and Richard Jenkins but it is Patrick Wilson in my opinion, who is the standout and by the film’s big third act reveal, the characters are so well-developed that we really care for them. The film manages to juggle both elements of a Western and a Horror film and the film is really quite grisly and gruesome at times. I was utterly transfixed by this film and was left in utter shock when the film finished that I was speechless for a few moments. I just wish the film was a little more tightly edited in its middle section and then it could rank even higher. If you have been convinced to watch this, I would recommend reading Zahler’s novel, ‘Wraiths Of The Broken Land’ first to get a flavour for the fantastic dialogue and descriptions that he uses and then you will be able to see his genius translated into this film. I am very interested to see what Zahler does next, he really is a talent to look out for. The film has improved even more on subsequent rewatches enough for me to put it above ‘The Revenant’ which in the Mid-Year report, I had put one position above this film.
8) Hell Or High Water
The next Western, ‘Hell Or High Water’ is a near-perfect film and gets better every time I watch it. It tells the story of two brothers who are desperate to keep their family ranch from being foreclosed on by the bank who resort to robbing banks whilst at the same time being investigated by Jeff Bridges’ Texas Ranger. The film is extremely well-directed by David Mackenzie and manages to juggle all the best elements of a rural Western / revenge thriller whilst standing out on its own. It tackles a multitude of thematic elements and is very poetic in its narrative. Even the theme of just sitting down and enjoying a beer is extremely engaging in this film. The performances by the cast all-round in this film are excellent as expected from Jeff Bridges and Ben Foster but it is a real surprise see Chris Pine hold his own as I have really not been a fan of him in the past. The score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is note-perfect and is probably the best musical score of the year. Giles Nuttgens shoots this film extremely well and there are a lot of really creative shots in this film. I love this film and was very happy to see it feature in this year’s Academy Awards even though it was evident from the outset that it didn’t have a hope in hell in winning.
7) Nocturnal Animals
‘Nocturnal Animals’ is a suitably dark, poetic and meticulously crafted film by Tom Ford and features some utterly spellbinding sequences. It features brilliant performances across the board but the standouts are Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon and surprisingly Aaron Taylor-Johnson. The stories are intricately woven together and the cinematography and score are absolutely stunning. It is a near-perfect film but where perhaps the film is a little flawed is in Ford’s precise attention to detail and the film can feel a little removed from its material as it sometimes doesn’t get a chance to breathe. Jake Gyllenhaal’s characters novel which becomes a central focus in the story and slowly begins to drip into Amy Adams’ reality is by far the strongest link in the film and it is perfectly crafted but Adams’ arc is also carefully constructed and the juxtapositions between these different arcs and stories are endlessly poetic. It’s a really challenging watch and every time I rewatch it, I find something new in it. You don’t get films like ‘Nocturnal Animals’ very often. (My original review here)
6) I, Daniel Blake
‘I, Daniel Blake’ is hard-hitting, heart-tugging and at times, invokes feelings of sheer devastation. It is incredibly well-directed and acted, both Johns and Squires are perfect in their respective roles and their characters are so well-developed that as an audience, we really care for them, perhaps Dave Johns’ titular character is the character I managed to empathise most with in any film this year. There are multiple scenes here which are very hard to watch and the film offers a very realistic take on the benefits system in England, a very timely and important issue. What the film doesn’t do and why it doesn’t earn the full 5-stars is it doesn’t explore the opposite end of the spectrum – people who do take advantage of the benefits system and if the film had done this, it would have been more well-rounded and justified in its approach. (My original review here)
5) Eye In The Sky
Into the Top Five and we have ‘Eye in the Sky’ which is a taut and heartfelt application of the effects of drone warfare that is morally conflicting and features some fantastic performances – it’s straight up there as one of the best films of the year and is just what Gavin Hood needed. It is expertly paced and runs an economical yet efficient 102 minutes, enough to make a lasting impression on audiences and poses lots of moral arguments. The only reason why it doesn’t quite earn a 5-star rating is because the film doesn’t really develop its characters too much and having slightly more of a human edge to the film wold have informed audiences more coherently as to why characters make the vital choices that they do. (My original review here)
4) 10 Cloverfield Lane
’10 Cloverfield Lane’ is an incredible, intense Hitchcockian film that is taut and claustrophobic and gives us three fantastic performances from its trio. The script is absolutely terrific and it’s very easy to spot ‘Whiplash’ director, Damien Chazelle’s contribution. Dan Trachtenberg’s direction is very astute and assured and he will surely go on to do great things. It is a superb film and is 5-star material. Unfortunately, all this good work is undone by a very lacklustre final 15 minutes which is very haphazardly handled and tarnishes all the good work done and leaves a very sour note on all the development the film has undergone to set the audience up to its ending. However, just taking the film alone with the exception of this muddled ending, it is near-perfect. Rewatching this film, I continue to feel the same way, it really is a shame the last 15 minutes undoes what is a perfect film. (Full review here)
Now into the top #3…
Although perhaps a very surprising and out-of-place choice, I found ‘Grimsby’ to be one of the best comedies not just of the year, but of the decade – it is consistently hilarious (although quite vulgar in parts) and the cast are wonderful, in particular the two leads, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong, who displays a real panache for comedic roles. Louis Leterrier has really developed as a director and seems to have a flair for comedy. The film’s pacing is perfect and it is one of the very rare comedies that is consistently funny – thre is not one dull moment in it. However, the only criticism is that Leterrier still cannot quite grasp how to direct an action scene and this is a recurring theme in all of his films. It’s a real shame how this film has been almost completely misunderstood and has garnered rather mixed reviews, but I would definitely recommend giving it a shot! It more than holds up on subsequent rewatches and the jokes really are laugh-a-minute. (My original review here)
2) The Hateful Eight
Business as usual, ‘The Hateful Eight’ is another knockout from Tarantino – it’s bloody and gory, has fantastic speeches and an excellent story. It has some brilliant performances with the standouts being Samuel L. Jackson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth and Walton Goggins. It’s suitably gory and ramps the tension up with gusto and the film gets even better on each subsequent rewatch, I manage to get something new out of the experience each time I rewatch it. That said, there’s no doubt that the film is a little baggy and perhaps could lose 20 minutes – the film would be leaner and more heavy-hitting but as usual with Tarantino, the script is the gem and getting to know these characters and seeing them developed is a work of art and the film builds the suspense up very carefully. (Full review here)
Very rarely would I say this, but ‘Room’ is a perfect film and deserves a 5 star rating. It is an inspiring watch and reaches various emotional heights. The performances from the cast all round are nothing short of incredible and Lenny Abrahamsson’s careful and assured direction works wonders. The film has a beaming heart at its core – at times the film is devastatingly sad and at others, warm and feel-good. There is never a dull moment – the film is expertly paced and takes ample time to develop its characters. (My original review here)
So there we go, these films were in my opinion, the best of 2015. What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet @TheFilmMeister