Yet another entry in the Clint Eastwood canon of stoic American films about ordinary decent citizens caught up in unfortunate situations. This one is an improvement on the rather under whelming Million Dollar Baby (2005) but doesn’t quite match the emotional nerve so subtly tapped by Mystic River (2003), finishing up somewhere between the two. Thanks though to the intriguing story and a surprisingly competent performance from Angelina Jolie, it never fails to hold the attention thoroughly, and whilst you always know what you’re going to get with an Eastwood film – solid, professional, absolutely no moral ambiguity or shades of grey – at least you also know you’re not going to be too disappointed.
Uneven but well intentioned Tilda Swinton drama about a shrieking alcoholic who kidnaps a young boy in a half-baked attempt to get some fast cash. Great first half, but tails off towards the end.
13 The Baader-Meinhof Complex
Lean, professional biopic of the terror group that dominated Germany in the 70s and 80s. Directed by Uli Edel (Christiane F , Last Exit To Brooklin ) with efficient, stripped down, muscular style.
Charming and educational animation seen through the eyes of a young girl who grew up during the Iranian revolution.
11 Brideshead Revisited
The unfairly maligned version of Evelyn Waugh’s novel about gentlemen at Oxford in the 1920s. Comparisons with the TV series are shortsighted and unnecessary – that was a once weekly serial, this is a two-hour film. Far from shredding the essence of the novel, this version condenses it but keeps its spirit, and the performances – especially Emma Thompson’s as the steely matriarch – are first class.
10 There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s return to form after the appalling misstep of Punch Drunk Love (2003). Whilst not as good a film as either Boogie Nights (1997) or Magnolia (1999), this is an epic in every sense of the word: sprawling, lengthy, endurance testing, single minded. As it turns out, these qualities are both its strengths and its weaknesses, but it’s still a gripping watch.
Cute comedy drama about teenage pregnancy which tells the story with warmth and positive spirit.
8 No Country For Old Men
Arguably the finest film of the esteemed Coen brothers’ career; a slick, cool, witty thriller about the tough as boots world of the sun bleached American outback. The first film I can remember seeing by the Coen’s that is neither derivative screwball comedy or post-noir homage, this is a profoundly serious drama in which the – for lack of a better word – oddity of Texas is laid bare.
7 My Blueberry Nights
An unexpectedly engrossing romantic drama. Wong Kar Wai (directing for the first time in English) gets a surprisingly tolerable performance from Jude Law in this sensitive story of a New York diner owner who bonds with a solitary female customer over slices of the eponymous blueberry pie – the pleasantly meandering story develops from there. The low-key surprise of the year.
6 Savage Grace
Grimy, heavy-duty drama about the dysfunctional Bakelite family and their journey towards self-destruction. Not for the faint hearted or squeamish.
5 Quantum of Solace
Daniel Craig’s second Bond effort exceeds his first, stripping away the fat and occasional TV movie feel of Casino Royale (2006) and leaving only the bleak, trenchant misery. The first Bond film I’ve seen where I was constantly on edge, featuring some genuinely horrible moments and a real sense of threat throughout.
Noel Clarke (who wrote Kidulthood ) follows that up with this equally good sequel, which he also directs. Picking up the characters five years on, Clarke returns to the streets of Notting Hill for another mean, of-the-moment slice of young life.
3 I’m Not There
Todd Haynes returns to Velvet Goldmine (1998) territory with another loose biopic of a 20th century pop music legend. Featuring five different lead characters, each of whom represents one of the many images that Bob Dylan presented to the world at different points in his career, this is a brilliant, beautiful, poetic, moving and enthralling study of a special time and the special man at the centre of it, loaded with mischievous wit and astounding imagery.
2 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
Proof that Romanian cinema can hold its own on the international map, this clear eyed, unsentimental drama pulls back the lid on the waning days of the Ceacescu era, focusing specifically on two women’s attempt to secure an illegal abortion in late 80s Bucharest.
1 Happy Go Lucky
Hugely entertaining, educational, inspiring and informative Mike Leigh drama about the need for more love and kindness in the world, and the small but significant details that make a fulfilling life.