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2017 in review: the best and worst films of the year

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To call the 2017 movie scene a rollercoaster ride would be an understatement. So, in order to navigate the many ups-and downs of this tumultuous past year, here is a look at some the biggest highs and lows.

 

The Best of 2017

Dunkirk

From the moment the first teaser was released, this entry from director Christopher Nolan garnered the highest of expectations from critics and audiences alike. It did not disappoint.

Telling the story of the evacuation of nearly 350,000 Allied soldiers from the beaches at Normandy after their defeat by the Nazis in the first year of the war, Dunkirk recounts one of the most amazing true feats of collective human bravery in recent memory, in which huge swaths of civilians and servicemen alike rushed to France to aid these stranded soldiers.

Whilst its premise is truly a story worth knowing, this film’s genius comes from its ability to fastidiously depict this event from a multitude of intertwining perspectives; from a lowly civilian pleasure yacht heading to help the evacuation, to the blistering height of a spitfire squadron protecting the evacuees from air assault.

This technique means that the mighty Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) seems no more important than common soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead). All these stories are worth telling. It’s testament to the quality of this film that Tom Hardy was praised for his acting performance, despite having most of his face covered for the majority of it. It seems even giving Harry Styles his first foray into acting wasn’t enough to crash this film.

 

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright’s newest entry was a complete break from the comedic style of the Cornetto Trilogy that helped him make his name. To many, straying from the tried and tested path would be called risky, but, as they say, with great risk comes great reward. The result was a beautiful cinematic high point of 2017.

Filled with a beautiful romance and amazingly portrayed action and driving sequences, this film has it all, and it does it all really well. However, it is musically that this film really hits its stride, with a soundtrack that truly puts it into a league of its own. Its genius comes from how Wright uses the soundtrack. Music is utterly central to the film, both for us as an audience and for the tinnitus-plagued protagonist, who uses music to cope with the monotonous background noise caused by his condition. The way the fourth wall is broken down with music, in which its deliberately ambiguous as to whether the music heard is being listened to by Baby or just us, makes it all hit home further.

You could easily mistake this film for a musical, with the amazing choreography and music, every move seems like a dance, and the romance between Baby and Debra is not only classically beautiful, but is amazing, free-flowing and exquisitely guided by this sublime soundtrack.

 

The Big Sick

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A complete dark horse onto the scene, this project from comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, tells the true story of how they first met, fell for each other, and how it was all shattered when Emily fell into a coma.

An artful tour of cross-cultural romance and the effect of sickness on the loved ones left behind, this film delightfully yet respectfully touches on some painful issues and is sure to tug on the heartstrings of any viewer. The acting was utterly engrossing and made every emotional moment hit so much harder. Zoe Kazan and Kumail Nanjiani put in an acting masterclass as the leads, engaging you in the story and, as strange as it sounds, making it feel that extra bit more real. It’s because of this great acting all round that, despite its wildcard status, pundits say this film is an Oscars front-runner, whilst Ray Romano and Holly Hunter (who play Emily’s parents) are for many the favourites to win the best supporting actor and actress Oscars.

The fact this entire story is almost completely true (and not in the clichéd “based on true events” way) just adds to this quality and pulls you into the story. It succeeds in portraying a different culture (in this case Muslim Americans) not in some fetishised or grandiose way but in their normal, everyday lives. This film is real, in the most impassioned, captivating and magnificent sense of the word.

 

The Worst of 2017

Daddy’s Home 2

The moment I first found out they were making a sequel to Daddy’s Home, a small part of my soul died. They say sequels have a tendency to be worse than the original, so all I thought before watching this film is how can it even possible to do worse than the original Daddy’s Home. Its juvenile humour combined with lazy writing, producing and directing made it one of the worst films I had seen in a long while. Unsurprisingly, its sequel didn’t morph into some masterpiece.

Image credit: Vimeo

Essentially a rehash of the original film in almost all ways, except there is now the introduction of the dads of the original two dads (what an original plot twist!); you could swap the two films around and struggle to tell the difference. Needless to say, everything from acting to producing and writing was offensively abysmal. Part of me thinks this film might literally have been made by a horde of monkeys using typewriters, or maybe someone just smashed their face into a keyboard till it resembled a script. I think, years from now, dystopian-style movies will be made about the degenerate society that created, watched and, worst of all, enjoyed this movie.

 

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

I have yet to see a cinematic portrayal of the tale of the mythical King Arthur that I have actually enjoyed and, despite some high hopes for Guy Ritchie’s 2017 entry into the arena, it provided no escape from mediocrity.

Trying to change the normal tale of Arthur so he becomes a reluctant rogue rather than some chivalrous king did very little to engross audiences, though that could entirely be the result of Charlie Hunnam’s utterly underwhelming and frankly boring portrayal of Arthur.

Like Excalibur itself, the budget for this film was hugely unwieldy, giving it a catastrophic loss at the box office (in the hundreds of millions), and severely bombed with critics as well. Planned to be a trilogy, it seems likely this will become yet another completely forgettable Arthurian movie, and any fans of the history and the legend will have to wait even longer.

I feel like putting David Beckham in a starring role just showed how little this had going for it. Almost any film that casts non-actors in a weak PR stunt is more doomed to failure than having Brad Pitt play centre forward for Manchester United.

 

The Emoji Movie

There’s little one can say about this garbage heap clumsily shaped into the shadow of a coherent film that hasn’t already been said. If films like Dunkirk or The Big Sick received united praise from critics and viewers alike in 2017, The Emoji Movie managed to achieve the complete opposite. With one of the lowest scores on Rotten Tomatoes achieved by any mainstream film ever (9%), the numbers really do say it all. I would go so far as to say this film isn’t really a film, rather it is just a prolonged advert for a multitude of phone apps, which arrived a couple of years too late to even be relevant product placement (I’m looking at you Candy Crush).

The addition of some pseudo-feminist or pro-individuality messages just proved to be a disgusting commodification of ideals in order to give some false semblance of substance to an otherwise superficial and empty movie. I actually felt slightly ill when I found out Patrick Stewart was roped into participating.

If looking for some shred of positivity, I guess you could say the fact that the Emoji Movie was so universally despised has given me a faith in humanity that the constant sequels being commissioned for terrible film series like Transformers had drained from me.

 

Wanting to look ahead to more movies this year? Check out the movies on our watch list here!

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