Yes, this year my Top 10 Movies of 2011 list is a Top 15 list! Click here for part one of my list, numbers fifteen through eleven. And now, onward!
10. The Guard — I just saw this film last week. It was the last addition to my list! Brendan Gleeson is riveting as a small-time Irish policeman — brash, set-in-his-ways, and someone who delights in nothing more than taking the piss out of anyone he meets — who finds himself forced to work with an American FBI agent, played by Don Cheadle, investigating drug-runners. The film is laugh-out-loud hilarious, and also dramatic and intense. It looks like it was made on a tiny budget, but I was totally taken by this fiercely original piece of work, and Mr. Gleeson’s role is without question one of the best written and acted of the year. I’ll have a full review coming soon.
9. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – I’m a hard-core Planet of the Apes fanatic, so I didn’t need any convincing to check out this newest attempt to reinvent the franchise. But I was stunned by how high-quality the finished film actually was. It was perfectly designed to appeal to the long-time Apes fans and the Apes newbies equally. Andy Serkis’ motion-capture performance as the young ape Caesar, the center of the story, is extraordinary, aided and abetted by some phenomenal, top-of-the-line CGI work. The action at the end of the movie is a whole heck of a lot of end-of-the-world fun, but I was long-before sold on the film by Mr. Serkis’ powerful work. Rise of the Planet of the Apes works perfectly as a stand-alone film, but I certainly hope that we’ll get to see further sequels set in this world. (Click here for my full review.)
8. Super 8 – J. J. Abrams’ homage to classic Steven Spielberg films that he directed and produced for Amblin Entertainment, throughout the eighties, cut right to the core of my movie-loving heart. The film captures the coming-of-age, kids on an adventure feeling of E.T., The Goonies, and Stand By Me in a powerful way, creating a film that feels deeply nostalgic and also timeless. The ensemble of kids are phenomenal, well-directed by Mr. Abrams, and I loved the film’s gradual build-up of mystery and suspense. And visually it is stunning, with top-notch visual effects work, costumes, sets, props, etc., that truly capture the period setting. This would be in my top five this year if only the monster story-line part of the film made a bit more sense. (For more details on what I mean by that last comment, click here for my full review.)
7. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – The polar opposite of a Mission: Impossible film, this intense spy film features no action sequences and no super-heroic feats of serving-do. Instead, this made-for-adults drama is the very definition of a slow-burn, as we find ourselves slowly drawn along with the protagonist, retired British secret service officer George Smiley (Gary Oldman, at his very best), down into a murky world of spies and spy-masters where no one can be trusted and no one is what he or she seems. A ridiculously talented cast that includes Mark Strong, Colin firth, Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones, John Hurt, and Tom Hardy brings life to every character, no matter how small the part. This movie requires you to pay fierce attention, and I love the way the super-complicated narrative refuses to talk down in any way to the audience. Dense, dazzling and dark, this is a film I can’t wait to see again. (Click here for my full review.)
6. The Artist – I already loved Jean Dujardin and director Michel Hazanavicious from their French-language James Bond parody films (click here for my review of OSS:117 Cairo Nest of Spies, and here for my review of the sequel Lost in Rio), but with this film the pair shot up to the level of true, well, artists. This tale of a silent-movie star (Dujardin) whose career hits the rocks with the advent of films with sound is, itself, a silent movie, and the skill with which the filmmakers were able to actually create, in 2011, a compelling and engaging silent movie, is extraordinary. The whole undertaking is lead by a movie-star-making performance from Mr Dujardin, and also from his co-star, the beautiful and talented Bérénice Bejo. The story is a serious one, but also one filled with heart and humor. It’s a tremendously unique, impressive achievement, a beautiful film. (Click here for my full review.)