As we head into the new year, qmunicate’s contributors take a look back at a few of our favourite films from 2017.
A Cure for Wellness
“So incredibly weird, so incredibly long – not the horror I was expecting” was what I wrote in my film journal after reviewing this film for qmunicate earlier this year. Dane DeHaan stars as a young executive who is sent to a wellness spa in a remote location to retrieve his company’s CEO. However, upon arrival he soon realises that not everything is as it seems. Be prepared for intricate visuals intermixed with a narrative that you will struggle to decipher – but will love all the same. You’ll need to watch this one with a friend, just so you have someone to talk it through with. It’s a wild ride, but it’s worth it.
Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villenuve is proving to be one of the sharpest talents in the film industry, and his
expert handling of the sequel to Ridley Scott’s classic only further drives the point home. Blade Runner 2049 features astonishing visuals, an exciting story that constantly keeps you guessing, and a vast appreciation and understanding of its predecessor. It inhabits the world of futuristic Los Angeles once more, not only visually but by maintaining the ambiguities of the original’s mysteries while further expanding upon this world. It introduces compelling themes and interesting new characters that feel part of the Blade Runner universe while also being able to stand on its own by not overly relying on nostalgia or call-backs. Smart, atmospheric, visually stunning and above-all fascinating, Blade Runner 2049 is everything we could’ve hoped for in a Blade Runner sequel.
Don’t be fooled by the title – although the marketing department obviously wanted to tie Covenant more to the beloved original Alien than to the more divisive Prometheus, it is definitely more of a sequel to Prometheus than it is another prequel to Alien. Just like the other films in the series, there is a ship full of people to be killed, but the focus this time is not primarily on the human crew. Instead, the story revolves around the relationship between two identical androids, David and Walter, both played by Michael Fassbender. This is not done to the expense of the other characters, however – particular highlights of the cast include Katherine Waterston as Daniels and Billy Crudup as the captain, Oram. In addition, the alien creatures are primarily computer generated, which allows for active, lively creatures much smaller than it would be possible to achieve by putting a person in a suit.
A Ghost Story
David Lowery’s return to the indie scene is a tender, honest depiction of the winding-up of a life, seen through the eye-holes of the sheet-clad deceased. Despite Lowery’s odd (yet perhaps understandable) choice to keep lead Casey Affleck hidden underneath a makeshift Halloween costume, these cutesy stylings mask an unflinching exploration of grief, legacy’s decay, and existential terror in full view of the barren span of eternity. While these themes may seem blatantly unpalatable, the film addresses them for the most part with such a light touch that at first they may barely register. The film has its stumbles, of course, it may frustrate with its languid pacing, and on occasion seems so enamoured by its themes that it feels the need to blurt them out loud. But the quiet stretches in-between and the soulful care exhibited throughout make for one of the most touching, rewarding, and quietly heartbreaking experiences of the year.
Ansel Elgort stars in Edgar Wright’s newest feature as a talented getaway driver who, after being coerced into working for a crime boss, wishes for a different life after meeting the girl of his dreams. Complete with a soundtrack to live life by and editing which will leave you in awe, this action-packed thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s like Drive – but with more super-fast car chase scenes, less neon colours, and an equal amount of songs which will be stuck in your head for months to come. If the opening itself doesn’t win you over straight away, then nothing probably ever will.
A Silent Voice
It takes a lot to make me cry watching a film as I’m not especially lachrymose. However, if you didn’t shed a tear at least once while watching Naoko Yamada’s A Silent Voice then I’d be very curious to know why. A Silent Voice is a heartfelt and beautiful film, with one of the most down-to-earth stories of any recent anime film. A faithful adaptation from the manga of the same name, the film takes a common story on bullying and bravely mixes it up by telling it from the bully’s perspective, thus transforming it into an emotional roller-coaster ride of redemption and the acceptance of one’s flaws and differences. It’s amazingly smart in its handling of its narrative, featuring wonderful, complex characters, vivacious animation and deep, hard-hitting themes. Charming and funny yet also challenging and emotional, A Silent Voice is one of 2017’s most overlooked yet best films.
Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens felt very much like a response to the prequel trilogy, with its use of nostalgic imagery and a plot structure that mirrored the original Star Wars. The Last Jedi is a response to the prequel trilogy too, but rather than carefully avoid what didn’t work about them, it instead looks at what did, including their portrayal of the Jedi as deeply flawed. The Last Jedi constantly questions our assumptions about the Star Wars series and heroic storytelling generally. Daring, million-to-one plans don’t always work. Evil people don’t all wear masks. Holy bloodlines aren’t going to save the day. Heroes fail. And the porgs are pretty cute.
War for the Planet of the Apes
I must admit that, going into War for the Planet of the Apes, I had yet to see any of the prior installations in the trilogy it concluded, and held no strong love for the Charlton Heston originals or Tim Burton’s disastrous remake. The posters had promised a primate on a horse with a gun, and while Matt Reeves’ film did deliver fully in that regard, with large-scale spectacle and beyond-uncanny motion-capture performances, it also blindsided utterly with its blatant assault upon anthropocentrism – taking humans not so much out of focus as in direct opposition to the hero’s journey of Andy Serkis’ primate protagonist via the figure of Woody Harrelson’s hubristic militia leader. It’s a great big warning shot of a film, a raw depiction of humanity’s self-wrought demise, and a fine conclusion to perhaps the most unsung blockbuster saga in recent years.