December 31, 2011 | Category: Films

Film Fight 2011: Finale

Another year, another bunch of film reviews. What was the best of the lot? Settle down and read on to find out.

As always my caveat from previous years still apply: Film Fight is a knock-out tournament and, as such, will only select my favourite film. It makes no guarantees about any other place.

First, the films that were good but did not win their month:

  • The King’s Speech
  • Blue Valentine
  • 127 Hours
  • NEDs
  • Rango
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Attack The Block
  • The Tree of Life
  • Beginners
  • Horrible Bosses
  • Super 8
  • Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  • Warrior
  • The Ides of March
  • Snowtown

Now, the monthly winners:

  • January: Black Swan
  • February: The Fighter
  • March: Submarine
  • April: Source Code
  • May: 13 Assassins
  • June: Senna
  • July: Cell 211
  • August: Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
  • September: Drive
  • October: Red State
  • November: We Need To Talk About Kevin
  • December: Another Earth

As you can see, there are some great films that didn’t make it through because of a tough month. That said, there’s little slack in the monthly winners. August is probably the weakest of the bunch, but that’s a pretty good average.

Of all the years I’ve done this, I think this year has the most serious contenders. There are at least 5 of those 12 that I’d consider as film of the year worthy, and several more just outside that bracket. Rather than trying to place them all, as I did last year, let me just talk about them in their release order, and figure out a winner at the end.

I’ve long been a fan of Darren Aronofsky’s work, which often picks dark and difficult subjects. It’s probably no surprise, then, that Black Swan has made this list. It’s a strange film, in which reality and what passes for reality to the central character are constantly shifting as she destroys herself to pursue her art. It’s difficult to sell ballet to the masses, but Aronofsky does an excellent job.

One of the few foreign language films I saw in the cinema this year, Cell 211 was a bit of a surprise. I expected it to be an interesting prison drama/action film, and it was, but it was so much more. Following the first day of a guard in a prison, we see the worst of the prison system, and how it changes people. Sure, it does this in a physically violent manner, but just as often we see it in the menace around the lead. Where lesser films would stop, Cell 211 boldly goes further and further. A gripping movie.

Ryan Gosling has really come into his own in recent years. He could take the easy money and churn out some Hollywood action drivel, and become a bigger mainstream success, but instead he’s focussed on making great movies. Drive is his best to date. Driving movies have been out of vogue recently, nitro-fuelled nonsense like Fast and Furious aside, so it’s good to see a movie with driving at its heart. It does it scene setting slowly, building a world in which the calmness of the lead is as unsettling as the over-the-top brutality of the criminals. At times, it’s got a magical quality, like the neon tinged city moving to the astounding soundtrack. This is how you do action: build a compelling lead, a tragic situation, paint it with unique touches, and put them all at odds.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, meanwhile, is like waking from a nightmare. A reasonable portrayal, for once, of the behaviours of a psychopath: a facade of charisma, masking a lack of empathy. It’s extremely difficult to watch, knowing early on what is going to happen, but the constant flips in direction keep pulling you through the difficult narrative. Dark, but very worthwhile.

Finally, Another Earth is full of a tragic beauty. It’s bittersweet, with a haunting soundtrack that pulls you through. I’m going to say the least about this just now, as I wrote my review for it just yesterday. It’s an exceptional film with so very little wrong with it as to not be worth mentioning.

So, a very difficult year. The winner is Drive. It’s an action film like no other, a tragic love story in some ways, a western made through a neon veil. A very well deserved win.