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Friday, 14 May 2010

Films of the Decade - Part Four: 2003

10. Kontroll - Kontroll is an exceptional Hungarian movie taking place in the underground Budapest tube system as teams of ticket inspectors patrol the tracks while contending with the appearance of a mysterious serial killer who seems intent on pushing innocent people into oncoming tubes. As Bulcsu attempts to track down the killer, he crosses paths with a beautiful stranger dressed in a rabbit outfit and it is not long before the surreal occurrences take a turn for the worse with disastrous consequences. Fans of head trips such as Memento and Fight Club will find much to like in this unique thriller.

9. Carandiru - This intense crime drama set in the Brazilian prison of Carandiru is based on the real events of the riot in 1992 that cost the lives of 111 prisoners. Told from the viewpoint of the prison’s only doctor, struggling to contend with the constant stream of injured inmates, this gritty and visceral view of life in the biggest prison in Brazil prefers not to dwell on the cruel and violent felons but also touches upon the lives of the prisoners who appear not to belong. Tragic but compelling, Carandiru is a very under-rated film that delivers a powerful message and should not be missed.

8. Save The Green Planet - This Korean Sci-fi is a truly bizarre film that would never be commissioned in Hollywood. Its far-fetched story focuses on an unhinged individual who believes that the world is on the brink of an alien invasion and will do his utmost to prevent the impending catastrophe. After identifying and kidnapping a supposed ‘alien’ with the assistance of his partner, Byeong-Gu proceeds with extreme methods of torture to extract vital information from his captive. Any more information could potentially spoil the film and if you have not yet seen it that would be a great shame - do yourself a massive favour and buy this right now!

7. Oldboy - This cult favourite is infamous for a scene involving a live squid being eaten and a brutal five minute shot of Dae-Su using a hammer as a weapon in close combat. Not for the squeamish, this twisted thriller follows Oh Dae-Su as he is held captive for fifteen years before being released and told he has a week to track down his captor. Relentlessly paced and beautifully shot, this is the second, and most accessible, of Park Chan Wooks vengeance trilogy, a trio of films focussing on the destructive nature of revenge. Oldboy is an essential film for all world cinema fans.

6. Mystic River - Clint Eastwood is a cinematic legend, and his contributions to the world of film show no sign of slowing down despite his age. Mystic River was his finest work since Unforgiven, with the excellent ensemble cast on top form in this emotionally-charged thriller. When his daughter goes missing, Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn) has to confront his past and reunite with two childhood friends, played by Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins,  in order to shed light on a series of disturbing events that have shattered an entire community. If you are a fan of Eastwood’s work this is one of his finest films to date and proved yet again that he is as good behind the camera as he is commanding its presence as an actor.

5. The Return - This minimalist Russian thriller is reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s quiet intimate dramas that focus on a small number of characters who are emotionally hinged around tragic events that have been buried in their past. More than just a character study, The Return is a complex drama that rewards the viewers patience with a heart-stopping third act. When a father returns from a twelve year absence to take his two sons on an extended fishing trip in the wilderness it is not long before the past collides with the present as the family try to rekindle their relationships under increasingly difficult circumstances.

4. Kill Bill: Vol 1 - There is no question about Tarantino’s brilliance as a film director, and while Kill Bill was not quite as edgy as his earlier offerings, it still packed one hell of a punch. Almost ten years after he gave the world Pulp Fiction, Tarantino ups the violence with Kill Bill, relying once more on Uma Thurman to take the limelight as a ferocious assassin out for revenge when she is betrayed by her criminal boss. The compelling storyline is balanced perfectly with the stylish ultra-violence, allowing the film to focus on character development as well as intense action. Fans of Tarantino’s earlier work will not disappointed as the reliance on martial arts for the action sequences prove to be a welcome addition to his repertoire. It’s just a shame that the sequel failed to deliver.

3. Dogville - The second of Von Trier’s films to feature in this list (Dancer in the dark was the first),  Dogville is a disturbing crime drama shot entirely in a single location. With a limited amount of props and no buildings as such, the action takes place on a dark surface chalked up with the floor plans of buildings and objects, enabling the viewer to see what goes on behind closed doors. Whilst this set design is basic, the acting is anything but, with thrilling turns from Nicole Kidman and Paul Bettany, who shine as the vulnerable village newcomer and the quick-witted doctor’s son that begins to uncover her disturbed past.

2. The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - Much like with the original Star Wars trilogy, anticipation for the final instalment of the story was a key factor in the films success, with fans desperate to see the outcome of this epic adventure as soon as it hit the big screens. The return of the king is a true masterpiece, epic in terms of scale, emotional depth and storytelling, Peter Jackson’s labour of love cleaned up at the Oscars with eleven Academy Awards and all of them were well deserved. With the Hobbit in pre-production as we speak, it is not long before we will get another glimpse into the fantastical world of middle Earth.

1. Goodbye Lenin! - Occasionally a film you have never even heard of can take you completely by surprise and I was fortunate enough for that to happen with me on first viewing of Goodbye Lenin! This dark satire on East Germany in the late 1980s revolves around a son’s devotion to his mother that is tested to the limit when she ends up in a coma after witnessing his arrest during a riot. After his fragile mother awakes into a new Germany in 1990, Alex has to prevent her from finding out that East and West Germany have reunited in order to prevent the triggering of a fatal shock which could lead to her death. With clever homages to Kubrick throughout and a story that takes a superb snapshot of life within a politically rife time of Germany‘s recent history, this is a very intelligent and accomplished movie - films this good are few and far between.

It was an extremely difficult task to decide which ten films defined the year 2003 - here are my choices that didn't quite make the list:

Lost In Translation
The Last Samurai
21 Grams
Once Upon A Time In Mexico
X-Men 2
Open Range
Matchstick Men

1 comment:

紹軍 said...