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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Films of the Decade - Part Three: 2002

10. Bubba Ho-tep - A rare example of a film that successfully traverses a wide range of genres, Bubba Ho-Tep is a dark comedy that delivers on a number of levels. This strange tale centres on Sebastian Half, a worn out Elvis Presley impersonator played by Bruce Campbell as he endeavours to protect his residential home from supernatural forces. Famed for his role as Ash in Sam Raimi's Evil Dead trilogy, Bruce is in familiar territory here as his character faces undead creatures in a somewhat surreal situation. While there are a few fairly unsettling moments in the film, the addition of humour to lighten the tone also brings with it a strange emotional attachment to the main characters. Few people have heard of this film, which is a shame as Bubba Ho-tep is a truly unique cinematic experience that is not to be missed.

9. Catch Me If You Can - Spielberg’s adaptation of this true story is a captivating and inspirational adventure, with Leonardo Dicaprio and Tom Hanks on fine form as the crafty conman and dedicated detective respectively. Frank Abagnale Jr ( Dicaprio) is on the run from the law as he manages to fool a number of unsuspecting victims when he poses a pilot, doctor and legal prosecutor, constantly amassing a wealth of money but longing for a place that he can call home. As pure entertainment, this is an outstanding achievement, but the fact that Catch me if you can is based on real events just makes it even more poignant.

8. He loves me…he loves me not - Following on from the huge success of Amelie, Audrey Tautou appeared in this brilliant thriller as a young student in love with a married doctor. Gripping from start to finish, and complete with an ingenious plot device that is bound to leave audiences reeling, this is a perfect counterpart to Amelie, showcasing the dangers of obsessive love. The first of five foreign films to make the list in 2002, He loves me…he loves me not proves that people who refuse to read subtitles really are missing out on some exceptional films.

7. Infernal Affairs - Far more impressive than its Hollywood remake ( The Departed), Infernal Affairs is a blistering crime drama, with a taut storyline that follows two rival undercover agents and the life-changing decisions they will make when their loyalties are tested to the limits. Featuring spectacular shootouts and unexpected revelations as the plot unfolds, Infernal affairs is a masterpiece that should not be overlooked in favour of its Hollywood counterpart.

6. Irreversible - Unfortunately this film is infamous for the wrong reasons. A fifteen minute rape scene is enough to put off the most liberally minded film fans but it is essential to look past that and experience the whole film to truly understand the powerful message behind the explicit violence. The disturbing storyline is played in reverse, similar in style to Memento, adding to the disorientation and heightening the tension as the film begins with the climax and we are left confused as to how such events occurred. Not for the faint hearted, this is powerful stuff, worthy of your time but a film that is experienced rather than enjoyed.

5. 25th Hour - Edward Norton had an explosive start to his career with Primal Fear and became an overnight A-list celebrity with knock out performances in American History X and Fight Club, however it was 25th Hour that proved he was more than just a flash in the pan, emphasising the emotional depth and intensity he was capable of when portraying characters on the edge. 25th Hour follows the last day of freedom for a convicted drug dealer as he struggles to cope with the impending seven-year jail sentence and confronts friends and family members from his past with devastating results.

4. Lilya 4-Ever - The unforgettable opening scene is still as captivating as it was eight years ago, a foreboding score heightens the tension as a young bedraggled teenage girl contemplates suicide in this brutally stark drama exposing the cruel reality of human trafficking. Left alone in Estonia by her careless mother, Lilya is forced to grow up fast in order to survive. Along with her only friend Volodja, similarly neglected by his parents, Lilya attempts to forge a new life for herself and put the past behind her. This heart-breaking portrayal of innocence being corrupted will stay with you for a very long time.

3. 28 Days Later - Zombie films had become stale and rotten, much like the hideous creatures contained within, and it was down to Danny Boyle to breathe new life into the genre with his fresh take that was highly compelling and very original. From the eerie opening sequence in which a lone survivor awakens from a coma in a post-apocalyptic world to the frenetic pacing of the final confrontations where it is unclear who has been consumed by rage, 28 Days later is a modern horror masterpiece that upped the ante for Romero aficionados everywhere. The believable storyline features moments of sheer terror thanks to the magnificent cast and their creation of characters that we actually care about. Easily one of the most impressive and downright terrifying films of the decade.

2. The Lord of the Rings: The two Towers - The Fellowship of the Rings was a monumental film that left Tolkien fans desperate to return to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth. Two Towers had a difficult act to follow but didn’t disappoint. With the story in full swing, the second instalment of the Lord of The Rings could focus on huge battle sequences and impressive CGI effects to entertain the audience, culminating in a relentless siege that raised the bar in terms of the sheer scale of the action shown on screen. If the fellowship hadn’t convinced you, the Two Towers was certain to blow you away.

1. City Of God - Nominated for four Oscars but criminally missing out on all of them, City of God is a sprawling crime epic set in a violent neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro as a young group of friends gradually become embroiled with a local gang. Whilst one of the friends ends up as a dangerous drug dealer, his best friend chooses a different path, distancing himself from the grim lifestyle to become a daring photographer. Their lives continue to collide and their friendship is tested to the limit as the crimes escalate out of control. Shockingly brutal and visually stunning, City Of God is a landmark film that is sure to stand the test of time.

It was an extremely difficult task to decide which ten films defined the year 2002 - here are my choices that didn't quite make the list:

The Pianist
In America
The Rules of Attraction
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance
Minority report
The Bourne identity
The Hours
Interstate 60
Confessions of a dangerous mind
24 Hour Party People

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