By Benjamin Himes:
Disclaimer, I was only able to see twenty-three films in 2015.
Without further adieu, here are my top five favorite films of 2015.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – A sequel in a pool of sequels that managed to stand out among the flock and surprise everyone in the process. The visual aesthetic also stood out in a sea of grim, muted, ‘realistic’ films that left little to the imagination and breathed a “we’re making it this way because this what people want to see” attitude. Yet perhaps the defining trait of Fury Road is the dedication to technical, practical, and editing within the process of how the film was made that gave audiences a fresh take on films that are set in the desert, and rely heavily upon action sequences involving massive vehicle collateral. The acting, while serviceable at times gave us the monstrous performance of Hugh Keays-Byrne; a residual from the original Mad Max, gives a menacing and boisterous performance as Imortan Joe. Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron provide the perfect foil for each other as they continue along the narrative, having an innate trust that is built as the film goes on.
- Sicario – Director Denis Villleneuve, director of such films as Prisoners and Enemy brings us his nihilistic tale, Sicario. We see Villeneuve take his visual style seen in Prisoners and bring it to the world of the Mexican Cartels. In the narrative of the film, everyone previously involved within the erratic world of counter-terrorism knows their places and have a contingency plan in regards to taking out a major player in the realm of the drug trade. The missing part in their cocktail of cacophony is the idealistic, straight-shooting, DEA agent played by Emily Blunt; as the plot thickens, she learns quickly and naively that her ideals and principles have no place in a world where getting the job done by any means necessary takes place. Josh Brolin and Benecio Del Toro’s character’s make it known that what she signed up for is nothing like what she was doing back in the states. Leading to the theme of nihilism permeating within our minds and leaving us with questions that do not have specific answers.
- The Hateful Eight – Not since Reservoir Dogs has a film by Quentin Tarantino felt this claustrophobic, a film that takes places mainly within one specific area that dances along with the plot and the motivations of the characters on screen (as well as off). A murder mystery that throws out the book regarding pacing and anticipation in the realm of Tarantino’s master plan of suspense. With actors such as Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tim Roth, Walton Goggins, and of course, Samuel L. Jackson, we are treated to an ensemble cast that plays off each other’s witty banter and double-sided glances which culminate in the grand, bloody orchestra of the second-half of the film. I was fortunate enough to see the film on Christmas day on the widened screen, shot in 70mm with the intermission. An aesthetic long gone within the world of popular cinema; one that would be lost upon the societies of today, and yet it did not feel as though it were a cheap trick or slight novelty.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service – Producer turned director Matthew Vaughn has proven that he is the master of adapting comics to the big screen. Seen with X Men: First Class, and Kick-Ass, Kingsman: The Secret Service did not disappoint. Never taking itself too seriously and being aware of the world in which it inhabits; this is the “007 film” of 2015 that felt the most like the past examples of spy movies that are over-the-top, filled with gadgets, and have that touch of sly, dirty humor that we have come to know and love when it comes down to the bone. By the way, Colin Firth as an action star proves that dramatic actors, when given the chance, can put on a gracious and outstanding performance given the correct parameters that correlate favorably with a film like Kingsman. Newcomer Taron Egerton and ‘been there, done that’ mainstay Michael Caine spruce up the charm as they face off against, who else but Samuel L. Jackson; who goes against type in a way that had me and several others laughing and quoting him as much as possible.
- It Follows – Released at the beginning of the year, when horror films such as these are considered to be not as important. It Follows carries traits and semblance from horror films of the eighties regarding the haunting soundtrack and, for the most part, a lack of parental figures as the teens try to escape the unnamed entity that chases them. What works in spades for this film is that we the audience are not given context, exposition, or backstory regarding the origins of the entity, and what can be done to stop it. During the quiet moments when the distance between the entity and the teens gives them time to breath, we are privy to the conversations and the fleshing of the characters as they try to decipher the situation. At the heart of the film, it can be said that It Follows is a cautionary tale of safe-sex practice; on a deeper level, it develops as a tale that no matter where we are in life, there will always be demons trailing us as we go our way; that our actions have consequences, and that the answers are never as clear-cut as we might think.