The best films of 2018 (so far)
From 'A Quiet Place' to 'BlacKkKlansman'
A blockbuster that changed the game, a sliver of awards season favourites, and independent gems that are worth uncovering: we round up the top 15 of the year's films, as chosen by film critic Geoffrey Macnab.
The Guardians - Review
From its slow-burning beginning, The Guardians develops into an epic melodrama. It’s a wartime story in which, for a change, the men are relegated to supporting roles. It follows in a tradition of French rural family sagas like Jean De Florette or Manon Des Sources. The landscapes and the changing seasons play as much of a part in the story as the main characters.
Dark River - Review
Dark River offers little such consolation. It has some lyrical and delicate moments but the mood is generally overwhelmingly bleak and lugubrious. Incest and abuse don’t leave much space for any comic interludes. This is a powerful film with a grinding intensity about it. Light relief it isn’t but Dark River still has quite an impact.
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Zama - Review
Late on in Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel’s startling, highly original new feature, Zama, a character who has just had both his arms cut off, is advised to “shove your stumps in the sand … if you don’t bleed out, you’ll survive.” It’s a grisly, darkly humorous moment in a film that continually surprises us with both its brutality and its lyricism.
The Breadwinner - Review
The most dispiriting aspect of this otherwise enrapturing Oscar-nominated animated feature is that its storyline still seems so current. The film depicts an Afghan society in which women don’t have a face. It is set during the Taliban rule, which lasted from the mid-1990s until late 2001, but this doesn’t feel like a period piece.
Seventeen years after the Taliban were ousted from power in Afghanistan following the US invasion, the plight of women in the country appears hardly to have improved.
BlacKkKlansman - Review
Spike Lee’s work sometimes risks sensory overload. He fires off so many different ideas and storytelling styles that audiences can become bamboozled by his scattergun approach. BlacKkKlansman is one of his very best films because the digressions are as entertaining as ever but don’t get in the way of the main story.
Early Man - Review
Much of the pleasure in Aardman films has always lain in their gently ironic, Alan Bennett-like humour. They take very exotic characters and subject matter but then deal with them in a matter-of-fact fashion. They make a virtue out of their own relative modesty. Early Man isn’t the flashiest animated feature that you’ll see this year but it is certainly the most likeable.
Isle of Dogs - Review
Like all of Wes Anderson’s work, Isle Of Dogs is very stylised, very offbeat and characterised by its extremely dry and often ironic humour. This Japanese-set stop-motion fable is also gorgeous to look at – packed full of intricate visual detail. It deals with some weighty themes (ethnic cleansing, fascism and corruption) but does so in an idiosyncratic fashion.
Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri - Review
Writer-director Martin McDonagh has a host of award-winning plays behind him but his movies haven’t always lived up to his stage work. This one certainly does. It shares some of the dark and nihilistic humour found in McDonagh’s previous film, Seven Psychopaths.
A Quiet Place - Review
In an era of wearisome poltergeist movies, haunted house stories and torture porn, A Quiet Place is a refreshingly pared-down and very original affair. Director John Krasinski relies on editing, sound effects and off-screen action to crank up the tension. We do see the creatures from time to time, sometimes even in extreme closeup. They are very grotesque, bigger versions of the polyp-like succubus which exploded out of John Hurt’s stomach in Alien. However, the most terrifying moments here come when the humans are waiting for them to appear, desperately hoping that they won’t.
Lady Bird - Review
Lady Bird is one of the best American coming-of-age films since Barry Levinson’s Diner. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, it offers an utterly winning mix of humour, poignancy and sharp-eyed social observation. Gerwig approaches her subject matter with the same tenderness and affectionate irony with which the adolescent Lady Bird regards Sacramento. Gerwig also shows Lady Bird’s heroism as the young heroine strives against the odds to become the very best version of herself she can be.
Phantom Thread - Review
If Phantom Thread is indeed Daniel Day-Lewis’s final film as an actor, he is going out on a wondrously bizarre note. This must be the oddest film in his career, one in which he gives a typically commanding but very idiosyncratic performance. Almost everything here is jarring – but generally in a very positive way.
First Reformed - Review
It is not so long ago that Paul Schrader seemed to be giving up on cinema. The American writer-director (whose credits include Taxi Driver, American Gigolo and Affliction) had taken to making movies like the sour Hollywood satire The Canyons with Lindsay Lohan and the cartoonishly violent Dog Eat Dog, shot cheaply, aimed at a VOD audience.
The former had a montage of closed-down movie theatres. In interviews, Schrader struck a gloomy note about the future of the industry. This is why First Reformed is so refreshing. This is not just Schrader’s best film in a very long while. It is also a re-affirmation of the director’s belief in the medium.
The Happy Prince - Review
Oscar Wilde goes to ruin in Rupert Everett’s debut feature as director. Everett also wrote and stars in the film, giving a grandstanding performance as the Irish writer at the end of his life, after his release from prison, where he has been doing hard labour for “gross indecency”. This is a moving and surprising biopic that squeezes out every last drop of pathos from its subject matter.
Black Panther - Review
Black Panther is not only one of the most entertaining recent superhero films but has an intelligence and a political dimension that such inchoate offerings as Suicide Squad and Justice League completely lacked. It is an action movie which touches on Pan-Africanism and which owes as much to Malcolm X as it does to Batman or Captain America.
Sicilian Ghost Story - Review
Sicilian Ghost Story is a genre-bending affair that combines elements of teen romance, gothic psycho-drama and political thriller. It is loosely based on a true story of a boy called Giuseppe Di Matteo whose father, an ex-member of the Sicilian Mafia, turned “grass” against his erstwhile associates. The Mafia responded by kidnapping Giuseppe and keeping him in captivity for nearly 800 days.
First Man - Review
First Man is all about understated heroism. It’s affecting precisely because Armstrong (played with quiet intensity by Ryan Gosling) doesn’t feel the continual need to boast about his mission. The film is a tearjerker but a very subtle one.
Dogman - Review
Dogman is one of the best Italian films of recent times, a modern-day neorealist fable that bears comparison with the great work of Fellini, Rossellini, De Sica et al. Its main character, the dog groomer Marcello (Marcello Fonte), is a wonderful creation: loveable, vulnerable, seedy and comic all at the same time.
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