So here’s the thing, normally when I do these segments for January it becomes less of a look back at this particular month and more of a rundown of the films I already talked about in my Best of the Year list because inevitably I had to wait until January to see some of them. This year I thought, instead of simply reciting the best films I just happened to see in January I was going to exclude anything that ended up on my Best of 2016 list, purely because you already know what I thought of them and where they fall in the established order.
So with that in mind I turned my attention to the movies I didn’t include on that list, placing them as my top three of the month. When all is said and done January was surprisingly decent. The fact that I was able to find two 2017 releases that were actually very good should be a feat worthy of praise all on its own. Sadly though, as one would expect it was not without its flaws and I am already dreading the idea that 2017 might yield a film worse than the ones I saw this month. But anyway, before all that here are the three best.
M Night Shyamalan made a good movie again. Just saying that sentence makes me feel like I’m yelling an outright false statement to the public but it is true. Though it is not without its flaws ‘Split’ represents an impressive return to form for Shyamalan, demonstrating his ability to craft a screenplay of integrity with a narrative flow, character motivations and a surprising amount of depth. As well as that Shyamalan proves that he is once again capable of raising tension and composing provoking shots. But the most valuable player is easily James McAvoy, whose performance is a tour de force that creates so many separate and distinguishable identities while injecting enough gravitas into proceedings to make the premise feel grounded enough to take seriously.
Since I last wrote about this adaptation of August Wilson’s play it has picked up a slew of Oscar nominations and deservedly so. Two of those nominations are for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis who are utterly magnificent in their roles, with Washington giving a powerful and towering performance while Davis brings such a sense of raw intensity to her performance that it almost defies belief. While his direction does not quite open the material up on a visual level Washington shows a good understanding of Wilson’s dialogue to bring forth the best directorial outing of his career, as well as one of the best performances of his career.
1: T2 Trainspotting
I can hardly blame anyone for being sceptical over the sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 masterpiece, over twenty years after it first hit cinema. But in the sequel Boyle and his cast have delivered a film that uses the time gap as its thematic driving force. Unlike any other sequel of this kind, ‘T2 Trainspotting’ does not seek to recapture the essence of the original because it acknowledges how one never really can. Though the characters would like nothing more than to resume the lives they were living twenty years ago before it all went wrong, they are forced to admit that they never truly can. One thing they have not lost however, is the talent as Boyle’s energetic and hyper-stylised camera is just as vibrant as ever, while the cast sink back into their original roles effortlessly. It is wonderfully entertaining to see these characters once again, but at the heart of ‘T2 Trainspotting’ lies a poignant and emotionally resonant core.
And the worst….
The Bye Bye Man
I can’t remember the last time I saw a mainstream movie that was as incompetently made as this. It is so hopelessly inept in almost every single regard that it defies belief, the laws of logic suggest they had to get something right. But from the acting to the cinematography, every single aspect seems fundamentally broken. The plot borrows from every horror cliché and trope imaginable, coming off like the worst and cheapest kind of copy there is. As I said in my original review, the scariest thing about ‘The Bye Bye Man’ is that there might be a film in 2017 that is worse than this.