We have finally reached the end of summer movie season and, all things considered, it was pretty good. Granted we saw a number of unspeakable lows but we were also treated to some truly fantastic high points. Gone is the sheer, seemingly endless mediocrity of 2016 and instead we get the brilliance of ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Baby Driver’, ‘The Big Sick’ and ‘Dunkirk’. Even the entries of the summer which I would regard as being good rather than great have been distantly refreshing in one way or another like ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming’ and ‘Atomic Blonde’.
Despite some worries that it would end with more of a whimper than a bang, August was no different, maintaining a good level of quality that saw some excellent releases. Granted it is disappointing that Kathryn Bigelow’s ‘Detroit’ didn’t quite reach the levels of greatness I was hoping it would, the fact that a film that impressive didn’t make the top three is a testament to the high quality. Even the worst movie of this month was more frustratingly bland and uninspired in comparison to the source material rather than outright awful (but for the record, still pretty bad). But for now, here are the best.
3: Ingrid Goes West
In this bitingly sharp commentary on social media as well as our entire celebrity culture, we see a story that is as darkly humorous as it is broadly relevant. It completely immerses the viewer within its landscape and can make them feel equally as involved within its narrative whether they know what Instagram is or not. But as well as tackling the broader themes of our society, ‘Ingrid Goes West’ does so by being a fascinating character study of its titular figure by depicting an obsessed person who falls into the trap of using her obsessions ton escape from a harsh reality, who is brilliantly brought to life by a fascinating lead performance from Aubrey Plaza. It never gets caught up in its broader themes to a point where it forgets to be a movie and instead focusses on the interesting character dynamics as well as its ever intriguing plot.
2: Logan Lucky
Steven Soderbergh’s triumphant return to filmmaking may look like familiar territory upon first glance (a heist movie from the guy who is most famous for directing a heist movie, how remarkable). But beyond the genre, everything about ‘Logan Lucky’ from its central themes to its characters and whole stylistic approach feels fresh and innovative. Soderbergh creates empathetic characters that make the viewer feel instantly invested in their intricately laid plan, and then never resorts to mocking them for a cheap laugh but instead draws catharsis from their small victories. It boasts a fantastic cast who are all whole distinct in their roles to a point where every part feels like it could never be played by anyone else with Daniel Craig being the major standout. It’s energetic, highly entertaining and serves as a welcome reminder of why Soderbergh has been missed during his five year absence (it actually wasn’t that long of a retirement when you think about it was it?).
I feel like, of all of Christopher Nolan’s films, ‘Dunkirk’ is the one most likely to be widely embraced as a classic. It has proven to be more divisive than one would think among audiences due to its complex structure and unconventional plotting, but it’s such a magnificent feat of intricate storytelling that the effect is unforgettable. Nolan brings forth some of the most terrifying and acutely tense set pieces in recent cinema history. He fully immerses the viewer within not only the immediate terror of war but also the deeper existential dread of having to confront death on a regular basis. As a filmmaker Nolan is in such command of his craft, pin pointing every solitary detail of his vision with such precision that it almost defies belief. ‘Dunkirk’ refuses to veer into contrived melodrama or artificial sentiment, it doesn’t need it. What it captures instead is a broader sense of emotion that fully captures the visceral nature of war, on a truly stunning level.
And the worst…
I like Adam Wingard, he has a good knack for subverting conventional horror tropes and bringing them to life in a refreshing manner. It’s for that reason that I can’t accuse him of not trying when it came to Netflix’s live action American adaptation of the hugely popular anime of the same name. But his creative decisions simply do not work here. He fails to create any sense of atmosphere, any inkling of empathy for his characters as well as a complete lack of cohesive development or motivation. It is simply an adaptation that completely bypasses anything that made the original interesting. It’s not as bad as ‘Dragonball: Evolution’ or ‘The Last Airbender’ (excuse me while I vomit for a second) but for fans of the anime it must feel just as painful.