As we head into the fall season of 2017, September gave us a very promising start as to where things were heading. Granted we do have to suffer through how lowest common denominator blockbusters have been replaced by lowest common denominator awards bait but on the whole the level of quality is still consistently good and has delivered some truly fantastic films in the process. We got to see artists pushing their unique visions through in some of the most remarkable films of the year in an uncompromising and viscerally bold way.
That being said there was still the colossal disappointment that was ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’. Normally I try to avoid singling out certain films in this intro, but Matthew Vaughn’s spy sequel promised so much more than it delivered. It was truly a sequel that seemed to misunderstand what made the original so great and will only appeal to those who loved it for the most surface level reasons. But enough with that as there are still three truly great films to address.
3: First the Killed My Father
In what is undoubtedly Angelina Jolie’s best directorial outing yet, ‘First they Killed My Father paints a harrowing and intimately staged depiction of history that feels is both emotionally shattering but also brilliantly made. Jolie uses her protagonist to great effect not just in the way she is placed within the narrative, but the entire frame uses her as a symbol of innocence from which to contrast the horror of the war around her. As well as that, Jolie’s use of perspective fully immerses the viewer within this era of history, making it feel like an entity all of its own. It’s this intimate mind set that permeates every aspect of the movie, even its very structure which unfolds more like a survival story than a historical drama, namely because for those involved that’s exactly what it was.
2: Wind River
With this movie Taylor Sheridan proved that as well as being a masterful writer he also has great potential as a director. It really is staggering to think that ‘Wind River’ is only Sheridan’s second directorial outing as the movie seems to carry a sense of age and experience that is rarely found in early efforts. It weaves its plot and themes together so intricately that they feel essential to one another as Sheridan makes the landscape around his characters feel like a real entity. The movie also delivers two terrific performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson. It’s a movie that is focussed more on introspection and dread than conveying any cheap thrills, but that doesn’t stop Sheridan delivering some viscerally haunting moments that will linger with the viewer long after the credits roll.
There are few films in recent memory that seem to have left a bigger impact upon those who have seen it than Darren Aaronofsky’s latest film ‘Mother!’. Love it or hate it, it’s a movie that has provoked a lot of discussion and a lot of encouragement to dig beneath the surface. I’ve seen several varying interpretations of the movie, from a biblical allegory to it being a statement on the environment, from a comment on an abusive relationship or meditating upon the struggles of an artist. Each new theory holds equal weight to me and all serve to deepen my respect for what Aronofsky has created. ‘Mother!’ is also a testament to Aronofsky’s talent behind the camera in how well it evokes a sense of unease from anyone that watches it. It’s disturbing on both an existential and visceral level, feeling like the closest thing one could possible come to filming a pure nightmare.
And the worst…
At this time of year nothing brings me greater displeasure than the sheer blandness of historical period pieces like ‘Tulip Fever’. Even the movie couldn’t live up to its own promises of eroticism as it stumbles through a narrative it itself feels unconcerned with. None of the characters feel well developed or fleshed out, leaving it impossible for me to become invested in their plight. Even a cast as talented as the one found here can't make this feel interesting. There is no style or substance to be found within its drab, middle of the road display that in all honesty I’m struggling to remember anything about.