2014 Film Countdown: Part Two
Posted on February 12, 2015
It’s time to continue the countdown of Writer Loves Movies favourite films from 2014. If you missed part one – films 30 to 29 – you can catch up here.
20. Starred Up
This is the second film on the list to feature a lead performance from Jack O’Connell, whose onscreen intensity as young offender Eric makes Starred Up the most compelling prison drama of recent years. O’Connell flicks from relative composure to extreme violence in a matter of seconds. This first script from Jonathan Asser is largely sharp and insightful, based on his own experiences in the prison industry. Read the full review.
19. My Name Is Salt
Farida Pacha’s debut feature-length documentary about Indian salt workers is inescapably beautiful. Lingering shots blister with the heat of the desert salt pans, mud squelches under the weight of bare feet, oozing up ankles and sticking to the skin. Later, crystallised lumps of pure white salt slip back into the water with a seductive splash. But it’s not just the cinematography that makes My Name Is Salt so beautiful, there’s a poetic beauty to the subject matter too.
Pacha’s film is entirely observational. There’s no intrusive narrator manipulating the subjects with loaded questions or biased judgements. Pacha has made a crucial decision to offer us an intimate and subtle documentary that awakens the senses while subtly directing us towards the social issues. Read the full review.
18. The Raid 2
In the same vein as its predecessor, The Raid 2 showcases martial arts with inspired camera work. Gareth Evans gives us another graphic, heart-thumping masterclass in martial arts but this time opens up the story, shifting towards a more conventional action flick. This is The Raid 2’s biggest flaw but provides the space for an inspired car chase and more creative fight sequences. Well matched opponents and skilful, physically exhausting, hand-to-hand combat creates its own spectacle. Read the full review.
Set during the final days of World War Two, from the perspective of a battle weary tank crew headed by Wardaddy (Brad Pitt), Fury is an exceptional example of how to shoot battle sequences. This film from David Ayer (End Of Watch) approaches romanticism in its final act but the director retains a firm grasp on the horrific details of the last days of war. Neither is Ayer afraid to slow his film to a crawl in order to explore the psychology of his characters. Read the full review.
16. The Theory Of Everything
The Theory Of Everything’s beauty lies in the delicate way in which it explores marriage. Stephen Hawking’s ground-breaking science takes a back seat in this drama based on the memoirs of his wife, Jane. The cornerstones of this BAFTA winning film from James Marsh (Man On Wire, Shadow Dancer) are the performances from Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. But it’s Marsh’s emphasis on details – the moment Hawking is diagnosed with the Motor Neuron Disease, the painful first time he uses a lettered board to form a sentence, and the arrival of a new female carer – that ultimately delivers the emotional punch.
15. Maps To The Stars
Capturing the essence of Cronenberg’s attachment to the abstract, Maps To The Stars is easier to warm to than the excessively metaphorical Cosmopolis. The cruel, psychological toll of the Hollywood fame-game, it’s repercussions for family and the devastating effects of narcissism are all under fire. Worth the ticket price for Julianne Moore’s performance alone.
14. The Strange Little Cat
The Strange Little Cat is an unusual German film frequently shot at the mid close up range as if through the eyes of a child. The world through these eyes is strange, often alien and frequently jarring. Set almost entirely in the confines of a small apartment, family members discuss recent day to day events, highlighting the world’s simplest and most complex puzzles. Why does dropped orange peel always land white side up? And how can we be lonely when we’re surrounded by people? Director Ramon Zürcher uses surprising camera angles and domestic sounds to create a sense of unease and describes his experimental film as ‘horror without any horror’.
13. I Origins
The second film from Mike Cahill (Another Earth) explores the last sticking point in evolutionary theory; the complex human eye. Scientist Ian (Michael Pitt) is our Richard Dawkins, attempting to disprove God by developing an eye from scratch. In I Origins, Cahill demonstrates a fantastic synergy between his ideas – exploring the eye as a scientific marvel, a window to the soul and a way of ‘seeing’ the origins of life from a new perspective. Cahill’s meditative tone gives us the space to contemplate those bigger questions about faith and science, as the two begin to appear closer than we might first believe.
12. What We Do In The Shadows
The best mainstream mockumentary since Troll Hunter, this zany comedy about a bunch of flat sharing vampires from the creators of Flight Of The Conchords is a neat riposte to The Twilight Saga. Self aware and with a big heart, What We Do In The Shadows is a cult classic in the making. Read the full review.
A thriller without any espionage and in which no crimes take place, Locke’s tensions are entirely domestic and of its character’s own making. Tom Hardy is the only actor that appears and the film takes place entirely inside a car. In his relentless 90 minutes of screen time Hardy vividly captures attention and holds it. Director Steven Knight’s deliberately restrictive concept gives birth to a visionary film that redefines the thriller. Read the full review.