I’ll be posting my Top Ten Films of 2010 list on Monday, so between now and then I’m doing “nomination” lists by genre: Action and Documentary went up Thursday, Comedy was on Friday, today is Thrillers (including horror and crime films) and Drama will be tomorrow. Then Monday I’ll lay my Top Ten on ya.
My Favorite Thrillers of 2010 (Including Crime and Horror films)
This meditative film from director Anton Corbjin and star George Clooney suffered at the box office from misguided Bourne-style expectations from a Clooney “starring role” and end-of-summer audience burn-out. It’s a moody study of an assassin in moral purgatory in a lovely Italian coast town, and a second viewing only reinforced how much I like The American‘s rich, meticulous style and Clooney’s deeply reserved performance.
You’ll be hearing more about this small, gripping Australian flick as Jacki Weaver is likely to nab a supporting actress Oscar nom for her performance as the ruthless mother of a family of criminals. Animal Kingdom may take place on a narrow, intimate stage, but there’s plenty enough back-stabbing, paranoia and violence to make it feel epic.
It may not be for everyone–some folks may find it confusing or just flat-out silly in its passionate study of artistic pressure and madness. But I really love Darren Aronofsky’s tale of a ballerina (Natalie Portman in a sure-to-be-nominated performance) who’s fighting paranoia and possible possession as she struggles for perfection.
You won’t find a smarter, more enthralling or perfectly executed thriller this year. Director Roman Polanski moves Pierce Brosnan (as a former British prime minister) and Ewan McGregor (as the reluctant, suspicious ghost writer of his memoirs) through Robert Harris’ murky political mystery with cold, brooding precision.
You could argue this goes under “action,” but despite the James Bond stunts, at its heart Christopher Nolan’s intricate puzzle box is about the tricks of the human mind. As much as I marvel at its labyrinthine complexity and love the performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy, I find I don’t care as much about the characters trapped inside its subconscious maze. Still, it’s a staggering narrative and visual achievement, proving big summer flicks can have big brains.
It’s a shame knee-jerk dismissal of remakes, vampire overload, and short attention spans kept people away from Matt Reeves’ brilliant remake of the cult-fave Swedish film. Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Moretz are both phenomenal, but the real star is the cold, dark, beautifully photographed amorality that soaks it through–it’s not a about finding friendship, it’s about losing your soul. Overrun by Saw-style trash we’re in desperate need of more smart, gripping horror films like this.
South Korean director Joon-ho Bong (The Host) tells the twisting, obsessive story of a very determined mom (Korean star Hye-ja Kim) out to prove her beloved son’s innocence in a brutal small-town murder. What makes Mother so great, so enthralling–aside from Kim’s tremendous performance–is that you’re never sure which way the tale will turn, or even what kind of film you’re watching.
This brooding French story of an Arab prisoner whose attempts to stay alive in prison become increasingly ambitious works so well and impresses so much because director Jacques Audiard and star Tahar Rahim forgo all the usual crime cartel cliches. This isn’t about someone driven to crime out of raw ambition, but as a survival tactic.
Three films, three directors, set in three years, but at their heart is a single festering, deadly pool of police corruption and cover-ups surrounding the Yorkshire Ripper serial killings in England. (The killings were real; the films, based on David Peace’s novels, are speculative.) Each film is different in style and focus (their name stars include Andrew Garfield, Sean Bean, Rebecca Hall, Mark Addy, and Paddy Considine), but together they build to a labyrinthine and almost transcendent peek into the darkness of men’s souls.
Strip away all the “comeback” hype about director-star Ben Affleck’s second feature, the Bah-ston neighborhoods, and Jeremy Renner’s terrific pit-bull performance, and you’re still left with a cracker-jack cops-and-robbers yarn.
Which (if any) of these will make the Final Top Ten of 2010? Find out Monday, and watch for the Drama list tomorrow.