In celebration of the end of 2021, I've put together a list of my top ten films of the year. Only films with a theatrical or streaming release in Australia between January 1 and December 31, 2021 were eligible. I didn't write a full review for every film here, so there'll likely be some surprises ahead.
These are the films that enthralled, shocked and entertained me. Here's to an even more eclectic 2022.
Honourable Mention: The Green Knight
M. Night Shyamalan, one of the most divisive filmmakers of our time, crafted a truly bonkers and unforgettable tale about a beach that makes you old, in his inimitable style. It's as simple (and nuts) as that.
9) The Power of the Dog
Jane Campion's beautifully-shot and intimate quasi-western featuring a despicable Benedict Cumberbatch, a career-best Kirsten Dunst and spectacular score by Jonny Greenwood is as mesmerising as it is surprising. Well worth a look if you like a slow burning, character-driven drama.
8) The Night House
David Bruckner's fiendishly tricksy horror/thriller The Night House completely upends just about every haunted house trope I could think of, as well as plenty that I couldn't. Imagine trying to escape from someone in a house that they designed, where everything is a mirror image of what you know. Excellent work from Rebecca Hall, and the inaugural winner of the Best Jump Scare Award.
7) A Quiet Place: Part II
The immediate follow-up to the only marginally superior first installment, A Quiet Place: Part II pretty quickly forgets about the "quiet" part and descends into an all-out action thriller, but with its beating heart still very much intact from the first film. All performances are uniformly excellent with some very crafty work from director John Krasinski, including a particularly impressive white-knuckle single shot sequence.
6) The Medium
Admittedly, not a particularly good example of the faux-documentary style, but an excellent example of literally everything else. Centred around a rock solid performance from Sawanee Utoomma, Banjong Pisanthanakun's The Medium is a straight-up bone-chilling (and mercifully fictional) account of an apparently benevolent force that may or may not be something else entirely. A gradual crescendo to a blazing finale.
Not for the faint of heart, James Wan's unashamedly hectic horror offering split critics and audiences down the middle, half publicly condemning its reason for existing, while the other half delighted in its sheer unapologetic lunacy. I'm firmly in the latter camp — it was the most fun I've had at the movies in a very long time.
4) No Time To Die
Daniel Craig's final outing as Bond was arguably one of his best. Almost everything a well-balanced action film should be, with impressive set pieces, memorable supporting characters and a big enough heart to justify the stakes. A fitting end to top-shelf legacy.
3) In The Heights
Jon M. Chu's stellar interpretation of Lin Manuel Miranda's superb musical took everything that was good about the source material and applied exactly the right formula to explode it onto the screen. It's as joyous and uplifting an experience as you could possibly hope to have with a film, let alone a musical, and has cemented itself as the second-best musical film adaptation of the year...
Even despite the seemingly insurmountable task of making Frank Herbert's dense, futuristic novel Dune into a coherent film (well, two-thirds of it), director Denis Villeneuve went several steps further and created a visually and sonically stunning work of art in the process. There is very, very little to be unimpressed by, and there is also very, very little that is little about it.
1) West Side Story
Such is the scale of Spielberg's achievement, he made a film that leapt (and clicked) straight to the top of my Best of 2021 list on the penultimate day of the year. I have nothing else to add.
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