It was a glacially slow year for Sharp Four in 2023, resulting in only two reviews and a list (life really do be like that sometimes). Nevertheless, I still managed to see a bunch of cracking films and thought it was worth documenting my favourites. Only films with a theatrical or streaming release in Australia between January 1 and December 31, 2023 were eligible. Australia's typically backwards release schedule means some films are missing here that otherwise would almost certainly have made the cut (e.g. Anatomy of a Fall, The Zone of Interest), but what can you do?
I can't wait to get my writing shoes back on in 2024.
And no, I didn't see Barbie.
Honourable Mention: Empire of Light
10) A Haunting in Venice
Kenneth Branagh's latest Poirot outing takes a darker turn with grimly delicious effect. While it could have done to lean more heavily into its brooding tone, it's still a gripping mystery that leaves enough of Agatha Christie's trademark breadcrumbs around for people that like getting to the end credits before the rest of us.
9) The Killer
David Fincher's The Killer is a captivating and surprisingly comic tale that starts with Michael Fassbender's no-nonsense assassin having a bad day at the office. The ensuing chapters that follow him cleaning up his mess result in one of the most visceral fight sequences in recent memory and Tilda Swinton just being peak Tilda Swinton.
8) The Exorcist: Believer
This is the entry that would keep me from being taken seriously by Real Film Critics, since it was universally panned the world over. While I wish it had the backbone not to pander to quite so many sensibilities, I found David Gordon Green's sequel quite moving, except for Ellen Burstyn's heinously on-the-nose line about the patriarchy (boo!).
7) No One Will Save You
This one snuck onto my list on New Year's Eve for very good reason. Brian Duffield's alien invasion horror/drama pits Kaitlyn Dever's mysteriously reclusive protagonist against an onslaught of telekinetic beings, while also managing to unpack themes of guilt and forgiveness (both from others, and of ourselves). There are literally five (5) words of dialogue in the whole film, making for a visually and sonically arresting experience.
6) The Strays
Nathaniel Martello-White's mystery thriller The Strays was the biggest surprise of the year, and the less you know, the better. Clearly influenced by the work of Jordan Peele, with a touch of Little Marvin's Them thrown in for good measure, the final chapter dang near made me give it a standing ovation. Winkingly bonkers. Totally mad.
5) Knock At The Cabin
Whaddaya know? The film I actually had time to review! M. Night Shayamalan's best film in nearly twenty years.
4) John Wick: Chapter 4
The fourth instalment in Chad Stahelski's textbook action saga is probably the most fun I had at the movies this year. From unashamedly excessive set pieces and genuine directorial flourishes of genius (that overhead oner is *chef's kiss*) to genuinely funny gags to release the tension, this film is a straight-up riot.
3) Talk To Me
Talk To Me seemed to take on a life of its own this year, as Australian Danny and Michael Philippou's breakout horror drama became A24's highest grossing horror film (knocking Hereditary off its perch, which is saying something), as well as their second highest grossing film ever. Filmed in South Australia, it's a visceral and propulsive thrill ride that doesn't let up until the last gasp. I adored it.
Christopher Nolan's biographical drama/thriller is as intoxicating as it is unnerving. His chilling but deeply human treatment of the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer's (Cillian Murphy) creation of the atomic bomb is best viewed on an empty bladder, and if you're anything like me, you might realise you've gone long stretches of its runtime without breathing. It also features one the most masterful scenes of his entire career that got under my skin better than most horror films in recent memory.
1) Godzilla Minus One (ゴジラ マイナスワン)
Takashi Yamazaki's achievement here is nothing short of extraordinary. I could never have expected that the most exciting and thrilling monster movie since Bong Joon-ho's The Host (2006) could also have packed that deadly an emotional punch, and yet, there I was in the cinema, grinning like an idiot and crying my eyes out with each alternate scene. Godzilla Minus One is the best film I saw in 2023, and when I watch it again, it'll be the best film I see in 2024, too.
Sharp Four Reviews will be back with a vengeance (probably) in 2024.