Staff Inquiry: Top 10 Films Of 2017
The Film Inquiry team counts down their top ten films of 2017, with each writer compiling their own list and describing in further detail their number 1 pick.
2017 is in the books, and as an addendum to the historical logs, we give you our writer’s top ten films of the year! We took some extra time to polish off the the last few movies and come up with our definitive lists, so we’re confident you’ll find hidden gems and new recommendations scattered throughout.
Because the greatest strength of Film Inquiry is our worldwide team, you’re getting each individual’s top ten with their number 1 film highlighted. Writers could select any movie released in their country during 2017, so you’ll see some films that released in the U.S. during 2016 but didn’t roll out worldwide until 2017 (and just to annoy the Americans, it meant Paddington 2 was ineligible for them). And if you were hoping for one aggregate list, then you’re in luck as well!
Our collective top ten is at the bottom, but as you’ll see, we really don’t agree with each other much.
Musanna Ahmed – Get Out
I was sad when Key and Peele came to an end because I considered it the funniest show on TV during its time. I greatly anticipated whatever Jordan Peele was going to do next (Key was already starring in several movies) and was intrigued when he mentioned that he was going back to his passion for directing horror films.
Cut to about 2 years later and it’s one of the most acclaimed films of the year plus a big box office success, and rightly so. Get Out is a brilliantly constructed flick that succeeds on all fronts, from its exploration of upper class racial prejudice to the individual casting choices. It demands multiple watches and rewards with each one, containing many little details both visually and within the dialogue that makes the film richer in depth than you realised.
The effective satirical thriller is as timely as ever (as demonstrated by Funny or Die’s hilarious Get Out of the White House trailer), and it’s going to have a great legacy in the same way that its inspirations like Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining have enjoyed. Get Out is the best film I saw in the past year, and the best film I’ve seen in years.
The rest of Musanna’s top ten: Dunkirk, mother!, The Work, Brad’s Status, Endless Poetry, Clash, It Comes at Night, War for the Planet of the Apes, Mudbound
Stephanie Archer – Dunkirk
When thinking of my top film of 2017, I found myself looking back over all the movies I had seen over the past year and how I had felt leaving the theater. I found myself reminiscing over the films I could not stop talking about, films I had recommended, and films that had left me speechless. While initially torn over four amazing movies, I finally came to the conclusion it was the film that left me speechless that had claimed the year as its own: Dunkirk.
Exiting the theater, I had no words to describe what I was feeling and the experience I had just seen. Pitched to Warner Brothers as an immersive experience that would have Americans and other audiences emotionally invested in an early British World War II story, Dunkirk proved to be just that. It felt as though you were on the beach, eye line with the bombs as they crashed onto shore, a desire to cover your head from the sand and ash flying from the explosions. As the planes fly to protect the hundreds of thousands of men on the beach, you feel as though you are in the cockpit taking in the harsh reality of war contrasted with the glistening glory of the water below.
Recounting the story of 300,000 British troops trapped on the French beach of Dunkirk, director and writer Christopher Nolan brings to life the heroic and historical account of the thousand civilian ships enlisted by Prime Minister Winston Churchill that would bring these men home. Reuniting with actors Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, composer Hans Zimmer, and cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, this film was primed for success. Each shot seemed perfectly envisioned and masterfully created. The ticking of the clock throughout the film interlaced within the chaos and confusion was a brilliant metronome of suspense. The contrast of the foggy despair on the beach with the tranquility of the water as help arrives and the planes fight to save as many lives as possible is brilliant. Newcomers Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead each bring an innocence to the war, their baby faces showing war knows no age. Yet, it is their lack of dialogue and dependence on looks and emotions that truly pushes their stories and the stories of those around them forward.
With 2017 ended, and the height of award season right around the corner, Dunkirk was the only film to leave me at a loss of words and one of the few films that continually resonated with me throughout the remainder of the year. From the moment I walked out of the theater, I knew I had just seen the best film of 2017.
The rest of Stephanie’s top ten: Darkest Hour; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Get Out; Mudbound; Wonderstruck; Blame; Baby Driver; It; I, Tonya
Jo Bradley – Lady Macbeth
One of the most surprising films of 2017, Lady Macbeth was a random plane film chosen after a tense trailer and some positive word-of-mouth. And boy it did not disappoint.
The story, adapted by Alice Birch from the 19th century Russian novel, is inspired by Shakespeare’s enigmatic villainess but reimagined as a repressed teen bride trapped in a Victorian mansion and an arranged, loveless marriage.
Like a tornado trapped in a jar, Katherine (Florence Pugh) rebels against the orders of wifely docility ineffectively thrust upon her by her husband’s father. When he commands her to stay inside, she walks outside. When he commands her to behave, she breaks the rules. By the time he discovers what she really is, she’s a force far too powerful to be stopped.
As the lady of the house, Katherine is a merciless autocrat. When her sullen husband goes away she rules her domain, and everyone in it, with an iron fist. She gets what she wants and follows no man’s rules.
Florence Pugh is a tour-de-force as Katherine, the fierce, stubborn, antihero who goes from unhappy young bride to a cold, calculated killer. Only 19 when the she filmed this, this is undoubtedly the best performance I saw in 2017, and deserves more awards recognition than it’s getting.
A debut feature from William Oldroyd, it is a bold, impressive work. You can tell his background in theatre by the skill in which he navigates the tense, intimate dialogue scenes. However, where the film thrives is its cinematic vigour. The most important exchanges in this film are said, not with words, but with looks, captured stunningly by DP Ari Wegner.
Oldroyd’s first film is a shocking and gripping masterclass in tension filmmaking. I look forward to seeing what he does next.
The rest of Jo’s top ten: Baby Driver; The Big Sick; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Moonlight; Wonder Woman; Paddington 2; The Edge of Seventeen; The Florida Project; Dunkirk
Samantha Celentano – Call Me By Your Name
Movies like Call Me by Your Name are the reason I love movies. It has been a while since a movie has brought me such strong emotions. The awe-inspiring performances from Timothée Chalamet, Armie Hammer, and Michael Stuhlbarg are completely absorbing. The charming scenery, the passionate story, the soundtrack, the chemistry between Chalamet and Hammer, and everything in-between makes me want everyone to see this film.
Luca Guadagnino created a world you want to live in, even if this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Chalamet plays Elio so naturally, even through Elio’s confused emotions and when things get weird with a peach. Portraying Elio and Oliver’s relationship onscreen required care and a lot of heart, and that is exactly what it got. To top it off, Stuhlbarg’s speech at the end is beautiful (and a tearjerker).
Just like how it’s hard to find love like Elio and Oliver’s, it’s hard to find a movie like this. If you read the book, if you love movies, if you’re a human being with emotions, watch Call Me by Your Name.
The rest of Samantha’s top ten: Lady Bird; I, Tonya; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; The Disaster Artist; Coco; Get Out; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; mother!; Hidden Figures
Zachary Doiron – Lady Bird
Lady Bird’s personal and raw moments really caught me off guard. Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut tells a story about the titular Lady Bird’s tough relationship with her mother and her need to escape small town Sacramento. Following this ambitious yet entitled young girl may seem like the worst thing ever to sit through. However, this coming-of-age story manages to become an emotional ride.
Lady Bird is a film that spoke to me personally, and that’s all thanks to Gerwig’s directing and writing. It’s a small-scale film, but it manages to grow into something truly magnificent. It may tell Gerwig’s personal life story, but it’s also a sentiment that we all have. We all get so caught up in our ambitions that we forget to appreciate the things that are right in front of us. We often forget to tell the people we love that we love them and thank our parents for the sacrifices they do for us.
Looking back at her life, Gerwig tells this story as a message to young, ambitious dreamers in a genuinely heartfelt manner. Told through clever comedy and gripping drama, Lady Bird is this year’s best film.
The rest of Zachary’s top ten: Blade Runner 2049; Call Me by Your Name; Dunkirk; Get Out; Wind River; War for the Planet of the Apes; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Logan; It Comes At Night
Gus Edgar – Nocturama
Earlier in 2017, my feelings on Nocturama were restrained; I admired it and liked it very much, but I wasn’t blown away. Well, now it’s my favourite of the year; Bertrand Bonello’s heady extravaganza possesses a staying power like no other.
My fanboyish gushing over Nocturama‘s thematic resonance and how it goes about tackling such a tricky topic as teenage terrorists without stooping to vapid provocation remains, while my brief, fleeting criticisms have faded away. Nocturama is the nigh-perfect film (though I’m unable to call it Bonello’s magnum opus, as his 2011 brothel-as-capitalism-metaphor House of Tolerance is just as spellbinding).
Unpacking each element of Nocturama takes time – but is more than worth it – the film unravelling into a treasure box of conceptual morsels that are each delicious to indulge in. There’s the mannequins, whose clothes mirror our protagonists’. Multiple interpretations can be applied just to this alone, yet maybe all of them are correct: how their anarchism melts into a singular whole, how they are consumed by the very product – capitalism – that they wish to destroy, how by destroying this structure, they are destroying themselves.
To talk about everything Nocturama has to offer in a 300-word thinkpiece is impossible, so I’ll just offer this as justification for its ranking: for the sheer scope and ambition of Bonello, for the careful consideration taken to humanise his teen terrorists without sympathising with them, for the improbable way in which he balances three tonally jarring acts and makes them function – no, accentuate each other – as a cohesive narrative whole, Nocturama is the best film of 2017. You can watch it on Netflix right now, and I suggest you do so immediately.
The rest of Gus’ top ten: Call Me by Your Name, Toni Erdmann, Antiporno, Manchester By The Sea, Blade Runner 2049, Loveless, Neruda, Personal Shopper, Foxtrot
David Fontana – Logan
Since becoming a cinephile, I’ve always had a strong fascination for the American Western. There’s just something about that period in our history that spoke to me, and that the films often delved into, from the broad, sweeping desert scenery, to the archetypal heroes and villains, to the gunfights themselves. And films that incorporate these elements even outside of the Western genre are often all the better for it.
Logan is, quintessentially, that film. Setting up Hugh Jackman‘s Wolverine in place of the famous gunslingers of the past, the film journeys through his setting days, acting not only as a proper bookend to the many years that Jackman played the character, but also functioning as a gritty portrayal of the America we now know. It may have been coincidental that the film came on the back of a Trump presidency, but its strong themes of coming together and self-sacrifice in the face of evil and greed are all the better for it.
Logan also, of course, functions as an entertaining, albeit intensely bloody superhero film. In a midst of indistinguishable entries, from both Marvel and DC alike, it stands high and mighty above most of them. It’s that rare film that’s not afraid of taking risks, whether it be its graphic fight scenes, its desolation of beloved characters, or its grimy look at the underbelly of America. However you see it, it’s hard not to appreciate Logan as the near-masterpiece that it is.
The rest of David’s top ten: Dunkirk; Columbus; Zama; I, Tonya; Coco; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; John Wick: Chapter 2; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Phantom Thread
Arlin Golden – Jane
Jane is a film that took me almost totally by surprise; I think bio-docs are hard to do well due to their ubiquity and the challenge of condensing decades of a life well lived into a feature film with a coherent narrative. But almost as soon as Jane started I began to fall under its spell, due in no small part to GOAT documentary composer Philip Glass’ instantly classic score. But the level of filmmaking on display by director Brett Morgan is absurd; Morgan was gifted over 100 hours of silent film, and turned it into one of the most complete examinations of what it means to live ever committed to film.
There’s so much more going on in Jane than a simple nature or biographical film, though it covers those duties with ease. The allegories between chimp behavior and man are explicitly addressed, but on my most recent watch of the film, I couldn’t stop thinking of the parallels between the subject and the filmmaker. Both are artists, building stories from isolated chunks of reality, constantly conscious of their own impact on both what they see and what they present to the world. Jane excels at putting the viewer in the headspace of the subject so that you may share in the thrill of the discovery as Goodall did. In a time when mainstream acceptance of scientific reality is a source of depression, Jane offers a superhero sure to inspire the next generation of knowledge seekers, and a layered cinematic experience that will be fruitful viewing after viewing.
The rest of Arlin’s top ten: Jane, School Life, LA 92, Brimstone & Glory, Dina, Get Out, Phantom Thread, Casting JonBenet, Kedi, Tokyo Idols
Lee Jutton – Get Out
No, Get Out is not a comedy, but I can understand why the Hollywood Foreign Press Association would struggle to fit the most original, impactful, and downright best movie of the year into a quick and easy genre-related category.
A more terrifying look at modern society than even the best episodes of Black Mirror, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut exposes the racism and white liberal hypocrisy (“I would’ve voted for Obama a third time if I could have”) that are unfortunately still inherent in today’s world. The script manages to balance horror and pitch-black humor, and the result is one of the best in recent memory – tight, precise, and full of perfectly executed callbacks that will make you gasp in shock and awe.
The cast, led by breakout star Daniel Kaluuya, make even the most outrageous moments feel all too plausible; special credit must be given to Betty Gabriel for her haunting turn as Georgina, the housemaid who is not what she seems, and LilRel Howery, who single-handedly reinvigorated the reputation of the TSA with his heroic and hilarious performance.
If one were to create a time capsule of 2017, one would just have to include Get Out – it’s not only the best film of the past year, but also the most timely.
The rest of Lee’s top ten: Call Me by Your Name; I, Tonya; Colossal; Lady Bird; Wonder Woman; Dunkirk; The Florida Project; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Kedi
Suchin Mehrotra – Our Souls At Night
Few films in 2017 washed over me quite like Ritesh Batra’s Our Souls At Night. The criminally under-discussed romantic drama about two next-door neighbours, a widow and widower, who decide to move in together is unassuming, well-acted, and just so wonderful. The iconic pairing of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda (who I dare you not to fall entirely in love with) grace our screens once more in a film with the kind of staggering highs and heartbreaking lows that make for a truly unforgettable love story.
Batra’s film is so tender, fragile, warm, heartfelt, and simply adorable that I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face through most of it. Above all, it’s a film which celebrates the simple pleasures of life. One that lives in the little things, the people, and the unlikely companionships we come across which see us through it. And as Lewis and Addie show us, it’s never too late to find that. Because, at the end of the day, “I just want to live out my day and come tell you about it at night”. Don’t we all?
Our Souls At Night is a film I’m deeply thankful for and is without a doubt my top pick of the year. I can’t remember the last time a love story happened to me quite like this one.
The rest of Suchin’s top ten: Baahubali: The Conclusion, Wonderstruck, War for the Planet of the Apes, Jagga Jasoos, Colossal, Logan, Gifted, Get Out, Girls Trip
Nathan Osborne – La La Land
No one can ever take away the previously-unparalleled levels of pure joy, immense happiness, and endless inspiration La La Land so lovingly installed within me after seeing it last January. It makes my heart soar in a way no film has ever made it soar before; it reminds me that dreaming is important and valid. It sparked a light inside of me that led to many new opportunities and no matter how much anyone tries to take that away – ‘it’s overrated!’, ‘you over-hyped it’, ‘how can you love a film that much’ – they never, ever will.
Quality and colour ooze from this picture with such an infectious, delightful, wondrous energy, all under the impeccable control of Damien Chazelle, whose clear passion carefully crafts a terrific world that we become so absorbed in. We are utterly transfixed in his stunning world because of his amazing efforts and the sensational performances at the heart of this film, alongside the glamorous and exuberant production values, impressive score and soundtrack, and iconic sequences that will be remembered for years to come. Picking a favourite is near impossible, but the final act’s epilogue is the greatest seven-to-eight minutes captured in film. No hyperbole, just truth here, kids.
La La Land is an absolutely transcendental, extraordinary, mesmerising watch that – although tinged with a little sadness – lifts you higher and higher with a euphoric nonstop singing, dancing and acting masterclass, led by the phenomenal pairing of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, married together by Damien Chazelle’s sensational direction. One day I will get to thank Mr. Chazelle for this film, which has truly changed my life for the better. 2017, you did good on the film front – but this was La La Land’s year and nothing was ever going to top it.
The rest of Nathan’s top ten: Dunkirk, mother!, A Monster Calls, Call Me by Your Name, Paddington 2, A Ghost Story, Hacksaw Ridge, Jackie, Moonlight
Alistair Ryder – The Shape of Water
It’s practically a cliché at this point to describe 2017 as the year when the Presidency of Donald Trump loomed large over cinema. After all, the majority of the films described as feeling reactionary to the politics of his administration were in production for years before it even became a reality. Instead, 2017’s cinema has only felt like a counterpoint to the post-Trump world due to the year’s best films giving a much-needed voice to the voiceless; the transgender heroine of A Fantastic Woman, the LGBT activists of BPM, even the downtrodden Mexican community displayed in Pixar’s Coco are now gifted narratives that have been sorely deprived in recent memory. All these films and more represent the kinds of people who have wrongfully been made caricatures by the right wing media, now perfectly chatacterised with pure empathy.
Yet above all these films shines The Shape of Water. Guillermo del Toro’s film may not be original, acting as a nostalgic throwback to mid-20th century melodramas and Technicolor musicals, but it is the year’s most heartfelt embrace to the very concept of the “outsider”. Setting aside the beautifully rendered urban fairytale world del Toro has created (in his finest English language effort to date), the film’s biggest achievement is in making its heroes those who still don’t fit into society’s norms and giving them a sense of agency instead of leaving them to wallow in self-pity. Despite its sixties setting, The Shape of Water feels incredibly prescient; it may offer a deliberately simplified look at the very nature of love, but it grants us something rarer – the chance to root for strong characters of the types we rarely get to see on screen.
The rest of Alistair’s top ten: Call Me By Your Name, Raw, BPM, Blade Runner 2049, A Ghost Story, A Fantastic Woman, Lady Bird, Personal Shopper, Coco
Linsey Satterthwaite – A Ghost Story
On paper, the premise for A Ghost Story sounds like it really shouldn’t work: a recently departed Casey Affleck is cloaked in a bed sheet (though some people may welcome this) and wanders around his former life while watching over his widow (Rooney Mara). But director David Lowery transforms the childlike demeanour of a crude Halloween costume and makes it into something incredibly soulful. As Casey’s ghost traverses time, the film encapsulates the devastating feelings of loneliness and loss and what happens when a loved one finally moves on, and it manages to convey so much emotion from a sheet with two eyeholes. It also contains one of the year’s best scenes as Mara’s widow eats a pie in an extended shot that epitomises the numb, brutal nature of grief.
Set to a swelling, tear-jerking soundtrack, the film navigates through life’s heavy themes, with the ebbs and flows of humanity captured with simple but wholly effective scenes. Its narrative builds and builds to a sweeping, heart-burstingly abrupt conclusion that stays long after the credits have ended and leaves A Ghost Story lingering in your thoughts for days after.
Every now and then a part of the film will pierce into your subconscious and make your soul ache, its stark visuals acting as a reminder about how precious and fleeting life is. Quite simply, I could not shake this film from my mind, and nothing else affected me as much at the cinema this year. Truly haunting.
The rest of Linsey’s top ten: Good Time, The Beguiled, God’s Own Country, Call Me by Your Name, Moonlight, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, The Handmaiden, Get Out, The Florida Project
Kristy Strouse – Get Out
First, I want to mention that there are quite a few films, despite my best effort, that I didn’t see prior to this list. Some examples: Call Me by Your Name, Phantom Thread, The Post, Molly’s Game, and The Florida Project. I imagine some of these would be on the list if I had. With my top ten, I tried to be as diverse as I could.
This year was difficult for me when choosing my favorite/best film. I tried to strike a healthy balance between what was technically best and what was personally preferred. It was a wonderful year for movies, but there wasn’t one that I thought was a significant stand out. In the end I chose Get Out as my number one.
Get Out is a psychological thriller (it keeps you on your toes), horror (some scenes are genuinely creepy), and a clever comedy. All of the performances, especially Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams, are incredible. It is an intelligent film that appeals to a wide audience.
Jordan Peele is able to touch on racial discourse in a way that hasn’t been seen before. This is a rare sort of movie that combines genres and manages to be both thoroughly entertaining and thought-provoking. The unique Get Out demands your attention and can still surprise you after several watches.
The rest of Kristy’s top ten: The Shape of Water; Blade Runner 2049; A Ghost Story; The Killing of a Sacred Deer; Lady Bird; Wind River; Good Time; Logan; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Benjamin Wang – John Wick: Chapter Two
John Wick: Chapter 2 was unsurprisingly subject to some discussion of its violence. Such discussions can be tiresome and speculative, but they’re not valueless: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a movie for people with a part inside their head that cheers whenever John Wick takes out an enemy, and it’s worth noting that appealing to this impulse is a little crass.
But appealing to a crass impulse doesn’t necessarily make for a crass movie. The fights in this film are impressive acts of choreography and editing, but they’re also striking for the way John Wick fights. His movements are all geared toward efficiency and expediency. He doesn’t show off or display any personal mannerisms. This expediency doesn’t make John Wick: Chapter 2 unique among action movies, but it uses it to a unique end: each successive fight, and each successive win becomes more obviously insignificant. John never seems happy because there is nothing to be happy about, except the dog. We understand, especially in one chronologically-jumbled montage of John fighting assassins, that this kind of movie – endless action with almost no breaks – is just John’s life now, and that kind of sucks for him.
The strain between being crass (where crassness is fun) and bleak is what grabs me about this movie. There’s not much of an illusion that what happens on screen is worth celebrating, but it’s also more than just a complaint. It’s not profound, but it’s satisfying in a way few movies are.
The rest of Benjamin’s top ten: The Night is Short, Walk on Girl; Happy Hour; Good Time; In This Corner of the World; Logan Lucky; Get Out; Lady Bird; Lu Over the Wall; From Nine to Nine
Chris Watt – T2 Trainspotting
It’s not every year that a sequel would make it to the top of my list, but director Danny Boyle defied expectations with T2 Trainspotting, his follow up to 1996’s cultural touchstone Trainspotting. That picture changed the face of British cinema, fueled by a striking visual sense (part Scorsese, part Alan Clarke), an ingenious marketing campaign, and an uncanny finger on the pulse of Brit Pop, as it exploded in the country.
T2 is a different animal, a film that is ever so slightly (and very deliberately) out of step, catching up with Renton, Spud, Begbie, and Sick Boy, men caught in the trap of their 40’s. John Hodge’s superlative screenplay weaves together aspects from all of Irvine Welsh’s Edinburgh based works, creating a rich tapestry of masculinity, regret, wasted youth, and redemption.
Thanks to Boyle’s highly visual, Bosch-like imagery and an immaculate cast (particularly Ewan McGregor and Bremner), T2 comes out swinging as a poignant, funny, and at times heartbreakingly moving experience that uses flashback as a bridge and characters as a wrecking ball.
The rest of Chris’ top ten: Get Out, Dunkirk, It Comes at Night, Lady Macbeth, Personal Shopper, Wind River, Certain Women, 20th Century Women, Manchester by the Sea
Emily Wheeler – Logan
In the age of superhero movies, it’s easy to either dismiss them entirely or overstate the genre’s importance. The fact is that most of these films feel like they’re a dime a dozen, and the few that do garner serious critical consideration are often noted for rejecting the conventions of its predecessors.
Logan managed to thread the needle of embracing its history while incorporating fresh elements, giving audiences a gritty, western superhero film that succeeded on a variety of levels. If you wanted berserker Wolverine, you got that. If you wanted more of the series’ longstanding social commentary, you got that, too. And if you’re tired of people in costumes battling global threats, then you’re in luck, because there’s none to be seen.
Instead, Logan structured itself as a character piece, casting Wolverine as an aging gunslinger and finding surprising parallels between Hugh Jackman’s 17-year journey as the X-Men’s enforcer and those weary, brooding figures of cinema history. It was a thoughtful embrace of the best the X-Men series has to offer without being afraid to push the story to new heights. So yes, it was a superhero film, and it was one of the best the genre has ever produced.
The rest of Emily’s top ten: The Levelling, Columbus, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Dunkirk, Jane, School Life, Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird, Graduation
Andrew Winter – Elle
Paul Verhoeven serves up a provocative, problematic black comedy/revenge fantasy, which sees Isabelle Huppert’s icy CEO Michèle Leblanc raped in her Paris apartment before commencing a strange and erotically charged game of cat and mouse with her attacker.
It’s a divisive film that no one seems to entirely agree upon. Is it suggesting that women enjoy sexual violence? Or is it an anti-rape statement skewering the male need to subjugate difficult, powerful women? Elle entertains both notions, but seeks to discuss them as part of something else – the way in which his characters exploit, degrade and hurt each other on a regular basis, and how such behaviour ultimately coarsens and cheapens their relationships and society in general.
On the surface, Elle is only a short walk from the likes of Basic Instinct (director Paul Verhoeven’s 1992 movie starring Sharon Stone), but it’s a far more complex and rewarding work than that, helped by Huppert’s total immersion in one of modern cinema’s most unreadable characters. Based on the novel Oh… by Philippe Djian, Verhoeven’s film is really about violation, sexual assault being the most extreme form of that.
Most of the characters here are ghastly – from the cheating husband of Michèle’s best friend to the gold-digging gigolo who moves in with her mum, from the sleazy meme guy in her office to Michèle herself, a rape victim who, in her day job, develops a video game containing repulsive images of sexual assault.
The veteran Dutch director’s point seems to be that his characters (and, by extension, we, the viewing public) step all over each other’s needs and feelings so much, all the time, that it has become normalised – almost a default setting. Eventually, we come to not just accept it and expect it, but perhaps even to like it. A chilling thought.
The rest of Andrew’s top ten: Manchester by the Sea, Get Out, Raw, The Florida Project, The Handmaiden, Moonlight, I Am Not A Witch, mother!, Personal Shopper
Tynan Yanaga – Dunkirk
I’m one of those inane individuals with self-deprecating humor and a head often stuck in the past. Thus, for a current release to truly pique my interest there must be something of real significance – be it subject matter, actor, or critical acclaim – to reel me in. I can be as fickle as the next person, but I will faithfully pursue a film by Christopher Nolan without question.
Dunkirk fit the bill this year as a period drama. However, with so many exquisite unfoldings, it proved to be vastly different than just about everything the famed director had ever accomplished. It was grand and ambitious, to be sure, but underneath that was a story that felt almost ridiculously simple. And certainly there was much involved technically, and the narrative does play with time. I’m not talking about any of that.
For me, Dunkirk magnificently stripped down what it was to be one of those British boys stranded on the beach like sitting ducks. The sheer magnitude of WWII gave way to a survival story that felt so very frail and human, but simultaneously a story of retreat was repurposed as a beacon of hope and a sounding cry of courage for an entire people.
Platitudes run deep, but this is indubitably a picture that becomes more than a mere splicing of images that paints a picture of war. Dunkirk is a visceral experience that plants you in the precise moment of import – and the mundane moments, too. It’s easy to blow it out of the water, but this might be Nolan’s finest achievement yet, and he shows no signs of slowing down. Thank goodness.
The rest of Tynan’s top ten: Wonder Woman, Silence, Get Out, Baby Driver, The Big Sick, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Blade Runner, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Film Inquiry’s Aggregate Top Ten
- Get Out
- Call Me by Your Name
- Lady Bird
- Blade Runner 2049
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
- A Ghost Story
- The Florida Project
- The Shape of Water / Wonder Woman
Those are our top films of 2017. Do you agree? Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments!
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