A plane filled with Alaskan oil field workers heading for the States crash lands somewhere in the frozen wilderness, but as if the crash, starvation and frostbite aren’t worries enough they’ve also found themselves the target of a hungry pack of wolves. Liam Neeson leads the survivors in a desperate bid to reach civilization before becoming prey to their lupine stalkers. This was advertised as an action-packed, man vs wolf thriller, and while there’s some exciting action to be found here what makes the film a contender eleven long months after its release is its heart and humanity. It’s both masculine and tender, and while director Joe Carnahan has shown himself to be an entertaining-enough director before this introspective and yes, beautiful, film is a pleasant and powerful surprise. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD now]
A boy and a girl run away from their respective homes to start a new life together. Sure they don’t go very far, they don’t even leave the island where they reside, but it’s a grand childhood adventure all the same. Writer/director Wes Anderson returns to form (after two good but somewhat flawed films) with this visual and tonal gem that highlights all of his strengths with beauty, wit and charm. The supporting cast is as good as it gets (and would win a three way tie with Argo and Lincoln) including Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Bruce Willis. It’s a stylized look at childhood to be sure, but Anderson and his two leads still manage to make it recognizable and potent. [Available on Blu-ray/DVD now]
An easily corrupted customs official (Choi Min-sik) climbs the ranks of the Korean crime syndicates through some unexpected methods, but even if he reaches the top will he be able to hold onto it? The answer seems to be a resounding no in this blackly comic mob film from South Korea. Choi has been somewhat absent from cinema the past few years, but his return here shows he’s still at the top of his game as he delivers a performance that deftly moves from bumbling fool to ruthless bastard with the flick of his eyes. Yun Jong-bin‘s film is funny and violent, but it’s also a history lesson of sorts about the country’s relatively recent past and an exploration of identity through ambition and accident. Fans of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas will find much to enjoy here.
Oslo, August 31st
A young man leaves an institution ostensibly cured of the depression and addiction that put him there, but his next twenty four hours (and a failed suicide attempt hours before leaving) hint that his greatest struggle is still to come. Director Joachim Trier has crafted an incredibly heartbreaking yet undeniably beautiful film about one man’s battle with an overwhelming sadness, and Anders Danielsen Lie delivers a performance filled with pain and angst. His genius though is in the brief glimpses of hope and happiness fighting to reach the surface. It will leave you broken. This list is alphabetical, but if it was ranked there’s no doubt that this film would be at number one. No other film has stuck with me as strongly, [Available on DVD now]