Tom’s Top 5 Films of 2017:
5. John Wick: Chapter 2
If you’re like me, and your definition of perfection is watching Keanu Reeves violently murder wave after wave of faceless goons, then John Wick: Chapter 2 is – without a doubt – a perfect film. Throughout its 2 hour running time Keanu Reeve’s John Wick guns down, stabs, and runs over a total of 128 people. Losing one half of John Wick’s directing team (it’s just Chad Stahelski this time around) doesn’t seem to have affected the sequel – it’s somehow even crazier than the first one. When the final credits roll the total body count for the series has reached a glorious 205. Stahelski takes what made the first film such a hit (bone-crunching action, gallows humour, and unexpectedly brilliant world-building) and amplifies it up to 11. John Wick Chapter 2 is the best action movie of 2017 by far, and one of the best in recent memory. Most of this rests squarely at the feet of stuntman turned director Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves. As I wrote in my review of the film back in February; “the action direction and choreography is amazing; it’s leagues above what anyone else in US cinema is doing.”
4. Wind River
In the wake of 2017’s Weinstein controversy, one of the least talked about casualties was the years Weinstein-produced Taylor Sheridan neo-western; Wind River. While I couldn’t wait to see the back of the humanoid ogre Harvey Weinstein, it was a little sad to see this film get pushed to the background purely for having his name attached. Although the films all-too-real depictions of sexual abuse might have meant that was for the best, it still stands as a fantastic film and one of the years very finest. Director Taylor Sheridan had written one of the best films of the previous year too, the bleak heist thriller Hell or High Water. But taking the reins behind the camera this time he might have just outdone himself. With a talented cast including Elizabeth Olsen, Jon Bernthal, Gil Birmingham, and a never-better Jeremy Renner the film is both hugely entertaining and a stark and sobering portrait of life on the edge of America. The Academy will overlook this one come Oscar season – make sure you don’t.
3. The Disaster Artist
Who’d have predicted a film about the making of The Room would be a series Oscar contender and one of the absolute best films of the year? I certainly wouldn’t have done, especially back when my only exposure to the wacky world of Wiseau was through the Nostalgia Critic’s hilarious review. Based on the book of the same name by star Greg Sestero, The Disaster Artist see’s James Franco as Tommy, his brother Dave as Tommy’s best friend (the aforementioned Sestero) and a whole host of other celebrity faces including Seth Rogan, Alison Brie, Paul Scheer, Bryan Cranston, Josh Hutchinson, and Zac Efron (stealing the scene as drug dealer Chris-R). With James Franco also behind the camera directing, he has created something truly magical. Not only does it lovingly poke fun and everything the fans love about Tommy and The Room but it does so without ever being malicious. Maybe because Franco himself knows what it’s like to helm a bad movie, he treats Tommy and his friendship with Greg with heartwarming sincerity. Added to the fact that the film is also hilarious and you’ve got one of the best most enjoyable films of the year.
There have been a ton of fantastic superhero films this year but none will stick with you for as long as Logan. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful end to a fantastic character that transcends the superhero movie genre. The violence is ferocious and there’s enough swearing to make up for the 17 years of PG-13 language control, but the film uses the certificate in even darker ways. Even in the gloomiest and most pessimistic X-Men film (probably X-Men: The Last Stand) there was always hope. Good always won out and there was always a sliver of optimism before the credits rolled. But in Logan there are no miraculous last-minute saves. Charles Xavier isn’t magically resurrected into a different body after being killed, à la The Last Stand; he just bleeds to death, confused and scared. Director, James Mangold, delivers a beautiful final outing for star Hugh Jackman full pathos, bone-crunching action, and a little tiny glimpse of a hopeful future. Like losing an old friend, it’s sad to see the end of a character that’s been a huge part of the many people’s lives for almost 2 decades. But as Jack said in his review of the film earlier this year; “if he has to go, I can’t possibly think of a higher note to go out on than with the superb Logan.”
1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It was a struggle to decide what should go here, and I know for a fact that plenty of great movies got left out of the list altogether (Blade Runner 2049, Thor Ragnarok, mother!, It, Detroit, War for the Planet of the Apes, Baby Driver, Okja, Alien Covenant and plenty more). But in the end, my favourite film of the year also turned out to the one I was most looking forward to. The Last Jedi is not only the finest movie in the Star Wars canon since Empire, but it’s also the best movie of the year.
Following on from, but not always continuing, what JJ Abrams set up in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi pulls an Empire and has our heroes split up for most of the film. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is with the recently discovered Luke (Mark Hamill) on Achc-To while the others, namely Oscar Isaac and John Boyega’s Poe and Finn, are with the resistance and its leader, General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher). All the while, Supreme Leader Snoke’s The First Order and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren (the MVP of the series) are on the hunt for the Resistance and Skywalker. Director Rian Johnson manages to weave together these plotlines with expert skill and gives each character their own satisfying arcs. Some fans weren’t happy with certain outcomes or certain storylines but personally, I thought it all worked wonderfully. The Canto Bight stuff with Finn and newcomer Rose was especially fantastic, especially for a fan of the prequels, comics, and all of the extended lore stuff. It was undoubtedly a sub-plot but one that was vital to the film and the characters development. Plus it felt like an episode of The Clone Wars so I loved that.
Rian Johnson also managed to create some of the most beautiful scenes in the entire franchise. From Holdo’s kamikaze run to the back to back fight scene in Snoke’s chambers to Leia’s space-walk (hokey, corny, and awesome); I’m sure a lot of people’s favourite Star Wars moment will now be from this film. Add the once again brilliant John William’s score and plenty of EU nods, The Last Jedi might further replicate The Empire Strikes Back and become the best film in the trilogy. But for now, though, it’ll have to settle for just being the best film of the year.