Top 10 Best Films of 2015

Well, we’re already at the end of 2015. And so, like every other film reviewer, it is customary for a Top 10 list of the best and worst films this year. This list is the best of 2015.

A few rules before I start, only films I’ve reviewed will be appearing on this list, so if you’re looking for a certain film and it isn’t on here, that’s why. Also, this list doesn’t take into account my scores. So a film that scored an 8 or 9 maybe in a higher position on the list than one that has a 10. It happens, I might have just liked a film more after I had written the review. But anyway, let’s get on with it. Some honorable mentions that didn’t make the list;

Amy
Blackhat
Paper Towns
Wild

And now for the rest…

10.

It was a toss up between this and Amy, but after thinking about it I found more enjoyment in Steve Jobs. Standout performances from Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet and Seth Rogen, a fun and witty script by Aaron Sorkin that manages to be easy and entertaining for the most tech-phobic person to understand.

9.

2015 was a great year for animation, and there are at least two films on this list that show the diversity that was the animation choices this year. Number nine, Song Of The Sea is beautifully crafted and tells a sweet and simple story filled with giants, owls and fairies set in Ireland. It’s going to be one that will be remembered as a standout in future years.

8.

This film threw me when I first saw it. My thoughts when coming out of the cinema were around a 5/10, but after pondering on it, it became one of my favorites of the year, it’s Sicario. Dark, disturbing and sometimes sickening, it’s also a great action thriller, with a standout role for Benicio Del Toro. Director Denis Villenueve seems to be on a roll for creating suspenseful films and Sicario cements his already great resumé.

7.

A recent one, it’s nevertheless a great film. Spielberg comes back to us with Bridge of Spies, and shows he’s still one of the greatest directors living today. In a year filled with spies (Man From U.N.C.L.E., Kingsman and SPECTRE) Bridge Of Spies takes away the bombastic set pieces and brings it down to tense tradeoffs of enemy spies in snowy Berlin. It’s still in the cinema at the time of writing, so if you haven’t had the chance, it’s a great choice to go see.

6.

This was a little closer to the top four when I first made this list and I still think it being on this list will produce a few arguments in my house over whether it was actually that good. But damn it, I love James Bond, and SPECTRE was just what I was asking for. Every other Craig era Bond film has been a character redefining piece, so it’s nice for SPECTRE to get back to the series traditions. Add the gunbarrel, the impressive four-minute shot of the Day of the Dead and Lea Seydoux in one of the best Bond Girl roles since Diana Rigg, for me it’s one of the years best.

5.

John Wick was one of the earliest films I reviewed in 2015, but I had been waiting for it for so long and it still delivered under the intense amount of hype. It was full of everything I love, martial arts, practical stunts and Keanu Reeves. It has a simple set-up for a story, which is just fine since we are here for the gunfights and punch-ups, with the nightclub scene being on a par with the excellent nightclub shootout from Collateral. Like I said in my review, if you’re a fan of The Raid or it’s sequel, John Wick is more of the same.

4.

Four is Brooklyn, the second film to come from the Irish Film Board this year that appears on this list. A trans-Atlantic love story written by Nick Hornby and starring up and comers Saorise Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen, it’s heartfelt and sweet, without descending into mawkish Nicolas Sparks style storytelling. Brooklyn stands up there with Calvary, widely considered to be the greatest Irish film ever made.

3.

Inside Out has been appearing on many other peoples Best-Of 2015 lists, and it deserves all of the praise it gets. An inventive premise, that manages to tackle some incredibly dark topics for what is meant to be a kids film. Inside Out shows why Pixar is Pixar, and everyone else is everyone else.

2.

After starting The Student Film Review, I’ve been going to as many films as I can. Films that I wouldn’t have even looked twice at I’ve gone to and in doing so I’ve found some absolute crackers. Precinct Seven Five is one of those films. 2015 has had some good documentaries but for me Precinct Seven Five takes it. Essentially a real-life Scorsese film, the film follows two cops in the 75th Precinct in New York as they decide to become both criminals as well as cops. It’s amazing and shows that documentaries can be more pulse pounding than some action films.

1.

I ummed and ahhed over whether to give number one to this or Precinct Seven Five. But I ultimately gave it to this since it gave me a much more visceral thrill after watching it than Precinct Seven Five, or really any other film did this year. My number one for 2015 is Macbeth. Michael Fassbender (for the second time on this list) and Marion Cotillard give amazing performances, while director Justin Kurzel creates some beautiful shots and brother Jed Kurzel brings a stellar soundtrack. The quartet take one of the most adapted plays of William Shakespeare and turn it into a brooding and violent war epic. It just goes to show that sometimes the best stories are the old ones.

 

I guess that’s it for 2015. I’m Tom, The Student Film Critic and welcome to 2016!

Read the contrasting post on the Top 10 Worst Films of 2015!

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Bridge Of Spies Review

Steven Spielberg is hands down one of the greatest working directors in the world. Known as the Master of Dreams, Spielberg’s films often work over generations of movie-goers, speaking to something in every single member of the audience. Does his new film, Bridge Of Spies, have the same viewer-spanning watch-ability as his others?

Bridge Of Spies stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Austin Stowell, Jesse Plemons and Mikhail Gorevoy and is directed by Steven Spielberg. The film follows the real life story of James Donovan (Hanks) who is tasked with negotiating an exchange of spies from both sides during the height of the Cold War.

It wasn’t going to be too much of an ask that the acting be great, and each actor duly deserves the praise. Tom Hanks plays the usual “super-dad” role that he is known for, as well as showing a rugged toughness in some scenes that hasn’t been seen from him since Road To Perdition. His interactions with Mark Rylance are very well written and performed, even if Rylance’s accent hops all about the British Isles, before heading over to Eastern Europe.

Good acting is one thing, but it can only go so far. Luckily the script is one of Spielberg’s best, managing to create tension just by characters talk to each other over different sides of a table. The Coen Brothers have a credit on the script, and just like a lot of their other penned works, is full of great conversation set-pieces and filled to the brim with dark humour. Several scenes in the film had the screening I was in fill with laughter at some rapid-fire jokes at the Donovan household. This isn’t a sombre Spielberg film in the mould of Schindler’s List, Bridge Of Spies knows when to have its serious discussions and when it can have a bit of a laugh with the audience, with a repeated line by Rylance being an absolute favourite.

While the first half of the film is spent in New York, with the discovery of KGB agent Rudolf Abel (Rylance) the second half and the pulse-pounding finale take place in snow-blinded Berlin. It’s a great setting for any film, let alone a spy thriller, and calls to mind many of the other great spy thrillers of the period. The finale, set on the Glienicke Bridge, is a tense standoff as both parties try and weasel what they want out of the exchange, with a subtle hinted doom for one of the characters.

The soundtrack, by Thomas Newman (of Skyfall/SPECTRE fame) is what makes the film truly great. The inclusion of Newman’s score in specific areas turn good scenes into beautifully atmospheric ones, all it needs is the inclusion of a few bars of music. The soundtrack is heavily inspired by the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer, and sounds very much like the latter composer’s Spielberg collaboration, The Pacific. As usual, I’m listening to it as I write the review and I’m still as blown away as I was when I first heard it in the cinema.

My only real bug bears with the film are linked together, and are to do with the story/length. Bridge Of Spies is 141 minutes, and for someone like me who likes films to have a sense of brevity, it’s punishing. There are some scenes that bring up a certain dilemma that is never brought up again, and some scenes that go on for way too long. The story could have been cut down but, as usual for a historical film, scenes were probably kept in to preserve the true events that the film is based on.

In summary, Bridge Of Spies is not only a great Spielberg film, it’s a great spy thriller and character piece. Not all spy films these days have to be about sophisticated suave men (and women) blowing up extravagant villain’s hideaway lairs, Spielberg shows us it can be just as tense and as exciting watching them work together to get their men back home.

Score: 8/10 A soaring soundtrack, amazing actors and full of clever conversations, Spielberg’s done it again.