Films of 2021

Matt 1 min read

My film watching has shifted considerably during the pandemic, it used to be heavily biased towards the cinema, but streaming features more heavily in my top 10 this year and I watched all but two of these films at home first.

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#1. The Power of the Dog - An undeniable standout film for this year, or any year, has Benedict Cumberbatch tearing up trees as a toxically repressed and intellectual ranch owner in 1920’s America. I was fascinated to watch the relationship between brothers Phil and George coupled with beautiful scenery and a soundtrack from Jonny Greenwood. Watch this.
#2. Nomadland - I had read an article about the ‘houseless’ workers of the US who travel around taking casual or contract work whilst living ‘off grid’, but I wasn’t sure this would be a good ‘story’.Chloé Zhow made work, with a superb performance from Frances McDormand as Fern, who loses her job and decides to buy a motorhome and travel the MidWest in search of work. It’s a beautiful story, tough in places and a good reminder of what it takes to enable the way we chose to live.
#3. Another Round - A very funny Danish film, following the story of four teachers who decide that life would be much better lived if they were slightly ‘buzzed’ on booze, all the time. As the scientifically tracked alcohol levels creep up, so do the inevitable challenges. Mads Mikkelsen takes the lead, but the whole cast make this a hilarious, and touching journey.
#4. Dune - I can’t take my eyes away from Timotheé Chalamet on the screen, there is something otherworldly going on.  It’s just as well, because this Denis Villeneuve space epic is the perfect place for him. Amazing cast, stellar backdrops and an extraordinary storyline are only half the story here - with the second part coming out in 2023. Oh the Zimmer soundtrack is awesome. I can’t wait.
#5. No Time to Die - This was one of the trips to the cinema, Imax screen in Dublin, jabbed and masked, but worth the effort and inconvenience because its Bond.  And he was back. It could have been a disaster, we waited so long to see it the anticipation was very high, but even a delayed Bond is a landmark film occasion. I loved every minute, it had everything I wanted in a Bond film, including great turns from Ana De Armas, Lea Seydoux and a proper baddie in Rami Malik.  Seeing Daniel Craig bow out from the franchise bought a lump to my throat, but I’m excited to see what happens to 007 next.
#6. The Last Duel - The latest release on this list, only out a couple of weeks ago but an absolutely excellent medieval punch-up set in 1400’s France. This tells a true story of trial by armed combat in a duel between Jean des Carrouges (Matt Damon) and his one time friend Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). Of course, it’s all about love, in the shape of Marguerite, brilliantly played by Jodie Comer. With Ridley Scott on director duties, it had some epic battle scenes and a final duel that took my breath away.
#7. The French Dispatch - I enjoy Wes Anderson films, of course for the amazing casts and the funny stories, but most of all for the quirky way that everything looks on screen. The French Dispatch is no different,  telling the story of the foreign bureau of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun newspaper and set in Ennui-sur-Blasé.This was the second trip to a Cinema to see something this year, and it didn’t disappoint - laugh out loud funny from the start to the end. Standout performances from Benecio del Toro and Lea Seydoux in the first act.  Brilliant stuff.
#8. Ammonite - I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting this to be great, but Saturday night streamers can’t always be choosers. However, I was very pleasantly surprised.  Ammonite tells the (trueish) story of Mary Anning, a fossil hunter in Dorset and her relationship with Charlotte (Saoirse O’Ronan), the wife of a local geologist. It’s a lovely film, focused on an intense but sheltered relationship and accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack from Dustin O’Halloran and Volker Bertlemann.
#9. The Father - I saw the play this was based on at the Wyndham Theatre in about 2015, starring the incredible Kenneth Cranham, so I started this a little bit worried that a new cast might spoil my memory. I needn’t have worried, Anthony Hopkins does a terrific job, supported by Olivia Colman, Mark Gatiss and others in a lovely (and troubling) story about a man suffering from Alzheimers. In places it is hysterical, and in others it left me drained, as we watch a proud man unravelling before us.  Hopkins plays the title role with dignity and power and Olivia Colman is wonderful.
#10. The Dig - This crept up a bit unexpectedly and was streamed on a damp winter lockdown night when we ‘couldn’t find much else’. It’s a gentle film, about the archaeological discovery of a viking ship on a Suffolk Estate in wartime England. There is a lovely cast, and a great story but what really got me was the beautiful shots of a bucolic English landscape despite the impending war. Carey Mulligan is excellent, Ralph Fiennes plays the old-school excavator alongside a good supporting ensemble. This might not have had the hype of many of 2021’s films, but it’s a cracker nonetheless.
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