Dec 28, 2011

Best movies of 2011: numbers 5 to 1

My review of films in 2011 trudges on like a troll through a Norwegian forest. See if you can guess which one of these top five films contains trolls and Norwegian forests. That's right. Tyrannosaur. Peter Mullan's furious about those damn trolls and those damn trees.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. See also 2010 and 2009.]

5 - Tyrannosaur

The terrifying driving instructor from Happy-Go-Lucky pushes Peep Show’s Sophie into the arms of My Name Is Joe, but not in a way you'd expect. A stunning directorial debut from Paddy Considine that slowly smudges your sympathies from black and white into grey. The violence is often more malevolent than just physical force so this is not a film for the faint-hearted. But hey, it's about a Christian working in a charity shop, so it's all light and fluffy, yeah?

4 - Source Code

Groundhog Day condensed to eight minutes. The extremely false set-up of Source Code makes Flight Of The Navigator look like Newsnight, but the time restriction lights a narrative touch-paper that produces a thrilling science fiction blockbuster that stimulates the intelligence and lies somewhere between Quantum Leap, Unstoppable and, um, 50 First Dates.

3 - Troll Hunter

“Troll!” Welcome to Cloverfjord where the Scandinavian troll legend is realised in its full CGI horror. Otto Jesperson’s deadpan poacher is as concerned with red tape as he is with the creatures he is hunting. A pseudo-documentary with black comedy teeth, this is a delight from start to finish and unlike anything else at the cinema this year. The bridge thing? Best film moment of 2011. Read more at Screen 150.

2 - Submarine

2011 was a brilliant year for British directorial debuts, but it’s Richard Ayoade (IT Crowd, Nathan Barley, Mighty Boosh, Darkplace) that takes the honours with a debut brought to us by him, Warp Films and Ben Stiller.

A geeky paranoid boy tries to solve his parents’ relationship problems whilst trying to hook up with the girl he both loves and fears. The girl in question is Yasmin Paige who withers more than Jeremy Paxman in a heatwave. A quotable script, a massive funny bone, great music and pitch-perfect visual motifs that return you to your own paranoid childhood (a fairground, a Polaroid camera, a kaleidoscope). The comedy of the year.

1 - Senna

A documentary is my film of the year.

So why should this share such a prestigious honour (hey, stop laughing) with Another Year (2010) and Where The Wild Things Are (2009)? Although I like formula one, Senna was before my time and so the film held no emotional pull for me as I walked into the flicks: in fact, I'm always apprehensive of sport in movies. What I experienced though was movie-making of the highest grade.

The film follows the racing star in the ten years leading up to his death, eschewing normal racing footage for intimate high-speed close-ups and behind-the-scenes tension. We see Senna the god but then Senna the battler as he falls foul of the authorities. As the film approaches its Titanic moment, the doom is played out with a cold steadiness that will either have you on the edge of your seat or cowering behind it. Because it’s not just Senna and Ratzenberger that were victims during that fateful weekend...

Senna tells a narrative and lets the racing take second place, and that's why it is such a triumph. It brings to mind not other sporting movies, but rockumentary Dig! which funnelled acres of doco footage into an equally compelling tale. Director Asif Kapadia clearly picked only certain elements of Senna's controversial life during his edit (there were 15,000 hours of footage), but he hasn't gone all Iron Lady on us. Instead, he has compellingly told a story that resonates through time. At 18,000rpm.

[This is part three. Click here for part one. Click here for part two. See also 2010 and 2009.]

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