I think it’s been a great year for film and have found it really difficult to come up with a final list of 10. There are a number of significant films that I haven’t got round to seeing yet that I am sure would also have been big contenders for the 10 (Tree Of Life, Melancholia, We Need To Talk About Kevin, Take Shelter, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy to name but 5!).
I have already compiled a top 10 list for bobbysix.com but have revised that slightly having rewatched one of the films and watched a film I hadn’t seen at the time of writing that list. I have also decided to remove the rankings as I don’t really think putting them in an order really means anything and is likely to change every time I think about it. Let’s just say they are 10 films I saw and loved this year and if you haven’t seen them yet then maybe you should.
I’m the first to admit it’s not the most cheery of lists but I do tend to veer towards the dark and dismal when it comes to films (it must be my inner Bergman). Having said that Attack The Block, The Guard and Troll Hunter are good fun and Submarine whilst having distinctly melancholy moments is essentially a comedy. Snowtown, Kill List and Tyrannosaur on the other hand are among the three bleakest films I have ever seen in my life. Snowtown in particular, whilst stunning, was a particularly gruelling watch. Kill List absolutely twisted my head and is still taking up significant head space as I only watched it a few days ago. The Future was a pleasant surprise and whilst Miranda July’s peculiar brand of whimsical avant garde may not be to everyones taste it works for me. Small Town Murder Songs was another surprise with an incredible performance from Peter Stormare. Drive was the standout film of the year for me. Nicolas Winding Refn has been making exceptional films under the radar for several years now. Bronson and Valhalla Rising in particular are spectacular. Let’s hope that Drive will see him propelled into the big time and he continues to make films as breathtakingly stylish as this.
So in no particular order here are my ten favourite films of 2011.
Ben Wheatley’s much talked about Kill List is a dark, claustrophobic and disorientating journey into hell. It follows the descent into madness of Jay, a man haunted by the violence he has seen and committed both as a soldier in Iraq and in his post military career as a hit man for hire. Whether that descent into madness is internal or external is not clear and I will leave that up to you to decide. What is not in doubt though is that this is visceral, gut-wrenching, low budget film making at it’s very best.
The film starts relatively normally as a tale of domestic disintegration as Jay is still struggling to come to terms with a botched job 8 months previously. The largely improvised dialogue and handheld verite style of the film place it firmly in the British social realist genre of Leigh, Loach and Meadows. Things soon start to take a turn for the weird as Jay and his partner take on a mysterious new job. It is at this point that the film really comes into it’s own as an exercise in creating a claustrophobic and unsettling atmosphere. Jay starts to unravel as things get increasingly out of hand and escalate towards a truly horrifying and upsetting denouement. Whether we are to take the events of the film literally or as some kind of manifestation of Post Traumatic Stress I am not sure and ultimately it does not really matter as for me it works either way. It is clear though that Wheatley has crafted a highly original and unsettling film that will undoubtedly become a cult classic in years to come.
Some have criticised Kill List as 2 different films clumsily welded together but the move from thriller to horror in the final part of the film is a masterstroke and left me reeling despite expecting this change of focus. It will not be for all tastes and indeed some of the people I watched it with absolutely hated it. What cannot be denied though is that love it or hate it Kill List will stay with you long after it has finished.