by GEOFF GEIB
1. Eastern Promises
The entire movie pulsates with an urgency and rage that belies its calm exterior and plays just a fraction under the surface. There is only so long before it will boil over and when it does, neither we nor the characters are truly prepared. At the core of the film is the exploration of identity, every character a wonder of complexity, as much a creation of their own minds as anything else. An outstanding lead performance from Viggo Mortensen drives the most challenging, layered, intricately constructed, and as a result, best film of the year.
Brilliant psychological exploration of obsession, David Fincher’s pseudo-serial killer film focuses on three men, all of whom suffer terribly from their inability to reconcile their own personal failings with the existence of a killer who cannot be caught.
3. No Country For Old Men
A magnificent adaptation of the novel, the movie moves lyrically through its themes while relentlessly punishing its heroes. The Coen brothers are so very good at paying homage to their favorite genres, their films sometimes devolve into an impressive exercise, rather than an ultimately satisfying, self-contained movie. No such worry here. At the height of their powers with excellent source material, the movie is a haunting exploration of evil and our place in a world where such men are unavoidable.
Yes, there are flaws. The movie is too long and the desire to pay homage to the original film negates a measure of its overall effectiveness, but these are small complaints and pale before what is a stunning achievement in a genre that has seemingly become mired in either the ‘torture porn’ camp or the equally problematic post-modern shtickiness begun by Scream a dozen years ago. This is the best slasher film since A Nightmare on Elm Street.
5. Hot Fuzz
Wonderfully clever and silly, this loving assault on high-octane American action movies strikes exactly the right chord from beginning to end. A trifle long, but Simon Pegg, who was so very good in Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, carries the film when it lags.
6. The Savages
Laura Linney was similarly captivating as Mark Ruffalo’s sibling in You Can Count On Me, and here she pairs with Phillip Seymour Hoffman to give a superb depiction of an adult relationship between a pair of over-educated siblings in the throes of mid-life crises.
7. Alpha Dog
From the moment the opening credits hit the screen, the movie spirals out of control at an alarming rate and while we long to change the inevitable, we are as powerless as the characters on screen to alter the outcome. Bleak, melancholy and deeply affecting.
8. The Lookout
An exceptionally strong script from Scott Frank, but the film makes the list for the tremendous lead performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Following his equally impressive work in 2005’s Brick, Gordon-Levitt is eminently watchable without being showy in a role that could easily have seduced an actor into overplaying the part.
It’s not Sayles’ best film by a long shot, but like all of his films, it creates a world that stands on its own before we arrive and will continue long after we leave. It is our pleasure to simply pass through for a few days, and combined with a strong performance from the criminally underrated Charles Dutton and excellent music, it sneaks into the top ten.
10. The Bourne Ultimatum
It is a relentless assault on our hero and our senses as director Paul Greengrass refuses to let the camera or the story rest for a minute. If the script were up to the same level, this would rocket up the list.