Films of the Year – 2013
December 31, 2013 Leave a comment
2013 saw Marvel begin Phase Two of its cinematic universe, biopics of Abraham Lincoln, James Hunt and Princess Diana, and adaptations of many beloved books. London was destroyed, rebuilt, then destroyed again; Planet Earth was overrun by zombies, doppelganger robots from outer space and inter-dimensional Kaiju; and filmmakers took us to Oz, the stone age and Paris Hilton’s bedroom.
Overall, and with notable exceptions including Movie 43, Man Of Steel and The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, it was a pretty good year, and one that was as full of guilty pleasures as it was films worthy of recognition. Some were inevitable better than others, however, and of those released in 2013 here are the ten that I’d rate highest of all, along with 11-20 for good measure.
Neill Blomkamp’s eagerly anticipated follow-up to District 9, Elysium is every bit as intelligent and innovative as its predecessor. It also benefits from a bigger budget, a larger cast and a protagonist that it is actually possible to sympathise with. This is once again sci-fi at its smartest and most spectacular, and Blomkamp’s film is as remarkable for its handling of themes of exploitation and overpopulation as it is for its stunning set pieces, of which there are many.
9. RED 2
It’s probably the most left-field entry on this list, but for me RED 2 was for my money (or Unlimited Card) the most entertaining action movie of the year. Based on Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner’s comic book series of the same name, and a sequel to the 2010 original, RED 2 reunites Bruce Willis, Mary Louise-Parker, John Malkovich and Helen Mirren, only this time giving them material worthy of their talents. Funny, action-packed and — thanks to new addition Byung Hun-Lee — very, very cool, the film is a joy from start to finish.
It’s been a long time since Disney produced an animation worth shouting about; Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph were both fun, but neither could realistically be counted among the studio’s many classics. Frozen, on the other hand, is as good as any other, and manages to bring the fairytale formula into the 21st Century without resorting to Shrek-level parody. The animation is breathtaking, the characters are unusually complex and the songs are superb, and no other animation studio produced a film this year that came close to matching Frozen in terms of quality.
2013 was the year that Steve Coogan finally brought Alan Partridge to the big screen, but it was also the year that he proved himself as a serious and talented dramatic actor. He won praise for What Maisie Knew and The Look Of Love (in addition to TV’s The Trip), but it was his role as disgraced journalist Martin Sixsmith in Philomena that really showed what he could do. Starring opposite Dame Judi Dench, the film saw Coogan’s character travel to America in order to track down the lost child of Philomena Lee.
Although many compared it to Adventureland upon its release, The Way, Way Back is a far more interesting proposition. Newcomer Liam James plays Duncan, a ‘four’ who is vacationing in Cape Cod with his mother and her boyfriend. It’s a difficult watch, at least until Duncan interns at Water Wizz and meets Sam Rockwell’s park owner, at which point the character — and film — begin to soften. Ultimately, The Way, Way Back is a feel-good coming-of-age movie, but one that earns its laughs with real emotional graft.
For Those In Peril premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival in June, before opening theatrically in October. From first-time director Paul Wright, the film cuts between mediums in a fashion that is as poetic as it is hypnotic. Your reading of the film will determine whether you view George MacKay as protagonist or antagonist, but either way there is no denying the strength of his performance. What is most remarkable about For Those In Peril is its ending, however, and for that reason more than any other that the film ranks so highly on this list.
It’s been another incredibly strong year for documentaries, with both Fire In The Night and We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks proving worthy of mention. Undoubtedly the most powerful piece of all was Blackfish, which told the story of Tilikum, the infamous orca in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando that is believed to be responsible for a number of fatalities — allegations flatly denied by the park itself. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film is heartbreaking and horrifying, but is nevertheless essential viewing.
An adaptation of one of the most esteemed and enduring musicals ever written, Les Miserables was always going to struggle to do justice to its source material. Luckily, The King’s Speech director Tom Hooper was on hand to take the helm. The actors, singing live on set, bring an almost overwhelming potency of emotion to their performances, and the songs gain an immediacy and import that they might otherwise have lacked. It’s not all about the soundtrack, however, as the story’s scope allows it to impress in just about every other department as well.
A pared back narrative that follows two unfortunate astronauts as they drift helplessly through space in real-time, Gravity is one of the most ambitious and audacious movies of this year or any other. With long takes, a tiny cast and a subtle score, the latest film from Alfonso Cuaron is beautiful in its simplicity. As profound as it is thrilling, as beautiful as it is disorientating, Gravity really is something very special indeed, and deserved to be seen on the biggest screen possible, preferably in IMAX 3D.
1. Cloud Atlas
There was only one film this year that topped Gravity, and it couldn’t have been more different if it tried. At just under three hours in length, Cloud Atlas juggled six loosely connected narratives, starring the same core group of actors in a variety of roles (across age, race and gender), by cutting between them at irregular intervals — each edit chosen to maximise its dramatic as well as thematic potential. An independent movie with three directors (one of whom also helped to score it), Cloud Atlas not only adapts one of the most challenging novels of recent years, but does so in a way that is intelligent and incredibly cinematic.
11. Captain Phillips 12. Nebraska 13. The Kings Of Summer 14. The Impossible 15. Robot & Frank 16. Thor: The Dark World 17. The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug 18. Don Jon 19. The Wolverine 20. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2