Lego figures, aliens, talking apes, pubescent teenagers, smashing robots, Hobbits, murderous spouses, war heroes, slaves and billionaires – just some of the characters we’ve come across in 2014 in the cinema. There was the usual rough with the smooth, the cold turkeys and the soaring successes, with many box office bonanzas. But now to narrow it down to a few, Platform brings its top 5 films of 2014.
5. Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is showing no sign of yielding with Guardians, stuffed with showcase spectacle, self-deprecating and snappy irreverence performed with plenty of energy. There is a throbbing warmth of nostalgia throughout, with its retro themed soundtrack and the undeterred, earnest, beating heart, the likes of which many audiences compared to when they watched Star Wars for the very first time all those years ago. I don’t believe it’s the finest of Marvel’s films, but it’s wonderful to see that they can introduce a whole bunch of new characters and sprawling environments and pull it off so professionally without neglecting anyone or anything. Bravo.
4. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
This is what summer blockbusters should be like. Whereas a lot of Hollywood blockbusters (well not a lot, mainly the ones from meat headed directors COUGH Michael Bay COUGH) tend to just start big, loud and stupid and stay big loud and stupid for about 3 hours, DOTPOTA builds and builds and builds, offering plenty of astonishing visual effects and mesmerizing performances and ends in a hugely satisfying sprawl. Andy Serkis, through Apes, King Kong, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has shown us how to be a true physical and emotive performer. The performance capture technology used for the apes is of breath-taking brilliance that to call it simple motion capture would be an insult. And with a story that is this strong and remains faithful to the original Apes series, yet artistically goes beyond what anyone would expect from a summer blockbuster, what we have here is a near masterpiece of mainstream cinema.
Christopher Nolan has proven yet again that he has no boundaries when it comes to ambitious film making. Interstellar is a sensational cinematic experience, posing many questions, ideologies, melancholic family drama and sweeping crisp spectacle. What some may have taken issue with is the fact that what Nolan is doing here is throwing in a more sentimentality in the form of family love and that is getting in the way of the science and space travel spectacular. I personally don’t feel that the sentimentality is a problem – the near 3 hour film deftly mixes the two together to bring about the humanist side to the end of the world and all the space time dimension stuff which is near mind bending. It’s a film of two key ingredients amongst other contributory items. The two ingredients work, and they work together rather well. It’s just shy of a masterpiece like Inception, but it’s just a couple of minor plot holes and slightly confusing elements that bring it down from that. But when all things considered and the journey that it will take people on, you must ask yourself at the end of it all; do you really care? In this case, I couldn’t in the slightest. Blimey Charlie, wow.
2. Under The Skin
A film so simple, so crisp and cold, yet so compelling. Every single frame of the film feels like it took an hour in the editing room, with scenes of silence so deafening the eardrums seem to rattle with nothingness. Scarlett Johansson resembles Ryan Gosling’s character from Drive, very little dialogue, in a world she doesn’t anticipate to turn against her so violently, but never letting any emotional strength leave her. Occasionally it does feel directionless, a little too many scenes of blank staring, but when the imagery is as powerful as this, it’s hard to complain. The score is also a breathless piece of craftsmanship – eerie, scratchy, and melodramatic, and it carries the sensation of streaking coldness through every cell in your body. The whole film is like a sprawling canvas of minimal bleakness, and you’re so swept up by it all, it’s easy to forget that you’re watching Scarlett Johansson, a huge film star and sex symbol, and go along with her as a pure and new heroin. Expect no explosions of fire or heaps of dialogue, just enveloping crispness.
1. Gone Girl
As an audience member who hasn’t read the book, the film is a sensation in its dark indulgence, and provides a vivacious showcase for its two lead stars. Cliché as it may be to say that a film keeps you guessing throughout, but this does just that. Over its 148 minutes running time the film never feels stretched, boring or overlong – it takes its time, systematically building up a portfolio for both characters, occasionally hinting that you should choose a side in the struggle. Whether you should feel sympathy for the man who is being berated by the media for supposedly killing his wife, or to warm to the missing Amy through flashbacks and diary entries in which she documents the meeting, marriage and total collapse in trust, and even fear of her husband. Though the film never decisively takes a side, and never presents clearly the right party to side with, it provides you with enough melodrama to decide for yourself. The performances from Affleck and Pike are excellent – I am no fan of Ben Affleck, and I probably still won’t react well to his portrayal of Batman in 2016, but this seems to play to his acting style. Nick never gives too much emotion away, always being subtle and withdrawn with a distinct lack of empathy or concern (something Affleck has been good at doing in most films he’s starred in), and in this case, he feels like a strong casting choice. Pike brings forward her icy dominance to a woman who is sick of her husband and generally fearful – it almost appears as though Fincher is pushing her to her breaking point, but Pike handles the assault rather well, and never lets any cracks show. David Fincher reaches into the dark depths of a twisted relationship, and brings forth lavishly twisted thrills in a way only he can do so brilliantly, and the legacy of a much loved book is captured beautifully on the big screen, bringing the best out of the story, the characters, and the performers.