We’ll keep it simple this year, with my favourite films of 2016, starting with…
1. Arrival – Yes its an unusually intelligent science fiction film with adult themes, terrific acting and direction, wonderful cinematography and a novel and disturbing score. But its my number one film from this year simply because it was such a gut-wrenching emotional experience for me. The film will not connect with everyone the same way, but I’m certain anybody who has loved and lost and experienced the pain of that, will find something oddly cathartic about the central question behind this film. If you knew ahead how things will turn out, how much pain and tragedy your life and the choices you make will bring, would you still go through with it, still make those same choices? Its a profound and soulful question with a profound and soulful answer for many. And all this from a science fiction film depicting alien contact, the same central plot so abused by Independance Day and Transformers and so many other silly spectacles .Arrival is a special film, and for me a special cinematic experience. Film Of The Year, no question.
2. The Revenant– Back when I saw this at the start of the year in early January, I figured this was it, I’ve just seen the Film Of The Year already. For several months,it clearly was, as it was on a different level to everything else I saw. The Revenant looks utterly gorgeous, has a haunting score, some great performances… I came out of the cinema feeling rather shell-shocked. It’s an example of what Doug Trumbull used to call Pure Cinema, a visual and aural feast, and incredibly powerful on the big screen. It isn’t quite so amazing on the small screen but its still certainly the second-best film I’ve seen this year. Most years it indeed would have been Film Of The Year, it just got ambushed by Arrival from out of nowhere.
3. Rogue One– It has occurred to me that Rogue One may be a case of diminished expectations following The Force Awakens resulting in my enjoying this film far more than I might ordinarily have, but it remains a great Star Wars film (my third favourite in fact). Its not perfect but you have to applaud the audacity of putting a cgi Peter Cushing onscreen with a bigger role than he actually had in Episode 4, and the sheer ambition of making such a love-letter to the 1977 film in the guise of a Disney blockbuster. The fan-service may have been a little overcooked but to me it all feels more natural and less calculated than The Force Awakens (the latter film doesn’t ever ‘earn’ the death of Han Solo, it simply dumps it onscreen to apparently fulfill contractual obligations to get Harrison Ford back). I’d much rather a Star Wars take chances like Rogue One does (and The Empire Strikes Back decades before it) than strike such a safe path as The Force Awakens (and Return Of The Jedi and all) did. I rather think the standalone ‘Anthology’ films might prove more rewarding than the main saga entries if only because they have more freedom to take those chances. In anycase, it’s my third favourite film of 2016, not what I would have expected after The Force Awakens rather disappointed me.
And there you have it, my favorite three films of 2016.