10. GOD’S POCKET (dir. John Slattery)
An impressive and gripping feature debut from Mad Men‘s John Slattery.
“impeccable editing, whiplash choreography and top-notch silent acting”
9. THE IMITATION GAME (dir. Morten Tyldum)
Another gripping drama, this time taking on the life and work of Alan Turing, a groundbreaking codebreaker and father of the modern computer. Andrew Hodges’ biography Alan Turing: The Enigma has been expertly repurposed for the biopic genre by screenwriter Graham Moore.
This is a deserved celebration of Turing’s work which refuses to turn a blind eye to the prejudices he faced for his homosexuality, and features ten-out-of-ten performances from both Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley.
8. 12 YEARS A SLAVE (dir. Steve McQueen)
Almost a year on, the brutal and extensive scenes of violence in Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken look like a bald-faced attempt to emulate the unforgettable effect of McQueen’s masterpiece. This serves to emphasise the superiority of the earlier film, which is likely to be remembered for much longer.
“McQueen’s film is important because it unflinchingly presents horrible truths many would rather ignore and puts them into a cinematic context where we are forced to confront them”
7. PRIDE (dir. Matthew Warchus)
Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s film of the year is my number 7, and deserves to be nominated for the Best British Film BAFTA. Despite tough competition from the likes of Calvary and Starred Up below (as well as Locke at number 11), Pride is an unforgettable take on a heartwarming story.
National treasure Imelda Staunton brings some outrageous comedy, whereas Bill Nighy excels in a more touching and less comic role than any he’s taken on in recent years. As protagonist Joe, George MacKay proves he’s still on the up despite being pipped to the Rising Star award by Will Poulter at this year’s BAFTAs. Pride also introduced talented newcomer Ben Schnetzer as Mark, the leader of Pride‘s Lesbian and Gays Support the Miners group, who also appeared in this year’s The Riot Club.
Besides great acting and a cracking script, Pride demonstrated a pleasing knack for communicating elements of narrative and characterisation without need for obvious or weepily over-sentimental exchanges. The 1980s setting was evocatively realised, and clever use of repeated shots helped to convey both the story’s development and the progress of the characters’ cause.
6. CALVARY (dir. John Michael McDonagh)
Not only a film, but in its final act an unrelenting and emotionally taxing series of narrative blows, Calvary is a blackly comic small community character piece which tackles wrongdoings within the Catholic church in a way that’s totally different from 2013’s Philomena. Plus, it’s beautifully shot.
5. STARRED UP (dir. David Mackenzie)
In my eyes, Starred Up firmly cemented Jack O’Connell’s status as the most talented alumni of E4’s Skins, ahead of further impressive turns in ’71 and Unbroken.
As Eric Love, a young offender ‘starred up’ to adult prison, O’Connell is tough and threatening, but aptly captures Eric’s vulnerability as a small fish in a big pond, and as a victim of prison authorities’ melodramatic suspicions.
All the more powerful for it’s kitchen sink look, Starred Up is a rousing cry for convicts written off by the justice system.
4. DALLAS BUYERS CLUB (dir. Jean-Marc Vallée)
Dallas Buyers Club “masterfully avoids insincerity, sentimentality, and dialogue-as-exposition in favour of subtle storytelling”
3. MAPS TO THE STARS (dir. David Cronenberg)
Bruce Wagner’s screenplay elegantly combines strands of witty exposé of Hollywood lifestyles, professional ascent versus decay, and the implosion of LA family the Weiss’, set off by estranged daughter Agatha’s (Mia Wasikowska) return.
As the narrative draws to a close, it becomes a constellation of perfect and uncanny symmetry, melodramatic and unlikely, yet sold by the superlative performances of Wasikowska and Julianne Moore especially.
A five-star film filled with five-star performances.
“the slow-burning plot is flawless, opening with biting observation and dripping with insider references”
2. INTERSTELLAR (dir. Christopher Nolan)
So much more than just a sci-fi visual effects giant, Nolan’s expansive tale inspires emotion as well as awe, particularly in the IMAX format it was intended for.
“a suspenseful, emotive and intelligent movie-cum-essay which ingeniously posits an interpretation of Kubrick’s obscure art film [2001: A Space Odyssey] while entertaining in its own right”
1. BOYHOOD (dir. Richard Linklater)
My film of the year, thanks to the simple genius and brilliant execution of its central conceit, could go on to be the film of the decade.
Linklater has created a waltz through an American boyhood which both replicates and inverts the narrative experimentation of his Before trilogy, and shakes up one of the basic assumptions of contemporary filmmaking, that multiple actors are required to play a single character over a lengthy timespan.
“achieves the perfect balance of universality and specificity in constructing the childhood of Mason Jr. (Ellar Coltrane), resulting in a time capsule of experiences recognisable for an entire generation”
Time to have your say: vote here for your favourite film of 2014 (according to UK release dates).