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Director: Stefano Sollima Starring: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabel Moner, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Jeffrey Donovan, Catherine Keener Running Time: 122 minutes


It can’t hurt a film to have a little ambiguity from time to time. Three years ago, the uncompromising crime-thriller Sicario took us to the darkest corners of the greyest areas of the US-Mexican border, a place where Mexican cartels and the US government could compete to get up to the shadiest shit. It was an intense film with a considerable combination of talent: Denis Villeneuve combining to great effect with Roger Deakins to put the suffocating effect of the crime scene on screen, a great score by the gone-too-soon Jóhann Jóhannsson and a script by Taylor Sheridan that was seemingly very thoughtfully assembled; like an Apocalypse Now for America’s drug war. On screen, the talents of Emily Blunt dragged viewers down with her own sinking feelings, an FBI agent turned bystander to the morally ambivalent machinations of the Department of Justice, embodied by the casual hoo-ra “consultant” Matt Graver played by Josh Brolin and the mysterious, violent sicario Alejandro Gillick, played by Benicio Del Toro. They were up to something, it was no good, and there was noting Blunt could do about.

Something suspicious happened towards the end of Sicario though. A balance shift, a feeling that the film was becoming a bit too enamoured of its hitman for its own good. If Matt and Alejandro come out on top at the end, does that make it a downer ending or a triumph? Who is the main character of the film again? Emily Blunt’s conspicuous absence from the sequel Soldado might tell its own story. The boys are back in town. Sicario is not sending us it’s best people. In a fraught political environment, this sequel feels even less wanted, depending on which side of the fence you’re on.

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It has been a year. In 2017 there was a lot for film fans to contemplate, but in what they say on the screen and in the wider film business. Month after month, entertaining, challenging and interesting films found their way onto Irish screens, either from Hollywood or any number of our own talented Irish directors. It was a year where the sickeningly pervasive culture of abuse in cinema was thrust into the headlines by brave survivors no longer willing to suffer in silence. It was also a year in great filmmaking, where talented, diverse directors were given the opportunity to show their talent, several for the first time, where performances transported us just as believably to the far-off future, the underprivileged, overlooked present and even outside the fluid realm of time altogether. This is Film In Dublin’s list of the best films of 2017, the films that moved us, entertained us, opened our eyes and otherwise expressed everything that cinema is meant to be, in a year that showed that cinema doesn’t always achieve those lofty ideals behind the scenes.

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Director: Denis Villeneuve Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Jared Leto, Ana de Armas Running Time: 163 minutes


 

The advanced screening of Blade Runner 2049 and presumably, all advanced screenings of the film, began with a letter from the director, imploring those in attendance to keep tight lipped about the film’s various twists and turns, to “not spoil the magic”. And though there are plenty of spoilers that will, for the purposes of playing ball, be avoided in this review, Blade Runner and its sequel are not films about the plot details, not really. Despite the many story-changing cuts and decades of speculation and misleading trailers and advance screening advanced warnings, these are films whose true value lays not in the story beats but in the ideas and the images and everything else that a rogue tweet or a too-curious eye over a Wikipedia page cannot take away from you. From the outside, Blade Runner 2049 may look like yet another nostalgia cash-in, and an odd choice for one at that, but it’s no mere replicant of the original, providing a beautiful backdrop against which the series’ themes about identity, memory and autonomy are given further thought.

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Director: Denis Villeneuve Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker Running Time: 116 mins


Arrival is the kind of science fiction film you always hope for but rarely get. It is intelligent, moving and thought provoking; filled with grand ideas and epic imagery. At the risk of overselling it, it is the best sci-fi film of the year; perhaps even the best in recent memory. Based on the novel The Story of your Life by Eric Heisserer, Arrival is a decidedly human story – one that is thankfully confident and content enough with its ideas that it resists the temptation to devolve into mindless CGI spectacle.

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