It’s not easy narrowing the best films of the year down to 10, particularly when you’re looking for a consensus between 6 writers with different tastes, who have all seen a different number of films this year. We think we did a pretty good job all things considered, we hope you’d agree. But there’s always going to be a great movie or two missing out. In our personal best of 2016 lists that we used to find common ground, we each had a personal favourite that missed out, so we decided to give those films their due here. We open up the floor to you too Film In Dublin readers, were you scrolling frantically in search of Doctor Strange or writing an angry letter about the omission of 10 Cloverfield Lane? What was missing from our top 10 of 2016 list?
Train To Busan
This action packed Korean zombie film unfortunately didn’t receive a wide release here in Ireland. After catching a screening in The Lighthouse back in November however I can honestly say it may be the most fun I’ve had in the cinema all year.
Train To Busan is the best zombie movie since 28 Days Later was released back in 2002, but it’s also just a great movie in general – one that shows American blockbusters how it should be done. Effortlessly blending a variety of tones, Train To Busan is tense, cool, emotional, gory, and funny. Set almost entirely onboard a busy passenger train speeding across South Korea in the midst of a zombie outbreak, the film makes full use of its claustrophobic setting – filling its run-time with endlessly exciting and inventive sequences. Its aggressive rage-fueled undead manage to thrill and terrify in equal measure, as they contort their bodies and frantically hurl themselves towards their prey.
Like many Korean films Train To Busan is completely melodramatic and kind of hammy at times, but that’s all part of the fun! This is pure unfiltered entertainment, free from the meddling of Hollywood studio execs or franchise requirements. For zombie movie purists there are also just enough socio-political themes running through the film to count this among the best examples of what the genre has to offer. Train To Busan is one of 2016’s hidden gems and well worth catching up on when it inevitably hits Netflix or Blu-ray in the coming months. [Kelan O’Reilly]
Star Trek Beyond
Looking back at the bloodbath that was this year’s summer blockbusters there were very few clear winners. The normally lucrative period that was stacked to the rafters with failed franchise starters (Tarzan), tired superhero sequels (X-Men Apocalypse) and, well, Independence Day Resurgence. It was always going to be tough to find a gem in the rough, especially a contender for the Film in Dublin top 10 but Star Trek: Beyond came very close.
Coming off the back of JJ Abrams critically/fan savaged Star Trek: Into Darkness there was little hope for Beyond. Justin Lin of Fast and Furious fame wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice as successor to JJ Abrams and early trailers focusing on Captain Kirk Motorbike action only fanned the flames of concern amongst fans. Many people, myself included had been burnt by the mystery box shenanigans of Into Darkness and I had all but resigned myself to this being the last gasp of a dying franchise. Thankfully, I was wrong; the film, technically the 13th in the franchise, is an absolute wonder and easily the strongest of the new batch. Playing like a big budget episode of the TV show Beyond focuses on the crew as an ensemble, pairing them off for a bulk of the running time. This, thanks to some savvy fan friendly writing by Scotty himself Simon Pegg, gives the film that classic Trek feel that has been missing so far from the newer incarnation. It’s not that it tries to reinvent the franchise, but Pegg and Lin know Star Trek and they know that it is the characters that come first. It only took three movies but watching the cast settle into their roles is delightful, with the standout being the Spock-McCoy pairing. Lin knows how to stage thrilling action set pieces and here we get sequences that are exciting and fun; a combination that is increasingly rare looking back over the 2016 releases.
It would be a shame if the Trek Franchise were to come to a halt now. As we head into an uncertain 2017, we need the crew of the Enterprise now more than ever. In a world becoming increasing overcrowded by the need for gritty grim, big budget entertainment (Suicide Squad, Rogue One) there is something refreshingly simple about Star Trek: Beyond. [Robert Fitzhugh]
In a surprise box office hit of 2016, Zootropolis (Or Zootopia for our readers Stateside) made a whopping $1.02 Bn, only lagging behind fellow Disney products Finding Dory and Captain America: Civil War.
In recent years, Disney has expanded its image from strictly family-friendly, this comes after its acquisition of Lucasfilm and takeover of the Marvel Cinematic Universe but Zootropolis is a return to the company’s roots.
In what may have been an underwhelming year for film, Zootroplis was a breath of fresh air. Not just your basic kid’s film, what is unique about Disney is that they don’t sacrifice substance to aide their style.
Zootroplis is rare in that it is one large metaphor for society’s modern problems with racism and stereotyping and that is what struck me the most; Disney were successfully able to make a film that was accessible to kids but smart enough for the adults accompanying them to get something out of it too.
It may not have the catchy songs of Disney films of yesteryear but Zootropolis bravely delves into some of the deep rooted societal problems of the modern day. This could mark the beginning of a new era of animation. [Darragh Culhane]
The ‘long take’ phenomenon may seem like Hollywood’s newest fetish, however the idea has been around for years. Stretching back as far as Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope, long takes were created with the idea of helping to build tension in scenes, aiding the storytelling process and adding aesthetics to a piece of cinema. Although films such as Rope and, more recently, Birdman have somewhat cheated by piecing together long takes with some crafty editing and cinematography, Sebastian Schipper’s masterpiece Victoria reaffirms the original idea behind the long take method, utilising it to its full ability in order to bring us one of the most tense, entertaining yet haunting pieces of cinema that 2016 had to offer.
Set in a moonlit Berlin, Victoria follows a young Spanish waitress (Laia Costa) who, on a night out in the city’s infamous club scene, happens upon 4 German men, all of which invite her to experience ‘the real Berlin’. As the night progresses, the group finds themselves forced into dangerous circumstances in the criminal underbelly of Berlin. Aiding the story at every turn, the film’s technical methods are flawless. Schipper’s use of long takes, incorrectly dismissed by many festivals as ‘fake’, allows the audience to experience the movie as if they were walking the streets of Berlin themselves and become immersed in the hauntingly real narrative. In doing so, Schipper also establishes Berlin as a character itself. When Victoria is presented with a decision, it is always at a crossroads, at a turn of a street or at a place she feels comfortable in, and as she deals with her choices she is thrust into grimy, dimly lit locals, oozing with peril. Shot from roughly 4:30am to 7am, the film also demonstrates Berlin’s colour palette, ranging from the eerie orange glow of the nearby 4:30am street lamps, to the moody blues and purples of dawn, allowing for the drastic change in mood to take place. On top of all this, Costa’s performance as Victoria could stand with any of the award contenders of 2016, as she portrays Victoria with an array of emotions throughout the tense, riveting and continuous 2 and a half hour runtime.
I may be cheating putting this up on a 2016 list seeing as it’s official festival release was in 2015… However with a limited cinema and VOD release in Ireland in 2016 it makes our list, and it sure should make yours. Critics of the film may find it easy to dub it all as ‘a stunt’, and it is! However it is a cinematic stunt that has payed off, and a risk that perhaps more filmmakers should take. I’m excited to see what both Costa and Schipper do next and will be buying my tickets in advance! Victoria truly is something special. [Néil Rogers]
Love & Friendship
Even though I love literature (have I mentioned I studied it in college?!), I’ve always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Classics. I always struggled to accept that these needles in the veritable haystack of all literature ever published anywhere get championed while other, sometimes better, works fell by the wayside.
So I don’t speak lightly when I say that Lady Susan is a work of genius. Jane Austen is well-known for her satirical representations of high society, and her critique of the strict etiquette guiding it – for women at least – is no secret. But what would happen if women used the chains binding them to their advantage? Lady Susan answers this question, in hilarious and masterful fashion.
I have a point I promise! This year, the quality of Irish co-produced film has soared. Love & Friendship, directed by Whit Stillman, is a shining example of this. This film takes Lady Susan and elevates it from an unfinished manuscript with potential to a well-rounded, funny and decadent narrative that stays true to period but is still addictive for a contemporary audience (without relying on sex and swearing like so many period TV dramas that will remain nameless).
The set design and costumes are filled with luscious limes, orchid pinks, vivid blues, all colours that don’t tend to appear in period features even though the past wasn’t filled with as many drab browns and greys as we might like to think! This lends the film authenticity but more importantly contributes to its addictive atmosphere, which wouldn’t be possible without the acting. Kate Beckinsale is a natural as the vivacious and devious Lady Susan, a widow and mother pulling all the men’s strings to keep herself in comfortable means. Chloë Sevigny lends depth and humour to the best friend role, transforming Alicia from a minor role in the novel to an exemplary part of the film.
You don’t have to be familiar with the novel to love Love & Friendship, it just adds another layer of enjoyment. [Jessica Dunne]
The cinema release schedule isn’t something that matters at all to the average movie goer, but it sure can make things difficult for the list-compiling set. In deciding the best films of the year, it’s easy for films like Room or Spotlight-technically released in 2015 in the rest of the world but out here in January, all crowded together at once so they can be seen just before awards season-to fall through the memory cracks. There was no forgetting Creed though, one of the earliest but still best releases of 2016, a film that could easily taken any spot on our list between 1 and 10 but sadly missed out.
Simply put, Creed was one of the most exhilarating cinema experiences I’ve had in a long time. A genuinely fist-pumping story of Adonis Creed seeking glory and validation in the world of boxing, the world of his deceased father Apollo and his father’s great rival and friend, good ol’ Rocky Balboa. Every other film these days is trying to balance strained nostalgia-milking with attempts to launch a new trilogy or three, but with the hands of a genuine directing talent in Ryan Coogler, Creed knocks those other film’s efforts to the canvas with little effort. Coogler displayed his versatility, with varied, frenetic fight scenes mixed with emotional beats that properly play, mostly thanks to Sly Stallone, who showed that in the character of Rocky he’ll always have a vessel for genuinely good acting. Second act drama and the showy comeback arc for Stallone (Oscar nominated no less) threatened to steal the movie away from its title character, but Michael B. Jordan’s charisma got a well-deserved outlet in Adonis, the kind of performance that leaves you chanting for more. If you missed Creed, it’s even available on Netflix now, go and watch it, and try not to feel the swell of joy, nostalgia and adrenaline when the Rocky theme finally kicks in. The urge to punch something will be just as strong as the urge to kick yourself for having missed it at the start of the year. [Luke Dunne]
Is there anything you’re surprised didn’t make it to our lists? Let us know.