Without further ado, here are my favourite films of 2021 – yet another year that saw the release of big blockbusters delayed or drip fed due to the dreaded c word.
5) The Last Duel –
The Last Duel is an epic historical drama directed by Ridley Scott which, despite flopping massively in the box office, is an engaging and well told tale with modern parallels. Set in 1386 France, It tells the real story of Marguerite de Carrouges (Jodie Comer), who accuses Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver) of rape. Marguerite’s husband Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) then challenges his old friend to a duel, the last judicial duel in France. It is a well structured and grandiose affair, going through Jean, Jacques then Marguerite’s version of events before culminating in a thrilling, Gladiator-esque brawl.
4) Encounter –
Directed by Michael Pearce, and available on Prime, Encounter is a tense genre mashing film with a superb performance by Riz Ahmed. An alien disease has engulfed the earth and the aforementioned actor plays U.S marine Malik Khan, who is on a mission to take his kids to safety. It is a gripping thriller with a sci-fi concept, a grounded sense of drama and a hefty dose of paranoia and skepticism – you are not sure who to believe the further things go on.
3) Palm Springs –
A surprisingly funny and heartwarming Groundhog Day style rom com with lots of heart. Myles (Adam Samberg) and Sarah (Cristin Milioti) both end up trapped in a time loop at a wedding in Palm Springs, California and shenanigans – funny, drunken and lesson learning ones – ensue. It is light hearted, breezy and a joy to watch, helped in no small part by the magnetic chemistry between Samberg and Milioti, and a chaotic and vengeful J.K. Simmons. It’s available to watch on Prime.
2) Run –
It does not happen often but Netflix has made a good film. 17 Year old Chloe Sherman (stupendously played by Keira Allen), who is wheelchair bound and requires constant care, is eagerly awaiting her university confirmation letter. When it does not turn up her suspicions grow as the situation, and her mother (a super Sarah Coulson), get darker and dangerous. Directed by Aneesh Changanty, Run is a thoroughly engaging psychological thriller with the perfect amount of tension, twists and turns and a b movie sense of fun.
1) Dune –
Directed by Denis Villeneuve, the man behind the epic and utterly gorgeous Blade Runner 2049, is Dune. The Atreidis family are told to rule over Planet Arrakis and its valuable natural resource spice, from there they are thrust into a whirlwind of skulduggery, tricks and problems as Oscar Isaac, Timothée Chalamet, and Rebecca Ferguson are brilliant as Duke Leto, Paul and Lady Jessica respectively. It is an ambitious, lovingly made fantasy film that fully realises Frank Herbert‘s sprawling, character rich 1965 novel. It mixes the politics and war of Game of Thrones, with the massive world building and engaging characters of Lord of the Rings.
Now comes the worst films of the year, the candidates are zombie heist flick Army of the Dead, the stale Fast and Furious 9, the utterly forgetful Without Remorse or the Netflix thriller Hypnotic. The winner is Hypnotic, a thriller about a women who sees a hypnotherapist to sort her life out but mad, bad and dangerous things start happening. It is a painful exercise in predictability, with a hackneyed story littered with stupid decisions and an awful baddie – I have never sighed and tutted so much during a film.
As the pandemic lingered last year more people, me included, watched and streamed more television. That tenous link aside my favourite shows of the year were Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm – funny and informative, even for those who cannot stand the bloke – and the worldwide phenomenon Squid Game, a South Korean mix of Hunger Games and The Running Man. The disappointment of the year was Vigil – a submarine based, BBC drama with a great premise and a promising start which soon got bogged down, boring and slow.