Film and Television Features

The films of 2017

Angel Aguilar:


Director Christopher Nolan proves his true mettle as a storyteller, this time relying on the power of the image over dialogue. Taking on a war film may seem counterintuitive to his style, yet he engages us with a lean narrative that paves the way for tension and thrills. The film is about perception. For the military brass, the Dunkirk battle and evacuation represented the worst-case scenario after a string of tactical failures; for the besieged soldiers, it was a harrowing race for survival; yet it became a call for action for the average British subject, which expedited a triumphant rescue. History lessons aside, Nolan's aim is immediacy, putting us straight in the middle of events.



Many eighties directors are failing to thread new ground, but Kathryn Bigelow is just hitting her stride. Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal bid for relevancy and historical accuracy with their take on the 1967 Detroit riot, focusing on the police raid at the Algiers Hotel and its aftermath. The outstanding ensemble cast includes John Boyega and Will Pouter, but the standout performance belongs to newcomer Algee Smith as Larry Reed, lead singer of the Dramatics. Detroit depicts in gruesome detail the torture suffered by Reed and others, yet the emotional toll didn't end there. The film gains resonance as the victims seek justice and peace of mind. As our national debate on race and violence rages on, we are left with the uneasy feeling that not much has changed.


Baby Driver

In the midst of a string of summer box-office failures, Baby Driver was the little cult film that stole the audiences. Director-writer Edgar Wright scales new heights as a master of action and comedy timing with this hybrid of caper movie and musical. As the titular character, Ansel Elgort proves he's a resourceful actor, carrying his weight among scene-chewers such as Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey. Packed with laughs, amazing stunts, and a killer soundtrack, this thrill ride goes like a cool breeze.


Wind River

Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter of Hell or High Water, makes a strong directorial debut here. The story is about the unlikely pairing between a wildlife service agent (Jeremy Renner) and an FBI agent from Florida (Elizabeth Olsen) as they piece together a case for murder in the unforgiving mountains of Wyoming. Sheridan eschews the buddy-movie tropes, going for deep character observation and believable motivations. This is a top-notch thriller that manages to incorporate the rhythms of everyday life, injecting new blood in the modern western.


The Big Sick

Movies about standup comedians are largely false and unfunny. The Big Sick is the exception because there's an emotional arc that keeps us involved. For one, the film is based on a true story. Comedian Kumail Nanjiani is forced to confront issues of identity and self-worth when his ex-girlfriend falls ill with a mysterious disease.

The actual core of the film is the tug-of-war between his feelings and Muslim tradition, which transcends rom-com boundaries. The drama is heartfelt and the awkward moments --played expertly by Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Holly Hunter-- are genuinely funny.


Worst movies of the year

CHIPS and Baywatch are prime examples of what's wrong with Hollywood. The formula is simple: take a brainless old TV show and bank on the nostalgia factor to support a barely-there plot and vulgar jokes. It doesn't work. Please stop.


Biggest disappointment

Alien:Covenant doesn't improve on Prometheus. There's no passion behind Ridley Scott's work, who should leave the Alien franchise behind and employ his fertile imagination elsewhere.

Mark Davison:

Paddington 2

In a year not exactly overflowing with great news, the return of the little bear with the hard stare was very welcome. And thankfully, his latest film didn't disappoint. A celebration of kindness that was witty, wise, inventive and, arguably, even better than the original.


Lady Macbeth

One of the rawest, most shocking cinematic experiences of the year, hidden in the guise of a costume drama. A beautifully restrained film about a character who was anything but.


Get Out

Jordan Peele's directorial debut was a spot-on satire on US race relations, and the most original horror movie in years. Shocking, surprising, funny and featuring fantastic performances from a uniformly excellent cast.


God's Own Country

The British Brokeback description might have been an effective selling-point, but not one which stood up to much scrutiny. For starters, God's Own Country was a quieter, more tender film (arguably the result of actually being a gay story, made by a gay filmmaker). A love story, that was filled with affection, not just between the two leads, but for the harsh, rugged landscapes of the Yorkshire moors. 


Baby Driver

Edgar Wright's white-knuckle heist movie featured a story that was single-sentence simple (and even then it managed to contain some credibility-stretching plot points). But it made up for that with a real love of loud music, fast cars and movie-making magic.


The actual best film of 2017 (but disqualified for not actually being a film)

Twin Peaks: The Return - episode 8

David Lynch and Mark Frost's long-overdue return to the world of Twin Peaks was many things: bizarre, baffling, frustrating, surprising, terrifying, beautiful and moving. What it wasn't, despite the BFI's year-end poll stating otherwise, was a film.

However, a claim could be made for its standout installment - episode 8. A largely stand-alone journey back in time to the atomic age, episode 8 followed in the tradition of Fire Walk With Me of Twin Peaks' prequels being the most satisfyingly Lynchian installments of the series, and was certainly the most unique and artistically complete episode of tv this year (and pretty much any other year too).