Music Features

Top 10 Films Of 2005

10. War of the Worlds

Director: Steven Spielberg

In case you haven't noticed, Spielberg isn't what he used to be. His post-Schindler's List output has been marked by attempts to use his unrivalled gift to entertain for higher purposes. A.I. and Minority Report were flawed but brilliant steps in this direction. Here he achieves a nearly perfect synthesis of thought provoking cinema and jaw clenching suspense. 9/11 allusions are everywhere, from the ashes of incinerated bodies to the hordes of stranded citizens marching dejectedly through the streets. Spielberg perfectly taps into the fear and paranoia stemming from the trauma of that day, so much so that it is nigh on impossible to relax for the entire two hours. And if that wasn't enough, the destruction of the Bayonne Bridge and the attack on the ferry are two of the most spectacular large-scale action sequences ever put onto film. (Alan Shulman)

9. The Constant Gardener

Director: Fernando Meirelles

John le Carré has found a friend in Fernando Meirelles and, not that he'd mind either way, Meirelles has found a friend in No Ripcord. For despite criticism that his stills were awkward and the editing sloppy, these masterful aspects only served to enhance the grim reality, the desperation and the awful truth behind the sudden death of English student Tessa Quayle (Rachel Weisz), in remotest Kenya. As husband Justin (Ralph Fiennes) searches for the truth that eludes both him and us (but not, one senses, the large pharmaceutical company Tessa was investigating), his despair is tangible, his determination inspired, and his bereavement heart breaking. We're offered hope at the beginning, dealt despair in the middle, and left helpless at the end. Bob Geldof and Bono would have us believe there's hope in Africa but in this modern world of terror and insurgency, Messrs Le Carré and Meirelles appear to be suggesting otherwise. (Thomas Gillham)

8. DiG!

Director: Ondi Timoner

Or: How We Loved to Hate the Dandy Warhols Even More After Whoring Themselves to Vodafone. This documentary featuring Portland's worst alongside the doomed Brian Jonestown Massacre may be seen as yet another love letter to clichéd debauched living, but it's much more then that. For one thing, it shows a deeply troubled man in (BJM singer) Anton Newcombe struggle in his quest to change the world through music, only to be dumped on by certain people he'd helped out previously. Key scene: When the Dandy fucking Warhols mug for a magazine shoot in a house trashed by a BJM party the night before. (Peter Mattinson)

7. The Wedding Crashers

Director: David Dobkin

Lennon and McCartney, strawberries and cream, Christmas and snow; some things just feel right together. Stepping out of their fellow Frat Packers' (Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Will Ferrell) collective shadow, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn finally got it together in 2005's funniest comedy. Combining the wisecracking chauvinism of a Swingers-era Vaughn with the earnest enthusiasm that is Wilson's stock-in-trade, Wedding Crashers succeeds chiefly due to the pairing of its two male leads. Although left at the altar by some critics for being high on boobs and low on brains, the sheer number of laugh-out-loud moments ultimately renders this level of analysis meaningless. To have and to cherish. (Dominic Atherton)

6. Sin City

Director: Robert Rodriguez

If ever there was a comic-book adaptation to please critics and fanboys alike, Sin City is it. Lifting scenes straight off the blood-soaked pages of Frank Miller's graphic novels, Rodriguez stylishly fuses the ultra violence of Desperado with the pulp diction of early Tarantino, who also guest directs one sequence. Spliced into three neo-noir tales of revenge and redemption, the film plays host to a gaggle of salacious strippers, corrupt coppers and moralistic macho-men, resulting in a concoction as warped as Marv's face. Sin-sational. (Dominic Atherton)

5. The Machinist

Director: Brad Anderson

De Niro filled out for Raging Bull, Hanks shed a few pounds in Castaway. After Brad Anderson's creaking, tumultuous tragedy however, Christian Bale really wins the breadcrumb. But that's not to say that his monumental weight loss between his heaviest (thirteen stone) and lightest (a skeletal eight-and-a-half) during filming is the only impressive feature in this murky thriller. The shadowy lighting, the constant dank and drab, and the interjection of the odd dream sequence with all its halos and sunshine, recreate for us the tormented world of cachectic insomniac Trevor Reznik (Bale). With its uncompromising depiction of machine-frazzled body-parts, epileptic fits on nightmare ghost trains and the head-fuzzing confusion of what's real and what's not, The Machinist is an uncomfortable journey; but this is one ride you won't want to get off. (Thomas Gillham)

4. The Aviator

Director: Martin Scorsese

Simultaneously acclaimed and hampered by his own masterful back-catalogue, Martin Scorsese finally rediscovered something approaching his best with The Aviator. That the film was so widely expected to pop the director's Oscar cherry is as much a reflection of the film's accessibility as it is of the director's newfound ease with Hollywood protocol; gone is the ugly realism that typifies much of Scorsese's pre-Kundun output, replaced instead with an inspiring tale of one man's desire to be the best at whatever he set his mind (and considerable wealth) to. What the film lacks in edginess however, it makes up for in directorial flair and stellar performances. DiCaprio's portrayal of Howard Hughes's eccentric electricity was rightly nominated for the Oscar, while Cate Blanchett's gong-grabbing turn as Kathryn Hepburn once again highlights Scorsese's knack for getting the best out of his female leads. Marty, you was robbed. (Dominic Atherton)

3. Sideways

Director: Alexander Payne

It is a rare thing these days that a simple, budget film has the capacity to captivate and move its audience. No need for A-list actors and product placement when a story so eloquently and interestingly tells itself. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church contrast and complement one another perfectly. The one's frustration with the other is real, yet their friendship is of the kind we all cherish. Mid-life crises, drinking problems, sexual desire, social pressures, desperation for adventure - it's all here, captured amidst the splendid backdrop of California's wine country. Brilliantly funny and hauntingly beautiful, Sideways demands something special; the viewer to be honest with himself. Vintage. (Thomas Gillham)

2. Crash

Director: Paul Haggis

Articulate, taut and provocative, Crash is the type of film those pesky Academy members so rarely acknowledge. Brought together by Million Dollar Baby scribe Paul Haggis (who makes his directorial debut here too), an excellent ensemble case, including magnificent turns from Matt Dillon, Don Cheadle and Sandra Bullock, play out Haggis's tale of racial preconceptions in modern LA. Daring but always controlled, thought provoking but never preachy, Crash is tailor-made for the already overcrowded Too Edgy For An Oscar club. (Dominic Atherton)

1. Downfall

Director: Oliver Hirschbiegel

German director Oliver Hirschbiegel's stunning and highly controversial film examines the final days of Hitler and the Third Reich, as seen through the eyes of his young and somewhat naïve secretary Traudl Junge. It's a slow-moving, lengthy piece, and, unlike most WWII movies, keeps the action to a minimum, focusing instead on the increasing tension and madness within the Führer's bunker. As the Russians draw ever nearer, we see Hitler (an outstanding Bruno Ganz) and his closest associates struggle to accept the end of their twisted dream. When victory finally appears out of the question, plans are quickly made to avoid capture. How critics can watch Magda Goebbels, devoid of any emotion as she poisons all six of her young children and claim this film glorifies Nazism is absolutely beyond me. This is truly a brave and powerful work. (David Coleman)