We’ve just begun a new year so obviously its time to take a look at the films of 2012. While there were many solid films in 2012, a few stand above the rest in my mind. I have not seen all notable releases from 2012 as of yet, so with that in mind here is my initial list of the best films of 2012; all of which are worth seeing.
A powerful and blunt film centered around an exceptional performance by Denzel Washington. While Washington is a stand out, he certainly isn’t the only solid acting in the film as the supporting cast of John Goodman, Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood, and Kelly Reilly all turn in solid performances themselves. Flight at times is a tough movie to watch; nothing is sugar coated throughout the movie and the films honest storytelling – devoid of plot devices or hallmark moments – makes it an exceptional film.
I’ve always been a fan of Spielberg’s films and Lincoln doesn’t disappoint. A fascinating movie that looks at elements of Lincoln’s Presidency, specifically the passage of the 13th Amendment. Daniel Day Lewis, as usual, turns in a fantastic performance as Lincoln. That said, Tommy Lee Jones was an absolute scene stealer in the film who should be a shoe-in for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. A great film that breathes life into some very historic moments.
Ben Affleck is now 3 for 3 with his Directorial efforts with Argo being arguably the best of his efforts so far. Argo recreates a gripping true story set during the Iranian Revolution about the rescue of American embassy workers who fled the embassy after it was stormed by Iranian revolutionaries. The film also indirectly highlights some of the particular failings of Jimmy Carter’s foreign policy and puts the actions of some very brave Canadian diplomats on full display. A tense and entertaining film – even people who think little of Affleck’s acting abilities (like my parents) are likely to enjoy the film.
4. The Grey
This was a truly haunting and emotional allegorical film centered around a stellar performance from Liam Neeson. The Grey could have been a stock ”man vs nature” film with cardboard characters and a plot-device ending, but due to a strong cast and equally strong writing, the film is much more than that. Leaving the theater I felt almost numb; this is a movie that stuck with me for weeks after viewing. One of the best films of the year and unfortunately, likely one to go overlooked come awards time.
5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Peter Jackson does another fine job adapting Tolkien’s material to the big screen. After a somewhat sluggish start to the film, it quickly turns into an exciting and enjoyable film with memorable characters and a meaningful story. Jackson has become a master at pacing and does a great job balancing an assortment of characters, plot development and action sequences. Seeing The Hobbit on the big screen made me want to read the book again, which to me is a sign of a good adaptation.
6. Moonrise Kingdom
Oh Wes Anderson. Moonrise Kingdom is a typical Wes Anderson film (which is not in and of itself a bad thing) with a little extra magic in it. Moonrise Kingdom is a cute, quirky, imaginative film full of colorful characters who are all immaculately cast (Whoever does the casting for Wes Anderson films is a genius). Watching Moonrise Kingdom was like reading a good book; brimming with life and color. Despite the odd awkward moment, Moonrise Kingdom is a wonderful film that, next to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, stands as Wes Anderson’s best.
One of the best visual films I have ever seen, Promethues is a science fiction film about big ideas that immerses the viewer in its world. Prometheus brings up a lot of questions and rather than provide answers to them, it provides glimpses or hints of answers instead; this infuriates or increase the intrigue depending on who you ask. Myself, I found the film to be a visual masterpiece and a fascinating experience; a great science fiction film.
Rian Johnson has yet to make a bad film. The writer and director of Brick and The Brothers Bloom (both films worth seeing) strikes gold with his complex and mind bending thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis. It is a clever film that, while containing action scenes and visuals that even Michael Bay would be jealous of, is by no means a brainless action movie.
9. End of Watch
A very raw, emotional and gripping film. I was skeptical going into the movie due to how it was shot (we see the events unfold through the cameras worn by the two lead actors), however this technique only adds to the rawness of the film, making it even more effective. The film follows two cops (Gyllenhaal and Pena) as they work their beat; however things quickly escalate when they but heads with a local cartel.
One of the best Bond films I’ve had the pleasure of watching (although Goldeneye will always be my favorite). A throwback to the older Bond films, with Javier Bardem turning in a wonderfully devilish performance that brings some of the classic villains in the series to mind. The film feels like a classic Bond outing yet at the same time is quite different from the typical Bond film. Craig further proves what an excellent choice he was to take over after Brosnan and the film acts to flesh out Bond’s character, setting the stage for the next Bond adventure.
Over-rated Films of 2012:
Life of Pi
A long and rambling film that, while possessing some interesting visuals and an eyebrow raising take on religion, falls flat. An interesting film, but certainly not deserving the critical praise being heaped upon it.
It’s a Quentin Tarantino film; need I say more?
While Richard Gere is effective portraying a total sleazeball (something he’s always been pretty good at), the movie itself is bland, unconvincing, and unbelievable. While Gere is interesting to watch, the film itself collapses under its increasingly preposterous plot.
Under-rated Films of 2012:
Killing Them Softly
This film is a strange one, but one that I enjoyed. The film essentially examines the impact of the 2008 economic crisis through the eyes of gangsters and other unsavory characters. The film ends with a deadly and unforgettable line which I will not spoil here.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Hilarious offbeat comedy that has a lot of heart and many laugh out loud moments – one of the best comedies of the year.
Hit and Run
Another funny offbeat comedy which features probably Tom Arnold’s best comedic performance since True Lies. Good blend of action and comedy with great chemistry between the leads; worth seeing even with Dax Shephard being the star (as well as the writer and director) of the film.
Safety Not Guaranteed
A cute and quirky film full of memorable characters and an engaging story. The film centers around a writer and his interns at a magazine who investigate a classifieds ad requesting time travel applicants.