6. The Dresser (2015)
Veteran actors Anthony Hopkins and Ian McKellen star in this BBC Two drama based on the 1980 Broadway play of the same name. Hopkins plays an aging theatre actor who shows signs of dementia, while McKellen stars as Norman, his personal assistant or his “dresser.”
Most of the film takes place in the backstage of a London theatre during the Blitz, where Hopkins’ character is preparing to perform as King Lear for the 227th time in his career. However, his old age and poor mental state make it hard for him to get on the stage again, and his longtime assistant has to get him back on track before the play starts.
“The Dresser” is a film based on dialogue and acting, so there’s not much going on in terms of plot. Its cinematography doesn’t stand out either, and most of the time you can feel that this is a made-for-TV movie – it just doesn’t look that good. However, what makes this a great film is the Hopkins and McKellen duo. Both approaching 80 years old when this movie was shot, the two actors were still able to give great performances and it is a real treat to see them together in the same movie.
7. Behemoth (2017)
“Behemoth” is as different to your usual documentary film as it can be. This Chinese production gets rid of all of the interviews and explanations that we are used to seeing in most documentaries, and instead focuses on images and short poetic messages that go along with what we are seeing. In a sense, “Behemoth” could be considered an art film.
“Under the sun, the heavenly beauty of grasslands will soon be covered by the raging dust of mines. Facing the ashes and noises caused by heavy mining, the herdsmen have no choice but to leave as the meadow areas dwindle. In the moonlight, iron mines are brightly lit throughout the night. Workers who operate the drilling machines must stay awake. The fight is tortuous, against the machine and against themselves.
Meanwhile, coal miners are busy filling trucks with coals. Wearing a coal-dust mask, they become ghostlike creatures. An endless line of trucks will transport all the coals and iron ores to the iron works. There traps another crowd of souls, being baked in hell. In the hospital, time hangs heavy on miners’ hands. After decades of breathing coal dust, death is just around the corner. They are living the reality of purgatory, but there will be no paradise.”
“Behemoth” has an amazing cinematography, the breathtaking images are sprinkled with surreal moments and, despite getting a little tedious at times, is the kind of film that will linger in your mind for some time after you’re done watching it.
8. The Age of Shadows (2016)
“The Age of Shadows” wasn’t praised as a masterpiece or anything like that. Critics pointed out where the movie fails: its pacing isn’t that good and the story has its share of genre cliches. But apart from minor faults, we agree that “The Age of Shadows” is a film worth seeing, and so the 100% Rotten Tomatoes score is well deserved.
The film tells the story of a formerly Korean resistance fighter, now a policeman, who is working for the Japanese forces and is tasked with tracking down resistance leaders before they acquire explosives to destroy the Japanese facilities.
“The Age of Shadows” runs for 140 minutes but is captivating from start to finish, is really stylish, and is full of suspense. This South Korean thriller perfectly blends the history, fiction, action, and film noir genres and is worth your attention.
9. Summer 1993 (2017)
Based on director’s Carla Simón personal memories, this Spanish drama takes places in the summer of 1993 – no surprises so far – when Frida, a six-year-old girl from Barcelona, leaves home to live in the countryside with her aunt and uncle after her parents die from AIDS.
All of the events from the film are seen from Frida’s perspective, so the sad story doesn’t appear as sad as it really is. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is a fascinating thing and in “Summer 1993,” Simón managed to translate the child’s consciousness to screen in a perfect manner. This is a film that is never too loud, nor too quiet, but is just natural and thoroughly spellbinding.
10. Last Men in Aleppo (2017)
“Last Men in Aleppo” was released to critical acclaim and won the World Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 90th Academy Awards.
The film documents the Syrian Civil War, a confrontation that started back in 2011 when a manifestation against the regime of Bashar al-Assad turned into an armed conflict after the Syrian government started to use violence against protesters. In Aleppo, Syria’s formerly largest city, the rebel forces formed the White Helmets, a volunteer organization whose task is saving people’s lives.
“Last Men in Aleppo” is an amazing yet very disturbing documentary, abundant in raw images that show children covered in blood and shattered cement getting rescued from dilapidated buildings, some alive, some dead; images that will remain etched in your memory.
“Last Men in Aleppo” is filmed with hand-held cameras and is different from most documentaries, lacking interviews or voiceovers and feeling more like a found footage film. However, this only makes it an even more impactful experience.