6. Gone Baby Gone
Written and directed by Ben Affleck and starring his brother Casey, Gone Baby Gone is an unpredictable and intelligent mystery thriller with a similar energy to the aforementioned Gone Girl.
The film follows P.I Patrick Kenzie and his partner and girlfriend Angie Gennaro as they attempt to solve the disappearance of 3-year-old Amanda McCready along with her favourite doll “Mirabelle”. It plays out entertainingly as Kenzie and Gennaro discover clues and signs that point to Amanda’s disappearance. The main suspect is a man named “Cheese” who is a local drug lord that Amanda’s parents had stolen a large amount of money from having worked as drug mules for him. Cheese denies this but evidence is found of him arranging a drop off for Amanda that became botched and she is believed to have drowned in the nearby lake with her doll being found. The police captain Doyle whose daughter was murdered years before blames himself for the death of Amanda and steps down.
Everything seems wrapped up but of course a twist ensues as months later an officer they’ve been working with is killed and it is discovered that they have been working with two detectives who have been planting evidence and staged the fake kidnapping in order to keep the stolen money for themselves and teach the neglectful parents a lesson.
I know what you’re thinking, it must end there, a nice neat little bow sitting on the end of the story, but no. Kenzie and Gennaro drive to the ex-police chief Doyle’s house and find Amanda living alive and well as a supplement for his murdered daughter. She seems happy and a moral decision must be made as to whether she should return to her junkie parents or stay with Doyle in her blissfully unaware happiness.
It’s a film with a huge moral conscience and one that makes you think about the implications of family. The plot twists elevate it above the average crime mystery and leads to a satisfying conclusion that makes you think.
7. The Talented Mr Ripley
A far from conventional murder story, The Talented Mr Ripely is an intriguing and fast paced film adapted from legendary author Patricia Highsmith’s novel of the same name and directed by Anthony Minghella.
The story follows young man Tom Ripley as he struggles to make a living in 50s New York, he mostly gets by illegitimately, such as forging signatures and telling lies. While working at a party as a piano player he is mistaken as a college friend of wealthy shipbuilder Herbert Greenleaf’s son Dickie. Herbert explains that Dickie has gone to Italy with no intention of returning and will pay Ripley $1000 to have him return home.
As a result of this Ripley finds Dickie and becomes infatuated by him to the point of obsession. Dickie eventually grows tired of him and starts hanging out with his old friend Freddie Miles. Ripley can’t face the truth when Dickie turns down his advances to live together but does propose to have one final trip together on a rowboat to San Remo. However, an argument ensues on the boat and the pair end up physically fighting resulting in Ripley murdering Dickie with an oar.
This twist happens fairly early on in the film which smashes the normal route a film such as this one may go down. Another twist quickly develops as Ripley decides to steal Dickie’s identity as he’s often mistaken for him and lives his lavish lifestyle checking into hotels as himself and others as Dickie to keep up the visage. He forges a letter to Dickies fiancé Marge convincing her he’s left her to go to Rome.
Of course, the impersonating comes with issues for Ripley as he is forced to meet with Dickies friend Freddie. Freddie works out that it is in fact Ripley which forces him to murder Freddie and dispose of the body. Ripley then becomes forced into a cat and mouse existence between himself and the Italian police as Marge comes looking for “Dickie”.
In a final turn of events, just as Ripley is seemingly about to get caught due to Marge finding Dickie’s rings in his possession, Dickie’s father comes to Italy and absolves Ripley of any suspicion. Herbert claims Dickie had a history of violence and must have killed Freddie and then himself. He also talks of Ripley’s loyalty to Dickie and gives Dickie’s trust fund to Ripley allowing him to get off scot free.
The film is incredibly engaging, and you’d expect nothing less due to the fact that the source material comes from one of the most hailed thriller and suspense writers of all time. There were also two sequels due to the fact that stealing someone’s entire identity was always going to catch up with Ripley…
Duncan Jones’s debut, Moon is an intriguing and intelligent sci-fi drama that addresses the ruthlessness of Capitalism and the idea of humanity.
We follow astronaut Sam Bell as he nears the end of his three-year spell on a facility on the Moon harvesting a substance known as Helium-3. This is an alternative to oil after a major oil crisis thus making the company he works for super rich. Communication issues have made him unable to gain access to a feed from earth and his only companion is artificial intelligence known as GERTY.
Sam begins to suffer from hallucinations and crashes his lunar rover and fall unconscious. He wakes up later with no memory of the accident. He overhears GERTY talking to the company Lunar Industries and pretends there’s a problem outside to go and investigate the crashed rover. In a brilliant turn of events Sam finds himself turned over by the rover just as it had happened moments before.
The new Sam brings the doppelgänger in and tends to his injuries. GERTY reveals they’re both clones of the original Sam and he booted up another one when the previous clone crashed the rover. This crosses the line of many moral implications for Lunar Industries and the two Sam’s realise that the company has been keeping hundreds of clones and purposely jamming the live feed to earth in order to cut costs in terms of training and sending more people to the Moon.
The clones devise a plan in which GERTY reboots a new clone and the Sam that crashed the rover will stay by the rover due to his deteriorating physical state as clones age. The rescue team will kill them if they know what’s happened. The newer clone will escape in a helium-3 transporter bound for earth; this does the trick as the rescue team think all is in order. When the cloned Sam returns Lunar Industries goes into financial meltdown due to the discovery of their immorality.
Moon is a cautionary tale about the greed of mass corporations and the early twist pushes the story in ways that make the film feel fresh and exciting. It’s a very clever way of addressing the aforementioned issues and makes for an entertaining watch.
A deeply claustrophobic film with only one setting, Buried is an original piece of work that further establishes the idea that as long as a story is told well with the right amount of shocks and surprises you don’t need a Michael Bay level budget.
The film is set entirely in a coffin as we learn that military truck driver Paul Conroy has been captured by terrorists and buried underground to die unless the U.S pay them $5 million. Paul only has a lighter and a blackberry phone in which he engages in sporadic calls with Dan Brenner who’s head of the hostage working group.
Explosions are heard in the distance and Conroy’s coffin is damaged causing it to fill up with sand leaving him with a very short time limit. Brenner ensures Conroy that a man named Mark White was recovered from a similar situation and is home with his family. After this Conroy receives a call from his employers telling him that he is fired due to a prohibited relationship with a colleague and he and his family will not receive any benefits or pension.
Conroy hears more explosions and Brenner explains that the terrorists may have been killed by the bombs in the surrounding area. However, this is not true as the terrorists call up instructing Conroy to cut off his finger which he obliges in doing. Just as his coffin starts filling up to dangerous levels Conroy hears digging through the phone and Brenner ensures him that they’ve found the coffin.
Conroy’s scepticism seems misplaced at this point as it becomes apparent that he is about to be saved. But in a radical turn of events Brenner sounds defeated through the phone and revels the rescue team has in fact found Mark White’s coffin, the team had been lying the whole time and it is assumed that the probability of his rescue must have been slim to nil from the very beginning. Conroy accepts his fate and is suffocated by the sand.
The film transcends its intriguing premise proving that the limited space is not just a gimmick. Director Rodrigo Cortes manages to keep the entire 95 minutes tense and the twists thrown in strictly through the phone make it a one of a kind viewing experience of genuine astonishment.
10. Black Swan
A masterpiece, Black Swan sees visionary director Darren Aronofsky at the height of his powers delivering an often dark, grim and inventive portrayal of the cutthroat world of professional ballerinas.
We follow Nina Sayers, a shy yet determined 20-year-old ballerina who is attempting to land the dual role of white and black swan in the classic, Swan Lake. She gives fantastic performances as the innocent white swan but is told she can’t harness the imperfections of the black swan.
Strange encounters with her pretentious dance teacher Thomas, one of which she bites him as he forcibly kisses her eventually leads her to land the lead role. However, Thomas tells Nina to observe a new dancer, Lily as she possesses the qualities needed for the black swan. Nina also suffers from hallucinations of a doppelgänger following her everywhere she goes.
She eventually accepts an invitation from Lily, whom she hasn’t warmed to and goes out to dinner where they end up taking ecstasy and having sex back at Nina’s house. However, when Nina shows up for practice late the next day Lily is dancing the part of the black swan, she also confronts her about the sex they had the night before but soon learns it was another hallucination.
She wins back the part by displaying confidence to Thomas, not taking no for an answer and gives a flawless performance. She returns to her dressing room after a mistake in the first act and finds Lily preparing for the black swan part, she turns into the evil doppelgänger and they tussle. Nina stabs her with a shard of glass from the mirror but it turns out she has in fact stabbed Lily. Nina hides the body and returns to dance at an exceptional level as the black swan.
In a final cruel twist in the last act, the black swan jumps off a cliff with Nina jumping onto a mattress. Everyone congratulates her on her amazing performance, but it’s then revealed that she has in fact stabbed herself in order play the part to a “perfect” level.
The film is a trippy, hallucinogenic nightmare and is a great example of a director in complete control of a singularly ambitious vision. The twists allow the story to advance in a way that’s natural to the tone of the film. Nina’s mind betraying her is a brilliant reminder of the savage existence she lives in and by tricking the audience we are allowed to experience her fragility firsthand.