Year In Review: Saam Das' Top Ten Films Of 2014

on Monday, January 05, 2015
Words: Saam Das

It's always a toughie to choose your top picks in any category in any given year, and 2014's no exception. The adventure of 'Grand Budapest Hotel' just missed out on selection, as did the weightier drama of the likes of 'The Imitation Game' and 'August: Osage County'. Here's my favourite UK releases of 2014. For the time being.

10. 'Interstellar'

Christopher Nolan returned with the eagerly anticipated sci-fi epic of 'Interstellar', carefully nabbing cues from some of the genre's finest offerings - such as the ominous glow of '2001: A Space Odyssey', the gripping tension of 'Gravity', and the emotional core embodied in 'Contact'. Bonus points for having some of the best (and most unexpectedly witty) robot characters committed to the big screen.

9. 'Calvary'

Reuniting writer-director John Michael McDonagh and Brendan Gleeson, their latest effort arguably superceded 2011's 'The Guard'. Gleeson is on particularly fine form as a distinguished priest, notified of his impending murder by a confession in church. Despite the weighty topics covered, with notable deference to the sexual abuse of young children, McDonagh thankfully instills a certain black humour to proceedings to help carry this bittersweet comedy-drama.

8. 'Only Lovers Left Alive'

Vampires as a subject area seemed rather passé as we came into 2014, but Jim Jarmusch revitalised proceedings with his refreshing take on the vampire film. More a reflective relationship tale, 'Only Lovers Left Alive' may have been a slow burn but its wry nature and the considered central performances of Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton felt effortlessly cool.

7. 'Gone Girl'

For those unfamiliar with Gillian Flynn's novel of the same name, David Fincher's 'Gone Girl' will likely be revelatory - with its myriad of plot turns and confused pathos. If you have already read the book, the film will remain an intense rollercoaster. Ben Affleck continues his career upturn, while Rosamund Pike excels in a role which requires significant range. There is an undercurrent of absurdity which does detract, but this dark thriller remains one of Fincher's finest.

6. 'The LEGO Movie'

Pretty much everything that writer-director duo Phil Lord and Chris Miller turns to gold - from 2009's 'Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs' to a film that just missed out on making this list, '22 Jump Street'. They applied their usual mix of leftfield wit and a sense of adventure in a film that could easily have been a simple cash-in on an evergreen property. Instead, 'The LEGO Movie' was deliciously silly and carried an uplifting message about each viewer's potential for creativity.

5. 'The Raid 2'

British filmmaker Gareth Evans rose to prominence with the action of his claustrophobic Indonesian thriller 'The Raid' before following up with a sequel that was perhaps bigger and better in all aspects. The undercover cop storyline is notably more engaging but even the action set pieces are more intense than the acclaimed scenes of the original film, with particular deference to a stunning car chase. A fine crime drama.

4. 'Guardians Of The Galaxy'

I was less than bothered about this Marvel property when I first heard of it - a CGI raccoon and tree as main characters? Nah. Yet the relatively unheralded James Gunn unexpectedly delivered one of the most entertaining films of 2014, and my favourite blockbuster by far. Chris Pratt excelled in his anti-hero role but special mention must also go to Lee Pace for a commanding villainous performance and former pro wrestler Dave Bautista for surprising many with his comic delivery.

3. 'Boyhood'

Richard Linklater's widely talked about 'Boyhood' saw the successful culmination of more than a decade of filming and preparation. Linklater's naturalistic approach overcomes the artifice of the project, with wonderful acting throughout - a particularly notable achievement considering the twelve year filming period. With Oscar nominations just a few days away, expect 'Boyhood' to rightly feature in the big categories.

2. 'The Past'

Asghar Farhadi won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for 2011's 'A Separation' and his follow up deservedly received similar critical acclaim. Masterfully examining the dysfunctional lives of a suburban French family amid wider themes of guilt and regret, 'The Past' is driven by impressive performances from Berenice Bejo, Ali Mosaffa and Tahar Rahim.

1. '12 Years A Slave'

A film that appeared on many a critic's best-of list in 2013, but only actually received its UK release in January 2014. A subsequent winner of several Oscars, including Best Picture and a very welcome Best Supporting Actress victory for Lupita Nyong'o, there is little left to say about Steve McQueen's incredible period drama. (Although if you want to read a bit more of what I had to say about it, then check out the full review here.)

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