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November thoughts

‘The Babadook’ (Jennifer Kent, 2014)

Occasionally a horror film emerges from outside of the studio system and revives your faith in the genre. This time it’s a tiny Australian picture; literate in its influences but veering away from self-awareness and irony. The Babadook features entirely fresh and threatening creature design but seems concerned more by its central relationships than cheap scares or unnecessary violence. Essie Davis is simply extraordinary (we’re talking Ellen Burstyn Exorcist levels here), commanding every scene of Kent’s own script and navigating a way through the path that merges breadline realism, mental health issues and the supernatural without ever swerving too far in any one direction. 

‘Nightcrawler’ (Dan Gilroy, 2014)

 The best ‘LA’ movie I’ve seen since Drive. Sharp satire, killer soundtrack and a striking, career-best performance from the increasingly impressive Gyllenhaal. Destined for future cult status, but probably too breezily stylish to make any impact for a few years. Lou Bloom is my new favourite sociopath.

 ‘Interstellar’ (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

IMAX is the only way to go. Nolan’s space epic has a lot of problems, not least a creaky first act that could’ve paradoxically done with both losing and gaining material, some inexcusable tonal shifts and a loss of focus leading to some iffy back-fourth editing uncharacteristic of the team that delivered a picture as tightly wound as Inception. As an exercise in sheer ambition, it’s worthy of all the plaudits thrown its way. The scale of the thing, the strength of some of the sequences once we’re off the Earth, the balance between human story and spectacle, the conceptual balls of the final act and Nolan’s skill at conveying extremely complicated concepts in an audience-friendly way. For audacity alone, flaws acknowledged, its one of the years most memorable and stands alongside AI, Sunshine, The Fountain, Cloud Atlas, Moon etc as one of the brave and bold of modern sci-fi.

‘The Imitation Game’ (Morten Tyldum, 2014) 

Never quite transcending its televisual feel, this paint-by-numbers Alan Turing biopic is nonetheless a handsome production that hopefully doesn’t find itself tainted (a la King’s Speech) by a major(ly undeserved) presence during awards season. Cumberbatch and Knightley are impressive, and Tyldum tells an important story with just the right mix of dewy-eyed admiration and hardheaded historical meat.

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