The best movies of the summer
What you missed and what to catch up on
By Colin MacGillivray, Arts Editor
For movie lovers like myself, summertime can be a trying time. The warm months are often riddled with films that prioritize style over substance. From superhero movies that are filled with little to no substance, to second-rate sequels that plague cinemas around the globe, the summer is generally a horrific time for movies.
However, there are a few exceptions. There are times where a clever, original film will emerge from the ravenous pack of big summer blockbusters and plead its case to all of the movie theatre maniacs out there that summertime isn’t a bust for diehard film fans. Here’s my list of the best movies that have graced the silver screen since school was out.
Baby Driver is an almost flawless film from a directorial standpoint, with Edgar Wright seamlessly weaving an incredible soundtrack with some of the most unique car chases and action sequences in recent memory. Ansel Elgort proves himself to be more than a teen movie star with a strong performance as the titular character, while Jon Hamm’s turn as the menacing, bank-robbing villain is as refreshing as it is entertaining. Unfortunately, the stylish symphony of characters do not escape cookie cutter clichés, and the often odd pacing drags down an otherwise incredibly entertaining movie.
Logan Lucky, on the other hand, does not suffer from stereotypical character arcs and odd narrative choices.
Steven Soderbergh turns the heist film genre on its head and offers a fresh and unique take on an often worn out formula. Channing Tatum and Adam Driver deliver hilarious, and often ridiculous performances as Jimmy and Clyde Logan. As well, Daniel Craig proves to the world that he is much more than just James Bond, with an absolutely incredible performance as a convict who adores explosives, aptly named Joe Bang.
The story unfortunately suffers in its third act, as it can’t keep up with the excellent heist sequence that comes around the halfway point of the movie. Nonetheless, Logan Lucky was the most fun I had at the movies this year.
The Best of the Best:
A film that can effectively play on a human’s primal sense of fear is undeniably compelling. Yet, the genre of the murderous and macabre is often bogged down by horror movies that are marketed towards junior high students who are solely looking to get spooked by some jump scares. Luckily, Trey Edward Shults, the writer and director of It Comes at Night, doesn’t rely on nonsensical plot twists or creepy dolls to leave the audience uncomfortable and disturbed in the way he does with this masterful film. This psychological horror is not your standard, paint by numbers spooktacular. It’s a character study that explores themes of family, trust, and ultimately paranoia and fear, focusing on a family in the wake of a highly contagious disease that is ravaging the world.
Joel Edgerton plays Paul, the patriarch of the family in question, and in typical Joel Edgerton form, delivers a stellar performance. The highlight for me, however, had to be Christopher Abbott’s performance as Will, an intruder who breaks into Paul’s family home at the beginning of the film. His complex character arc is interwoven with Edgerton’s, as the two rarely see eye to eye, culminating in one of the most tension filled sequences in any film I have ever seen.
Breathtaking cinematography, complex characters and some of the most refreshing performances in the horror genre, It Comes at Night proves that modern horror movies don’t have to be cheesy, jump scare filled disappointments. They can be thought provoking, chilling and beautifully done as well.
Taylor Sheridan has emerged as one of the great film writers of the last decade. Penning the criminally underrated crime thriller Sicario in 2015, and arguably the best written movie of 2016 in Hell or High Water, I had extraordinary expectations going into Wind River, Sheridan’s next writing credit and his directorial debut. Luckily, the film did not disappoint in the slightest. The dark, murder mystery centres around the brutal rape and eventual death of an 18 year old girl on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming.
The often disturbing level of violence and tension that is fused with beautiful cinematography, haunting dialogue and brilliant character study is a testament to Sheridan’s gift as first time director. Jeremy Renner’s performance as Cory Lambert, the gritty, Fish and Wildlife Service agent is as commanding as it is heartbreaking, with him delivering his best performance since 2010’s The Town. The rest of the cast is brilliant as well. From Elizabeth Olsen’s fiery performance as Jane Banner, the FBI agent who is flown in from Las Vegas to investigate the crime, to Graham Greene, who plays the reserved, police chief with stoic grace and genius deadpan humour. Finally, Jon Bernthal and Kelsey Chow’s mere ten minutes of screen time is one of the most harrowingly powerful scenes this year. These exceptional performances are only made stronger by Sheridan’s writing, which like his other two scripts, is virtually flawless. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis add the finishing touches to a beautiful film with an evocative and stirring score.
For all the vicious violence and introspective character work, Wind River ultimately sheds light on the lack of statistics on missing and murdered Indigenous women, and for that reason, Sheridan has crafted not only one of the best films of the year, but also an incredibly important one.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is based off of the seemingly hopeless situation that hundreds of thousands of Allied troops found themselves in after the invasion of France in 1940. With German forces closing in, all that the soldiers can do is wait and hope for an evacuation. It is a masterclass in visual storytelling that works against weathered and worn war genre tropes in expert fashion.
Rather than focusing on a ragtag group of soldiers overcoming insurmountable odds, Nolan decides to do something that is completely inventive and focuses on the human aspect of all these soldiers, and the fact that the only thing that matters is survival. This is a narrative choice that not everyone will enjoy, but I thought it was extremely refreshing, and it made me feel that I was almost on the Dunkirk beach in France.
Although dialogue is scarce, all the actors do an exceptional job portraying emotion with subtle
visual cues. Coupling this with beautiful camerawork and a score by Hans Zimmer that is in contention for his best ever, Dunkirk stampedes out of the gate with
power, and doesn’t let up until the film reaches the climax.
It is an incredibly gripping story, filled with unforgettable scenes from land, sea and air. It is not an easy feat to create a non-linear, branching narrative that is compelling on all fronts, yet Dunkirk seems to bask in its ability to provide interesting characters and jaw-dropping action without a padded runtime and unneeded exposition.
Everything about Dunkirk focuses on the situation that is unfolding for these soldiers. From claustrophobic fire fights, to long takes that leave you in awe at the scope of war, Nolan’s movie has no time to be bogged down by backstories. It is an unsettlingly beautiful film about the grotesqueness of war and the fragility of human life, and is not only Nolan’s finest work, but one of the greatest war films ever made.