5. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens
I love Star Wars, I don’t have ewok bedsheets or a Darth Vader toothbrush, but the films are part of my childhood and i’m glad that once again they will be remembered without an aggressively bad taste in my mouth. The Force Awakens gave us a blend of action, comedy and emotion which was lacking from the prequels and showed current superhero fodder films that there can be quality on this scale. Putting its best foot forward with women, minorities and aging actors, Star Wars was a film that reflected the social conscious of 2015. A blend of old and new, we can once again be hopeful for future Star Wars films and have some fresh acting talent to boot in the form of John Boyega and the mainstream awareness of Domhnall Gleeson, Adam Driver and Oscar Isaac.
4. Kingsman: The Secret Service
Way back in January, Kingsman dropped to one of the worst advertising campaigns possible. Those who got past the trailers and saw the film became heralds for it, the word of mouth spurring the film to financial success and expected sequels. A tongue in cheek knock off of the classic James Bond franchise, Kingsman tells the story of a young delinquent being taken into a secret organisation of spies and the inevitable fight to stop world destruction. Taron Egerton is a breakout star that put him in the conversation to take leading roles in everything from Spiderman to Indiana Jones reboots. Matthew Vaughn delivered some of the most memorable scenes this year involving pugs, bars and coloured fireworks. Kingsman is a film that easily affords repeat viewing.
Spotlight is not a fun film or a film that is easy to watch but it’s an essential film. Detailing the churches cover up of sexual molestation by Catholic priests in Boston and across America as uncovered by the Boston Globe in 2002. A true ensemble cast including Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams and Michael Keaton all shine in the bleak surrounds. Spotlight successfully details the events and evidence associated with the case without sensationalising anything, letting the reality paint a far more captivating and horrifying story than a hyper sensationalised story ever could. Despite the subject matter being so harrowing, this is still a film I can see myself rewatching due to its sheer class.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s hard to say anything about Mad Max: Fury Road that hasn’t been turned into a headline yet. We know every aspect of the practical effect laden, pro-female, plot-lite, sand filled masterpiece brought to us by Australia’s modern master George Miller. Yet despite all the hype, the nominations, box office success and talk of sequels, Fury Road is still an amazing visual masterpiece that rewards repeat viewing. A there and back again adrenaline ride that never dips below gripping, Miller has built a world that just makes sense without huge chunks of narration and with all the fat cut out can just focus on a smorgasbord of set piece theatrics for any fan of car chases, action or gruff Tom Hardy noises. A future classic.
1. Ex Machina
Way back in May 2015, Ex Machina hit screens in a low key way. With a small cast and no headlining stars, this chamber piece about the mental gameplay between 3 characters with vastly different motivations is a lesson in tense filmmaking, their arm wrestle for dominance keeping audiences guessing as to how it ends until the very end. Domhnall Gleeson was a favourite of mine since his turn in About Time.Neither Alicia Vikander or Oscar Isaac had registered for me until this point. Now of course all three are headlining major films (Star Wars and The Danish Girl anyone?). Alex Garland has turned his directorial debut into what is likely to be a stellar career behind the camera and with a pen in hand. Using striking colours and tight editing in a confined space, Garland and crew play upon the emotions of the audience in a story that is truly tied down to the question of emotion and reason in humanity in general and what makes us human. More than any other film in 2015 I found myself recommending Ex Machina to anyone that would listen so I could keep the discussion about its themes and execution going as long as possible.