It's finally come to the end of the first decade of the 21st century and every film writer out there has been putting together their "best of" lists to celebrate/commemorate the last 10 years. So I thought I'd jump in with my own list, one which I've tried to make with equal weight given to both the technical best films and my personal favourites.
We're almost into the top ten but before we get there we have numbers 15 down to 11. So without further ado, here's the third part of my list of the top 25 movies of the decade, 2000-2009. Enjoy.
15. Catch Me If You Can
Steven Spielberg may have Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan (both of which I love), but along with the first Indiana Jones, his tale of real-life con man Frank William Abignale Jr. is probably my favourite of his. Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as the lead character is arguably the best he's ever given; Tom Hanks is great as ever as the detective after DiCaprio, and the Oscar nominated supporting performance of Christopher Walken is the stuff of pure brilliance.
But what I think is best about Spielberg's film is how it strikes the perfect balance between fun and serious, breezy light entertainment with a lot of emotional weight to hook onto. One second, Frank Jr. is flitting from city to city posing as an airline pilot, the next he's having a tense conversation with his proud father. It's a film I go back to time and time again and enjoy it as much now as I did the first time I saw it.
If there's ever a module in a film study class for which students have to watch certain events of WWII captured on film, Downfall should be very near the top of the list. Hands down, the most realistic and compelling portrayal of the second World War of the last 10 years, it features one hell of a performance by celebrated German actor Bruno Ganz, giving us a portrayal of Hitler that's appropriately chilling yet strangely empathetic at times. The latter may seem odd, but it makes the man (at least in this particular portrayal) more fully rounded than the one-sided figure we so often see in the movies that tackle this subject matter.
Pretty much the whole movie is set within the confines of Hitler's bunker – that's almost 150 minutes set within one location. Sounds boring, right? Well, it isn't, far from it, in fact. It's one of the most compelling movies in years, one that's as realistic as it is dramatic. A true masterpiece of modern times.
13. Shaun of the Dead
Now we come to probably the most purely fun film on the list, Edgar Wright's inventive, creative and entirely enjoyable zombie flick, Shaun of the Dead. Perhaps the greatest thing – and there's many great things about it – is how it's simultaneously an homage to zombie movies but a legitimate entry into the horror sub-genre in its own right.
On top of that it's also a hilarious film, with many-a-quotable line of dialogue from "You've got red on you," to, "Dogs can't look up." It's sometimes a gory film, but never does it enter into unwatchable territory – the gore is always in line to serve the comedy and not the other way about. Simon Pegg makes a great "everyman" hero, Nick Frost is vulgar yet hilarious as best friend Ed, and there's even a cracking extended cameo by Bill Nighy.
The team behind this went on to do do the cop action-comedy, Hot Fuzz, which is great in its own ways too. But I feel Shaun of the Dead better stands the test of time, and for me is easily one of the highlights of the decade.
12. Before Sunset
If there was a guide on "how to make a sequel", Richard Linklater's Before Sunset should be one of the prime examples used. Before Sunrise was the first film, and it's one of the great love stories of modern cinema. Two strangers (played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) meet on a train in Europe and decide to spend the day together. The whole movie is just the two talking, getting to know each other and slowly but surely falling for one another.
As does the original Godfather, Sunrise ends pretty much perfectly with no real need for a sequel. But ten years later Linklater decided to go back to these wonderful characters with Before Sunset, creating one of the greatest sequels of the last 25 years.
The movie takes place in real time, meaning that every minute you see on-screen is the exact amount of time that's gone by within the story. The dialogue is as good as it was in the first one, and perhaps better because the two lead characters are now that bit older and thus that bit wiser. Hawke and Delpy have great chemistry and keep the two characters relatable, likeable and realistic throughout.
I probably still prefer Sunrise to Sunset when it comes down to it (this was probably down to the fact it was the introduction to the characters), but Sunset is every bit as good and maybe even, on a technical level at least, the better of the two. Fantastic.
11. Battle Royale
One of my favourite Asian films of all time, Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale is an unflinching, full-on and often over-the-top film, it is a tough watch at times but entirely worth seeking out if you haven't see it already. On the surface, all the violence and accompanying gore may seem superficial and "just for the sake of it," but look past the surface and it's actually a brilliant examination of adults' "fear of the youth."
It's set in a world where that fear has forced the adults to take drastic measures against the young, creating the Battle Royale act which places the unwilling participants onto an island and forces them to kill each other off until there's just one left. If you're not familiar with the film already, that's a far out there premise, right?
Well, what's most interesting about it is that it poses the intriguing question: is the instinct to survive stronger than your loyalty to your friends? The very real and imminent fact that everyone will be killed if there isn't just one left at the end forces the students to make that tough choice and watching the range of reactions, from "going solo" and treating the situation as every man for himself, to teaming up and hoping to find a way out alive together, is fascinating.
It's a brave, bold and uncompromising film – that sort of thing is what I think will make it stand the test of time and be watched by generations of film fans to come. Here's hoping Hollywood resists the temptation to add this to the list of inferior remakes.