Retrospect: Top 10 Films of 2010
10. The Expendables
More recent action pictures have attempted to deliver a serious story, brooding characters, and realistic issues. Sylvester Stallone gives those tropes the finger with the The Expendables, an action flick whose balls hit the wall so hard that said balls explode magnificently in a ball of fire. Critics of The Expendables dock it points for exactly what makes it work: the story only exists to set up the next action scene, and every action scene continues beyond the point of reason for a completely unnecessary finisher. It’s far from perfect, but it does exactly what it sets out to do; a delightfully testosterone-packed throwback to 90s action movies with a laundry list of the era’s star players.
9. Book of Eli
I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic movies, and Book of Eli delivered in spades. The Hughes brothers showcased some magnificent directorial flair with some very impressive long takes that usually kicked in during the action sequences, which themselves were brutal and visceral. Gary Oldman was an effectively cold and cruel villain and was a lot of fun to watch. The Book of Eli also does a fairly good job of straddling the line between Christian and secular film; it is basically a Christian movie but is never to heavy-handed or preachy. The plot twist is the best kind of twist, in that it immediately demands a second viewing, and doing so enriches the experience.
8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a Canadian graphic novel. Knowing that will help when viewing the movie, which is an absolute assault on the senses. Bright lights, video-game sounds, comic-book-style visual sound effects, and bizarre, silly dialog dominates every second of the film. The characters are all crazy and most of them have some kind of superpower. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is pure, unfiltered joy for two hours.
7. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese’s newest and most unconventional film is a fairly obvious love letter to Hitchcock, though such a distinction makes for a very exciting ride. Scorsese’s direction is designed to cause discomfort and upset; the sights and sounds mess with the senses and disorient the viewer to move them out of their comfort zone. The licensed soundtrack is composed mostly of classic contemporary pieces, and the piece chosen for the main theme, Symphony No. 3: Passacaglia, by Antonio Wit, is incredibly ominous. The occasional heavy handedness of the tone only serves to increase the tension. Like Book of Eli, a second viewing yields subtle hints and secrets to help decipher the film’s conclusion.
6. The American
The American is dominated by an air of depressing finality; its central character is a man who has outgrown the world around him and seems to inhabit an empty and lonely space with only his paranoia to keep him company. The extremely small cast of supporting characters are merely window dressings to what feels like the final weeks of the life of George Clooney’s aging, lonely, and remorseful assassin. Clooney’s performance is mesmerizing and the tragic music score fits perfectly with the film. The American is the perfect kind of slow burn and an outstanding psychological drama.
Chris Nolan had the idea for Inception long before he started directing movies, and had been tweaking the script ever since he took an interest in lucid dreaming. All of that care shows in Inception, a thrillingly original and creative action picture. The most impressive aspect of Inception is the scope of the world Nolan has constructed; his universe has its own rules and strikes the perfect balance between being similar enough to our own and having those fantastical qualities that make it a joy to explore. Nolan’s logic in explaining the rules of his world are fascinating. And how about that hallway fight scene?
4. Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 brought forth waves of nostalgia, joy, sorrow, and childish delight from every corner of my heart. More than any film of the year, Pixar’s newest opus really plays with emotions and tugs at the heartstrings. The last ten minutes may bring tears to your eyes. Like Up and Wall-E, the movie is simultaneously tragic and joyous, and it’s cruel how easily Pixar can mess with the emotions of their audiences.
3. Black Swan
Equal parts ballerina drama, cautionary tale of obsession, and psychological horror film, Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan is a parade of shocking and disturbing images and mesmerizing ballet performances. It juxtaposes beauty and ugliness like only an Aronofsky film can. Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have remarkable depth and darkness in their roles and have intoxicating chemistry. Nina’s (Portman) transformation into the Black Swan during the final tragic act to the Swan Lake ballet is one of the best scenes in any movie this year. This may very well be Aronofsky’s best film to date.
2. Tron: Legacy
Tron: Legacy was my most anticipated film of the year, all year long. It turned out even better than I hoped. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes this sequel so entertaining. The movie has some beautiful visuals that are a true treat for the eyes. Daft Punk’s brilliant score is the year’s best by a long shot. The action is spectacular and thrilling. Jeff Bridges is in the movie. Despite some minor story issues, it’s incredibly entertaining and the most fun I had all year.
1. The Social Network
The Social Network packs so much talent per square inch it’s almost overwhelming. David Fincher’s creative and breathtaking direction, star-making performances from Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg (the year’s best without contest) and Andrew Garfield as former friend Eduardo Saverin, Aaron Sorkin’s incredibly tight script, and Trent Reznor’s tense, brooding score together are a powerhouse. The Social Network pulls you in and commands your attention like no other film this year. Profoundly fascinating and masterfully executed across the board, nothing else measures up.