The thriller genre is probably one of the widest seen genre of film. Since the very beginning of films, the fantasy of engaging with murder and familiarizing oneself with a murderer has been commonplace. Although thrillers have since incorporated more than just threats to life, it still remains the primary preoccupation of many films. The long-standing tradition of some of the best films coming from the genre remains intact this year too. With high-profile filmmakers returning behind the director’s chair, we take a look at the list of best thriller movies of 2019.
One of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, Shyamalan‘s concluding installment of the ‘Unbreakable’ series, ‘Glass’, brings together the three protagonists of the franchise, setting up a thrilling finale. David Dunn tries his best to keep up with vigilantism and avoiding law enforcement authorities but faces a new obstacle in the shape of the Beast, a physically superior entity, harboring 23 personalities within. The confrontation soon expands to the domain of the mysterious Elijah Prince, a wheelchair-bound criminal mastermind who has keys to all the dark secrets buried deep inside the two men.
The famous ‘Shyamalan twist’ is probably the most desirable and marketable feature of a mass-audience film. The twist became a trademark of his films and be rest assured, there’s a big one waiting for you here too. Bottom line: Shyamalan’s latest will not disappoint his most loyal fans but might be a tough pill to swallow for others.
9. A Good Woman is Hard To Find
Abner Pastoll’s debut film is a gritty thriller set in Belfast and places a young widowed woman at the center of its web of crime, drugs, and personal grief. Sarah Bolger impresses with a fine performance as her namesake, who mothers two children, one of whom was with their father when he was murdered. When Tito, a low-life petty thief, steals a stash of drugs and unexpectedly enters Sarah’s house, things take a turn for the worse as the mystery over her husband’s death comes to a shocking resolution.
While ‘A Good Woman is Hard to Find’ doesn’t offer a lot in terms of story and character development, it certainly exploits its titular dilemma and benefits from Pastoll’s stylish execution. With a runtime of 97 minutes, the film wastes no time in establishing the stakes and gradually, how high they are. Strong undertones of dry-pan typical British comedy make watching ‘A Good Woman is Hard to Find’ a wholesome cinematic experience.
There hasn’t a year that’s passed since we can remember save an attempt to put man and a deadly carnivore together in a breathless deathmatch. Last summer it was ‘Meg’, two scores ago it was ‘Jaws’. The results have been varying, if I may be so bold. 2019 brings us a fast-paced, action-packed, succinctly staged gory thriller about a father-daughter pair stuck in their old house flooded due to a hurricane, surrounded by hungry crocs. The two must use their wit and make their way out before the house completely submerges.
‘Crawl’ can certainly be labeled as predictable and formulaic. The third act for films of this nature hasn’t changed since their inception. But ‘Crawl’ accepts its fate with great courage and instead places a deeply meaningful lost relationship between its protagonists, which is backed by engaging performances from them. Some set pieces, though tread the line between plausibility and fiction dangerously, are remarkably pulled off and a pure joy to watch. ‘Crawl’ might only be a one time watch but definitely makes it worth your while.
7. Velvet Buzzsaw
After ‘Nightcrawler’ came out back in 2014, audiences and critics alike would have expected something different than ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ when the two’s reunion was announced. The 2014 crime thriller about a money-thirsty psychopath going to inhuman lengths to satisfy his quench is regarded as one of the best films of the decade, while also housing Gyllenhaal’s career-best performance. ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’, on the other hand, sees Gyllenhaal play Morf, a renowned art critic, whose life turns upside down after his love interest, Josephina, steals a collection of paintings from an apartment in her building whose owner tragically dies, inking in his will the strict order to destroy his life’s work.
Although similarities in theme between the two films are well-founded, Gilroy lends enough distinction to completely separate them. ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ suffers from a lack of cohesion and consistency, struggling to bind its ace cast and intriguing characters together in its narration. More than anything, its biggest strength is its helmer’s ambition and commitment in bringing out a critical satirical overview of the world it mocks.
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This Jordan Peele statement about his movies is probably important information before you see his latest, ‘Us’: “Each one of my movies is going to be about one of these different social demons. The first one, being ‘Get Out,’ is about race and neglect and marginalization.”
Even if you do not wish to subscribe to a movie with this thematic structure, ‘Us’ is so richly layered in its exploration of racial and class relations and masterfully crafted, it has enough for everyone. With a bewildering, antagonizing premise, Peele constructs his complex world of duality with precision and aplomb, interweaving his ‘social demons’ within. On the day the world joins hands together to form a human chain, a dark shadow looms imminent. Lupita N’Yongo’s central act is bold and terrifying. She displays a spectrum of emotions during her performance, making sure you can’t see anything beyond her in a frame. Other supporting acts are performed well but it is Peele’s thematic idea that is the real protagonist.
The gripping horror aspect of the film benefits greatly owing to Peele’s vision and artistic excellence, while the social metaphor, that isn’t as readily available as ‘Get Out’, finds him gradually unraveling a delicate subject. Through the tethered and the untethered, Peele paints an authentic, hard-hitting contemporary picture of social inequities decimating American society. Latent sub-plots are delightfully used to make the most out of the resources at Peele’s disposal. Peele hits a home run with this refreshingly original and significant feature, not forgetting to mention a spectacular helicopter shot that would make Stanley Kubrick proud.
5. Ready or Not
Imagine your first night together after your wedding. Sparks joy, right? Well, it won’t last long. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s crazy, funny, and highly impressive new film will ruin your daydreams and probably inspire you to remain a spinster. There are prominent shades of dark humor, thrills, and horror blended quite well for the overall effect. These recurring elements shape the overarching theme of the night: survival. While there are certainly more brides on white than Grace who’ve had to face the rough side of the world, she has the worst of it.
A family ritual of welcoming a new member involves a deadly hunting game, where the members wield weapons and desperately look to leave their mark. The bride must find a way to turn the tables and survive until dawn. ‘Ready or Not’ has strong familial intonations at its heart. Although the absurdity that elopes it is distracting, the focus never shifts. It’s almost parodical representation of the callousness and high-handedness of the rich explodes into a richly vagrant story that sets itself apart with great oomph. Olpin’s newest is a breath-taking, nerve-wracking, and macabre classy experience that serves right its eponymous title.
4. High Life
‘High Life’ seems like an outer space opera; harrowing, a theatrical spectacle, and an unsettling, orchestra like libretto that gradually consumes you. Claire Denis returns to screen with a highly complex and contemplative narrative about a lone surviving father (Pattinson) with his newborn baby. Amidst the macabre of dead bodies and decimation, Monte and Willow await their fate as the space ship nears a black hole. Much like her other films, Denis’ primary focus frames the relationship between father and daughter, stylishly capturing their intimacy and vulnerability on camera, while the story assumes secondary importance.
Denis’ oeuvre indicates her tendency to be highly metaphorical and latent in her expression of the story. There’s an element of personal touch, a part of her, that seems firmly integrated with her films. The trajectory of her narration, ‘High Life’ included, resists adherence to traditional cinema commonplace and instead parabolas in a fashion that is abstract. ‘High Life’ has come under the scanner for this very reason, with the majority of audiences openly bashing the film for being pretentious and impossibly comprehensible. But regular viewers of Denis’ filmography will reassure you that with her, there’s always more than what meets the eye.
‘High Life’ is an eclectic spectrum of emotions and gradually, but surely painfully, unravels the mysteries and macabre secrets it harbors inside while painting the cover with a delicate portrait of a father and daughter.
3. John Wick Chapter 3
Simply put, the John Wick series is one of the most stylish, modern, and enthralling action franchise of this century. Over the three installments, the stunt sequences keep getting better, the visual aesthetics more nuanced, and the legend of Wick growing. Parabellum reconciles John’s fate with potentially one of the greatest escapades death has ever seen on-screen. Stuntman Chad Stahelski takes to the director’s seat and professionally facilitates the franchise’s tried and tested formula.
After being declared excommunicado Wick’s hour, extended to him as a courtesy by Winston, sees him make his way through an ocean of assassins, eagerly looking on to get their hands on him. Against all odds, Wick, along with the vilified Winston, fights the High Table and their vicious army of savages. Halle Berry makes a useful cameo to add even more star power to the film. Reeves, for whom the series has been a godsend, shines as the tacit hitman, replicating more of what he’s been doing. His acting is nothing special, keeping a rockface through the runtime. But it is his presence that accounts for a spine-chilling experience.
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Ari Aster is a filmmaker who polarizes people. Either you hate his movies or love them. Aster’s latest is pretty similar in tone, mood, and the ability to make you puke, to his debut, ‘Hereditary’. The film follows a group of Americans who are invited to their exotic European friend’s strange cult festival sugarcoated as once in a lifetime opportunity. Dani, who has just gone through a traumatic personal tragedy that saw her sister commit suicide and kill her parents, is invited to accompany her boyfriend Christian and his group of friends. The experience quickly replaces the group’s hopes to have a relaxing vacation to their worst nightmare.
There’s something about both ‘Hereditary’ and ‘Midsommar’ that is inexplicable. Aster seems to have a unique modus operandi that is inherently challenging for the masses, yet retains elements of ceremonial devices used in films for poetic expressionism. ‘Midsommar’s core layout mirrors Dani and Christian’s personal relationship and its deteriorating stages. Aster reaffirms the notion of this perspective when he described the movie as “Dani’s fairytale and but folk horror for everybody else” in an interview.
Just like Toni Collette in ‘Hereditary’, Aster saddles Florence Pugh with a similar burden of inhibiting her gravest fears and become emotionally vulnerable to the realities of the story which aren’t far distanced from those of life. Pugh triumphs with a resounding performance, that is at once maniacally joyous and affectingly grim. Pugh won’t win any awards but deserves all of them.
Without a definitive protagonist or antagonist, Aster’s attempt to leave the movie open to interpretation and heavily rely on the viewer’s personal experiences walks a tight rope between derivative and innovative rather well. ‘Midommar’s magic lies in its ability to astonish and catch you unaware with its voguish creator’s twisted sense of expression but might frustrate with its occasional cynicism. If you’re looking for anything normal, tread with caution.
Surprised? Don’t be! ‘Joker’ might be based on a comic-book character, but it is not a comic-book movies. In fact, in so many ways it is an anti-comic-book film. It has elements of suspense, neo-noir and of course, intense drama. Quite simply, ‘Joker’ is the modern-day ‘Taxi Driver’. I expect it to be remembered for a long, long time.
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