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Top 15 Best Films of 2007: 15-10

2007 got off to a flying start with the likes of The Last King of Scotland, Notes On A Scandal and Clint Eastwood’s Letters From Iwo Jima featuring prominently among the Oscars. British films also featured prominently, with the likes of Hot Fuzz, This Is England and Sunshine attracting widespread acclaim and mostly healthy box office.

The summer, however, brought a deluge of sequels and three-quels, ranging from the final instalments in the Pirates of the Caribbean and Jason Bourne franchises, as well as new adventures for Spider-Man and Shrek. Bruce Willis even got to dust off his vest for a fourth Die Hard adventure, while Harry Potter worked some more box office magic on behalf of younger viewers. And let’s not forget The Simpsons (“D’oh!”) or Transformers, which debuted strong.

Come the autumn, however, it was back to the more serious stuff, with films about Iraq and the war on terror (The Kingdom, Lions For Lambs, Rendition, etc) taking centre stage. While the likes of Atonement, American Gangster and The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford also impressed…

But which, if any, of these films make our top 15?

Two Days In Paris

No.15: Two Days In Paris (15)

Starring: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg

What’s the story? Marion and Jack arrive in the French capital after a semi-successful trip to Venice, painfully aware that the spark has gone from their relationship. Over the ensuing two days, they attempt to sort out their feelings for each other in between hanging out with Marion’s challenging parents (Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet) and fending off the unwanted advances of her numerous ex-boyfriends.

What we said: The last time Julie Delpy found romance in Paris, she also earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the script for Before Sunrise along with Richard Linklater and Ethan Hawke. She could well repeat the trick for Two Days In Paris, a quirky, funny, emotionally honest and sometimes rude exploration of what it takes to keep a relationship going.

Trivia: The characters of Marion’s parents are played by Delpy’s real life parents, Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet.

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Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland

No.14: The Last King of Scotland

Starring: Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson

What’s the story? Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan heads to Uganda in search of some excitement and adventure. When he meets the country’s new leader Idi Amin at the scene of a roadside accident and is subsequently offered the chance to become his personal physician, Garrigan accepts the invitation. But as the young doctor settles into his new life of luxury, he slowly becomes aware of the shocking truth behind Amin’s iron-fisted rule and becomes desperate to escape the tyranny.

What we said: Kevin Macdonald’s brilliant The Last King of Scotland exposes the reign of terror unleashed by dictator Idi Amin. Yet rather than populating the picture with heroic figures attempting to do good in impossible circumstances, the film unfolds from a different perspective that boldly challenges viewers own perceptions of evil… It’s difficult to take your eyes off the screen whenever Forest Whitaker is around, especially since the actor has captured the essence of the man – both physically and mentally – in such a convincing manner. It’s a performance to rival Bruno Ganz’s portrayal of Hitler in The Downfall and one for which the term “Oscar-worthy” was designed.

Trivia: The Last King Of Scotland is the first Western production shot in Uganda since The African Queen in 1950.

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Letters From Iwo Jima

No. 13: Letters From Iwo Jima (15)

Starring: Ken Watanabe, Shido Nakamura, Kazunari Ninomiya, Tsuyoshi Ihara

What’s the story? A look at the attempts of Japanese soldiers to defend Iwo Jima with little hope of success or survival at the end of World War II. Leading them is the brilliant tactician Lt General Kuribayashi, an honourable man who came up with the controversial tactic of digging into the rock and carving out an intricate tunnel system that could be used to defend the island. Under his command, a defence that was expected to last just five days held out for an amazing 35.

What we said: In Flags Of Our Fathers Clint Eastwood looked at the key Second World War battle of Iwo Jima from the American perspective, depicting both the heroism of the soldiers who fought the campaign and how their bravery was exploited by the US government in order to continue to provide funding for the war effort. In Letters From Iwo Jima he examines the conflict from the Japanese perspective, putting a face to “the enemy” and treating their attempted defence of the island with the respect it deserves, whilst also exposing the cruelty of the government leaders who asked them to fight such a doomed cause. The result is an astonishing piece of work that confirms Eastwood as one of the most important filmmakers of contemporary cinema.

Trivia: The story of Lt Ito strapping mines to himself and lying among corpses to attack a tank is based on the real-life story of Satoru Omagiri, as told in The Rising Sun by John Toland.

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Reese Witherspoon in Rendition

No.12: Rendition (15)

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Omar Metwally, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin, Peter Sarsgaard

What’s the story? When a bomb goes off in a crowded market place in a North African city, killing an American CIA agent, an Egyptian US resident is abducted by intelligence agency officials on his way back into the US, flown to North Africa and tortured for information regarding the identity of the bomber (due to a tentative connection). While his distraught and heavily pregnant wife attempts to discover what’s happened to him, a rookie CIA agent in Africa must work out whether the suspect has anything to hide.

What we said: Rendition an emotionally complex film that treats the war on terror with the intelligence it deserves, posing plenty of questions without pretending to know the answers. Rather, audiences are left to reflect on the various issues it raises, such as how far is too far when it comes to protecting a nation, and does torture create more terrorist acts than it averts? In an autumn that looks set to be dominated by films tackling the war on terror, Rendition brilliantly combines intelligence with excitement to set the standard by which others should be judged. It’s stimulating, provocative and comes highly recommended.

Trivia: Gavin Hood surprised many when he won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his hard-edged thriller Tsotsi. This was his American debut.

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Kurt Russell in Death Proof

No.11: Death Proof (18)

Starring: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Zoe Bell, Tracie Thoms, Rose McGowan, Sydney Poitier, Vanessa Ferlito

What’s the story? Mysterious loner Stuntman Mike hangs out with a buxom group of young women at a bar in Austin, Texas, before arranging an “accident” that only he will surrive. He then attempts tp repeat the ‘trick’, only to find the roles reversed as the women in question turn the tables on their attacker and seek bloody revenge.

What we said: In revamped form, Death Proof is a fuller bodied experience that revs up the sexiness and bumps up the slick dialogue before accelerating its way into a [literally] smashing finish. It won’t convert the Tarantino sceptics it will delight just about everyone else. It’s just a shame that it arrives stripped of the full Grindhouse experience.

Trivia: The cops in the hospital after Stuntman Mike crashes his car for the first time are the cops in Kill Bill: Vol. 1, who report to the scene of the wedding day massacre. They are played by real-life father-son team Michael Parks and James Parks.

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Find out what made 10-5