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Top 15 Best Films of 2008: 10-5

WE pick out our 15 favourite films of 2008. Find out what made 10 to 5….

The Visitor

No.10: The Visitor (15)

Starring: Richard Jenkins, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass.

What’s the story? Walter Vale (Jenkins) is an elderly professor who finds his life is given new meaning when he turns up at his New York city apartment to find an immigrant couple – Tarek and Zainab – living there. Uncharacteristically, he lets them stay and slowly develops a friendship with Tarek, who teaches him how to play the djemba (drum). But when Tarek is arrested by the authorities following a mix-up on the subway, and placed in a detention centre for deportation, Walter is moved to take action to prevent this from happening.

Why so good?: The Visitor took a refreshingly intelligent approach to the issue of immigration and managed to ask some searching questions about the complex issue. But it also provided the inspirational tale of one man’s re-awakening. Richard Jenkins – that character actor you’ve seen a thousand times but can’t always place – shone in a rare leading role, while Israeli-Arab actress Hiam Abbass was luminous as an unlikely romantic interest. Thomas McCarthy, whose previous film was the indie hit The Station Agent, underlined his credentials as a writer-director of serious talent

Trivia: Thomas McCarthy wrote the screenplay with Richard Jenkins in mind – and although flattered, Jenkins initially was reluctant fearing the movie would never get made with himself in the lead! He’s now an outside bet for an Oscar nomination.

Read the review l Photos l Richard Jenkins interview

In Bruges

No.9: In Bruges (18)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

What’s the story? Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Gleeson) are two Irish hitmen who have been sent to lie low in the fairytale Belgian town of Bruges after a horrifically botched job in London. While awaiting instructions from their psychopathic boss, Harry (Fiennes), Ken attempts to take in the culture while Ray struggles to come to terms with the repercussions of the last job. Then Ken receives a phone call that has even more violent consequences…

Why so good?: It’s refreshing to find a movie that’s so steadfastly non-PC and yet so brilliant with it. There were a million ways in which Martin McDonagh’s film could (and probably did) offend, but thanks to some brilliant characters, a keen sense of tragedy and the unique spin on the hitman genre, In Bruges emerged as one of the very best comedy thrillers of the year (or even the decade). Farrell was brilliant, whether offending overweight American tourists or midgets (sorry, little people!), while Gleeson brought plenty of warmth and conflict to his older, wiser killer. Fiennes was clearly just having a blast as the Mob boss with a deeply worrying set of moral values (and I bet you never thought you’d get to hear the thesp asking: “Is he doing a wee or a poo?”).

Trivia: The word ‘f**k’ and its derivatives are said 126 times in this 107-minute film, an average of 1.18 ‘f**ks’ per minute. Like we said, it will offend the easily offended!

Read our review l Colin Farrell interview l Buy it

The Orphanage

No. 8: The Orphanage (15)

Starring: Belén Rueda, Roger Príncep

What’s the story? Laura (Rueda) returns to the Spanish orphanage that was once her home with the intention of re-opening it for a new generation of children. When her son Simón (Príncep) begins talking of an imaginary friend, Laura is at first sceptical. But then he disappears and she is forced to unlock the secrets of the home’s past.

What we said: Juan Antonio Bayona’s superior chiller The Orphanage serves as a timely reminder that you don’t need relentless gore, cheap shocks or Japanese inspiration to succeed in the horror genre. Produced by Guillermo del Toro (of Pan’s Labyrinth fame), it’s an intelligent, emotionally involving and genuinely scary horror film that is a triumph of subtlety and imagination. Belén Rueda is excellent as the woman at the centre of the story, while the clever ending is as brilliantly realised as it is heartbreakingly poignant. If only Hollywood could make horror films of this quality instead of merely copying the best ideas (and invariably lessening their impact!).

Trivia: Producer Guillermo del Toro is referenced twice – firstly, when of the orphaned children Laura identifies in the photo she is shown is referred to as “Guillermo”, and secondly when you also see his name during the scene where the window behind Laura smashes and she reveals the names of the old orphans and the dolls.

Read our review l Buy it

Gone Baby Gone

No.7 Gone Baby Gone (15)

Starring: Casey Affleck, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan.

What’s the story? After a young girl, Amanda, is abducted from a deprived Boston neighbourhood, Private Investigator Kenzie (Affleck) and his partner and girlfriend Angie (Monaghan) are hired by the child’s aunt to find her. But the case proves more complex than either imagined, especially as it places them at odds with some of their police colleagues.

Why so good?: Dennis (Mystic River) Lehane’s complex novel was turned into impressively tough stuff by director Ben Affleck, who made his directing debut with Gone Baby Gone. The film was actually scheduled for a UK release in November 2007, but was delayed because of similarities to the real-life case of missing Madeleine McCann. When it finally emerged in UK cinemas in June, it proved a fascinating character study that was rich in moral ambiguity. Casey Affleck also proved an excellent leading man – rendering any accusations of nepotism redundant – while the depiction of the Boston neighbourhoods in which the story is set merely heightened the grim sense of authenticity. Ben can almost be forgiven for cinematic atrocities such as Gigli and Pearl Harbour.

Trivia: Actress and Oscar nominee Amy Ryan looked and sounded so convincing as a low class Dorchester mom that a security guard mistook her for a fan on the first day of location filming, and wouldn’t let her on the set.

Read our review l Buy it


No.6: Changeling (15)

Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan.

What’s the story? On 10 March 1928, single mother Christine Collins (Jolie) returns home from work to find that her son, Walter, is missing. Months later, the LAPD – led by Captain JJ Jones (Donovan) – find her son and return him to her. But Collins does not believe the child is Walter and points this out, only to find herself institutionalised to spare the LAPD any more embarrassment. As Christine attempts to fight the system with the help of a prominent Reverend (John Malkovich) a new lead to Walter’s whereabouts is found…

Why so good?: Clint Eastwood may be in the twilight of his career but he just keeps getting better and better. Changeling is another of the sombre masterpieces he specialises in, serving as an intriguing companion piece to the Oscar winning Mystic River, and an astonishing true story. Angelina Jolie delivers the performance of her career as the mother at the centre of the story, by turns inspiring and heartbreaking as she fights the system to continue the search for her missing son. Eastwood’s attention to period detail and refusal to over-elaborate or soften the impact of the hard-hitting truth merely ensures that the film lives long in the memory afterwards.

Trivia: Screenwriter J Michael Straczynski first learned of the story of Christine Collins from an unnamed source at Los Angeles City Hall. The source had stumbled across case files regarding the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders among other discarded documents scheduled for destruction. Straczynski took the files himself and became obsessed with the case, doing extensive research over the course of a year. Virtually every event depicted in the film appears as cited in legal documents, with dialogue often taken verbatim from court transcripts.

Read our review l Angelina Jolie interview l Angelina Jolie photos l Changeling photos

Find out what made 5-1