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Top 20 Best Films of 2012: 10-1

2012 proved to be a solid year at the movies, beginning with the likes of the Oscar nominated The Descendants and Shame and then delivering blockbusters such as Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Year-end blockbusters included The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Jack Reacher and James Bond’s Skyfall. But in between there were some indie and foreign language gems, such as End of Watch, Rust & Bone and Untouchable. So, which – if any – of these films make our list of the top 20 best of the year?



Silver Linings Playbook

10) Silver Linings Playbook

What’s the story? Pat (Bradley Cooper) is a highly strung former teacher struggling with bipolar and his wife’s infidelity who is released from a psychiatric facility into the care of his mother, Dolores (Jackie Weaver) and superstitious father, Pat Sr (Robert De Niro). Determined to put his life back on track and get back with his wife, Pat then meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman struggling to cope with the death of her husband who has a similarly tarnished reputation to rebuild.

Why so good?: David O Russell’s adaptation of Matthew Quick’s novel is in many ways every bit as messed up as the characters it depicts. But that only adds to the enjoyment of this crowd-pleaser. Gleefully flirting with convention and then slapping it down whenever possible, the film is an edgy, dysfunctional drama about dealing with mental illness that also functions as the year’s most unlikely rom-com.

Full review



Looper

9) Looper

What’s the story? Set in the not-too-distant future, when time travel hasn’t been invented, the film follows an assassin, or looper, named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose task it is to kill anyone sent back in time from the future by the organised crime organisation now running things. When Joe is suddenly confronted with his older self (Bruce Willis) a moment of hesitation allows the target to get away. But why has he been sent back? And why does his elder self now have his own kill list of unexpected targets?

Why so good?: Rian Johnson’s Looper mixes intelligent sci-fi with blockbuster thrills. It’s smart, fun and not to be missed. Sci-fi often stands or falls on just how well it can convince of futuristic scenarios and ensure everything makes sense. But Looper achieves this with aplomb without sacrificing on spectacle or thrills – even the set pieces impress. Yet, crucially, it also makes you care about what happens too. It’s what elevates it to the position of instant classic. See it at the earliest opportunity – your future self will tell you that you had a blast.

Full review l Photo gallery



Rust & Bone

8) Rust & Bone

What’s the story? When impoverished nightclub bouncer and single dad Ali (played by Belgian star Matthias Schoenaerts) first meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) in a Cote d’Azur nightclub, she is full of life and working with killer whales at the local water park. But when a horrific accident renders Stephanie disabled, Ali becomes an unexpected motivator, treating her in much the same way as he did before the incident and even providing sexual fulfilment. As Stephanie rebuilds her life, however, Ali finds success as a bare knuckle brawler yet struggles to show maturity or responsibility in other aspects of his life, especially in the care for his son.

Why so good?: Jacques Audiard’s film offers a complex and highly adult examination of two polar opposites struggling to find their way in the world, which also thrives on the powerhouse performances of the people playing them. Cotillard is typically amazing, investing Stephanie with an admirable inner strength to offset her outward anxieties, and effortlessly inhabiting one of her most challenging roles (both physically and emotionally). This is mature movie-making at its very best.

Full review l Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain interview l Photo gallery



Jeff, Who Lives At Home

7) Jeff, Who Lives At Home

What’s the story? Jeff (Jason Segel) lives in his mum’s basement believing that nothing in life happens without reason (his favourite movie is Signs). He determines to put this theory into practice after receiving a disturbing phone call and setting out to buy some wood glue. However, as Jeff’s day unfolds he gets involved in a series of encounters that lend further credence to his convictions, including helping his idiot brother (Ed Helms) out with his marriage crisis, while his mother (Susan Sarandon) experiences her own awakening of sorts.

Why so good?: Hats off to both Jason Segel and brothers Jay and Mark Duplass for making Jeff, Who Lives At Home such a winning combination of stoner comedy and moving family drama. Rich in character, liberally sprinkled with feel-good movie magic and yet mindful of the mumblecore values that first earned the Duplass brothers their spurs, this is a funny and quite often touching comedy drama that, in lesser hands, would have been easy not to care about.

Full review



End of Watch

6) End of Watch

What’s the story? The lives of two LA cops (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) change forever when they inadvertently take on a Mexican drug cartel.

Why so good?: End of Watch boasts a vice-like grip on your attention for the way in which it maintains the tension while delivering an unnerving insight into this particular part of the world. In Gyllenhaal and Peña, meanwhile, it has two guides who are, by turns, charismatic, brave and fool-hardy and whose journey is both real and ultimately unforgettable. David Ayer has created another classic.

Full review l Photo gallery



The Raid

5) The Raid

What’s the story? An elite unit of cops, including one named Rama (Iko Uwais), enter a rundown, 15-storey apartment block with the intention of taking down its brutal resident crime lord, Tama (Ray Sahetaphy), only to find their cover quickly blown. Trapped inside, and with Tama offering free sanctuary to all of the block’s criminal inhabitants in exchange for their heads, Rama and company are forced to fight their way back out while trying to complete their mission and get to grips with the real agenda behind their mission.

Why so good?: Gareth Evans’ The Raid is one of the most dazzling action movies you’re ever likely to see! A breathless, bruising and incredibly tense roller-coaster ride, it also has the brains to match its ball-busting, head-banging, ‘how didn’t they get injured?’ set pieces. It’s that good. The Raid looks set to redefine what can be achieved in the genre.

Full review l Gareth Evans interview l Iko Uwais interview l Photo gallery



Headhunters

4) Headhunters

What’s the story? Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie) would appear to have it all: Norway’s most successful headhunter, he is married to a beautiful wife and the owner of a top-of-the-range home. But Roger is living beyond his means and is an art thief on the side searching for a big pay day. When his wife introduces him to the handsome Clas Greve (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Roger thinks he has hit the jackpot as Clas not only fits the profile of a new job opportunity perfectly but also possesses a high value painting – the type that could set Roger up for life. But after he steals the object in question, Roger’s life begins to spiral out of control.

Why so good?: For pure unadulterated fun you can’t beat this Norwegian film version of Scandinavian thriller writer Jo Nesbo’s Headhunters. Exciting, suspenseful, funny, dark and twisted, this is a film that takes you on a roller-coaster ride through one man’s descent into hell in the most pop-corn way possible. An American remake is virtually assured.

Full review l Aksel Hennie interview l Photo gallery



Ted

3) Ted

What’s the story? Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) is a pot-smoking, womanising, foul mouthed teddy bear who came to life following a childhood wish by John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg). But now, years later, he is placing a strain on the relationship between John and the love of his life, Lori (Mila Kunis), who subsequently delivers an ultimatum.

Why so good?: Seth MacFarlane’s Ted is hands down one of the funniest comedies of the year. The Family Guy creator has made the leap from small screen to big in the most emphatic way possible, bringing the same mix of intelligence and vulgarity to create something that is genuinely unique and un-missable… It’s the film’s continued ability to surprise, as well as the trio of central characters you’ll love hanging out with, that makes Ted such a fantastic movie-going experience.

Full review l Mark Wahlberg interview l Photo gallery l Watch the trailers



The Dark Knight Rises

2) The Dark Knight Rises

What’s the story? Set eight years after the events of the second film, The Dark Knight Rises finds Gotham at a time of ‘peace’ with Batman gone, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) living as a recluse and secrets still safely buried, albeit with consciences weighing heavy on men such as Commissioner Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman). But a storm is coming in the form of a violent reckoning led by the masked mercenary known as Bane (Tom Hardy). And while his emergence brings Batman back out of hiding, the odds may be too stacked against him to make the difference anymore.

Why so good?: Christopher Nolan promised us an epic conclusion to his Batman trilogy and has risen to his own challenge by delivering an often breathtaking finale. The Dark Knight Rises succeeds on just about every level. It’s intelligent, often fiendishly so, it’s emotionally engaging, sometimes tear-jerkingly so, and it is genuinely spectacular (especially if seen in IMAX)… Once the dust has finally settled on all of the events that transpire, you may even find yourself shedding a tear, if not for the characters and whatever fate has in store for them, but then at the very least in acknowledgement of blockbuster filmmaking at its very best.

Full review l Banner art gallery



Argo

1) Argo

What’s the story? CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) is called into action when the American Embassy in Iran is seized by revolutionaries, prompting six workers to escape and find shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador. With time rapidly running out before the six are identified, found and executed as spies, Mendez concocts ‘the best bad plan’ at the agency’s disposal: namely, he’ll enter the country by posing as the producer of a new science fiction movie named Argo and escort them out by pretending they are his film crew.

Why so good?: Ben Affleck makes it three for three as a director with Argo, a tense political thriller based on real events that is unquestionably one of the films of the year. Affleck’s film is a grand-standing piece of cinema that works on just about every level, gripping from start to finish. Thriving from an astute script from Chris Terrio and displaying a flawless eye for period detail (thanks to production designer Sharon Seymour), the film manages to shine a light on an amazing chapter in US history that has been kept under lock and key for so long.

Full review l Ben Affleck l Bryan Cranston interview l Photo gallery

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