Primarily because of their darker natures, these three films were not among my favorites in 2009. Despite their undeniable excellence, I cannot recommend them for various reasons. Mainly, I like movies to be fun and escapist – these are not. Two of these films are on many top 10 lists. The third may be a shoo-in for best documentary.
I want to describe them, so you can decide if they are the type you want to explore. If they are, you can’t go wrong—all excellent films.
The Hurt Locker – Kathryn Bigelow wonderfully directs this nail-biter about an Explosive Ordinance Disposal unit in Iraq. The tension oozes off every frame as Jeremy Renner, in a real star turn, puts on the bomb suit and replays that most tired of movie cliches, deciding which wire to cut when disarming a bomb. It’s all fresh and new here, with the Iraq war and terrorism as a backdrop. Mark Boal’s screenplay is loaded with details that could only come from his being an embedded journalist. He captures the soldier’s adrenaline addiction and apathy dichotomy in a most skillful way. Ultimately, this a troubling anti-war message movie, which eventually left me troubled, wondering what we are doing to send our boys over there.
District 9 – While Avatar deservedly gets all the attention and kudos as THE alien movie for 2009, District 9 may be MORE creative. Unlike the lovable Navi, “the Prawns” are the most disgusting-looking aliens I have ever seen – despite their love of cat food. The lead character is entirely annoying – as is the whole film. It’s hard to watch in a train wreck – you can’t take your eyes off it. There is also a transformation reminiscent of Alien that cranks up the disgust factor even more. If you are not opposed to nightmarish visions – this film is a home run. Brilliant filmmaking in every way. Were it not so disgusting to look at, I would recommend it.
Food Inc. – Not enough to worry about in your life? Then watch this disturbing wake-up call to the food we eat. If you understand how cows, chickens, and pigs are slaughtered and how the food business has become a giant monopoly with no demonstrable interest in nutrition…this is the movie for you. It isn’t comforting and is arguably the best documentary of the year. Another film that makes you shrug your shoulder and say, “oy!”
I need to defend my choice of Taken as one of my favorites for 2009, especially compared to these three superior films. I put it on the list because there was a real shortage of quality films released last January, and that movie surprised me with its relentless action and the great star-turn by Liam Neeson. Best of all, it had a satisfying conclusion – unlike the three movies above.
And one last thing. January is typically the dumping ground for lame movies – caveat emptor!