Favourite films of 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX 2020 - Credit: NICO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX © 2020

As we head towards 2021, film reviewer Paul Steward looks back on his top 10 films of 2020.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL - Credit: STUDIOCANAL

It’s been a mighty strange year for the film industry. The global coronavirus pandemic has forced cinemas to close their doors and seen big budget blockbusters abandon their planned release dates for the imagined safer shores of 2021.

However, despite the unprecedented circumstances many great movies still managed to see the light of day.

Here’s a rundown of my favourite films of the year.

10. Calm With Horses

The debut film from Nick Rowland, this engrossing Irish gangster flick features a stellar turn from Cosmo Jarvis as Douglas ‘Arm’ Armstrong, a feared enforcer for the drug dealing Devers family.

Arm is torn between his loyalty to the Devers and his responsibilities as a father, when his employers instruct him to take someone’s life.

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL

Saint Maud. Picture: STUDIOCANAL - Credit: STUDIOCANAL

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Also starring Barry Keoghan, the film is an intense and unflinching portrait of Ireland’s dark rural underbelly.

9. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

This powerful French drama from writer director Celina Sciamma, follows Marianne (Noemie Merlant), a young painter commissioned to paint the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adele Haenel), as she reluctantly prepares for an arranged marriage.

The bride-to-be’s refusal to pose, means Marianne must observe her subject in secret under the guise of her new walking companion.

However, as the two women share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom, intimacy and attraction blossom. A beautifully crafted and mesmerising period romance.

Tenet was one of the few big blockbusters released this year.

Tenet was one of the few big blockbusters released this year. - Credit: supplied by Campus West

8. Saint Maud

Another outstanding debut feature, this time from writer/director Rose Glass, who delivers a haunting modern psychological horror.

Morfydd Clark stars as a reclusive and devoutly religious young nurse who becomes dangerously obsessed with her dying patient. The film is understated and slow burning, but drips with ominous foreboding.

Tense, unsettling and ultimately disturbing, fans of atmospheric horror will find it utterly absorbing.

7. Onward

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Netfix

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Netfix - Credit: Netflix

Released in early March just before the pandemic took hold, Disney Pixar’s Onward will have been many family’s last trip to the cinema, and definitely one to treasure.

Featuring the voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, the story follows two elf brothers, who having lost their father when they were young, embark on a quest to magically revive him, so they can spend one final day together.

Writer/director Dan Scanlon delivers a zany family adventure with laugh out loud moments aplenty, but the heartwarming bond between the two siblings gives the film so much emotional heart, that it will charm adults and youngsters alike.

6. Queen and Slim

This stylish debut from Melina Matsoukas puts a modern spin on the Bonnie and Clyde style outlaw adventure.

With impressive performances from Jodie Turner-Smith and Daniel Kaluuya, the pair star as lawless lovers forced to go on the run when their first date takes an unexpected turn during a routine traffic stop.

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX 2020

The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX 2020 - Credit: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

Labelled as cop killers by the media, the pair become a symbol for the trauma and pain caused by institutional racism.

A powerful and prescient story from a talented new filmmaker which will linger in the memory long after its heart wrenching conclusion.

5. Jojo Rabbit

Acclaimed director Taika Waititi, writes and stars as Adolf Hitler in this absurdist World War Two comedy drama.

Co-starring Scarlett Johansson, Sam Rockwell and newcomer Roman Griffin Davis, the film is set during the waning months of the Third Reich. Telling the tale of lonely German boy Jojo Beltzer, whose world view is turned upside down when he discovers his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.

Making a comedy about Hitler and the Nazi’s is a very risky proposition, and one that could easily become tasteless, however the New Zealander pulls it off with aplomb, delivering a daringly bold and utterly unique piece of work.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman. Picture: Niko Tavernise / Netflix.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman. Picture: Niko Tavernise / Netflix. - Credit: NIKO TAVERNISE/NETFLIX

4. Tenet

The much-anticipated new film from Christopher Nolan finally arrived in UK cinemas in August in between the two enforced lockdowns.

A futuristic espionage drama, starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson and Kenneth Branagh, the film follows Washington’s protagonist as he is recruited by a mysterious organisation to participate in an important time-twisting global assignment.

It’s ultra complicated narrative proved impenetrable to some, but it’s high concept, spectacular action thrilled many.

Films as original and audaciously ambitious as this don’t come around very often, and when they do they should be cause for celebration.

Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX 2020

Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX 2020 - Credit: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

3. The Trial of The Chicago 7

Oscar-winning scriptwriter Aaron Sorkin steps into the director’s chair for this timely retelling of the controversial 1969 trial of seven anti-war protesters.

Assembling a star-studded cast including Sacha Baron Cohen, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the ensemble is a strong as any film this year.

With obvious contemporary relevance, Sorkin’s brilliant script manages to turn this remarkable tale and it’s five-month long trial into a completely enthralling two-hour courtroom drama. Crowd pleasing and enraging in equal measure, The Trial of the Chicago 7 delivers on every level.

2. Parasite

Bong Joon Ho’s genre-blending drama surprised everyone in February by becoming the first foreign language film to win the best picture Oscar.

Mark Rylance as William Kunstler and Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko...

Mark Rylance as William Kunstler and Eddie Redmayne as Tom Hayden in The Trial of the Chicago 7. Picture: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX 2020 - Credit: Niko Tavernise/NETFLIX © 2020

The story follows a poor Korean family who con their way into the lives of a much richer household across town.

When their deception is threatened with exposure, the group must take drastic action to preserve their new way of life.

Relentlessly entertaining and utterly original, Parasite cleverly blends elements of thriller and drama with surprisingly funny comedy, whilst incorporating a razor-sharp thread of social satire.

1. The Invisible Man

Written and directed by Australian Leigh Whannell, this modern interpretation of the classic H.G. Wells tale features a stellar turn from Elisabeth Moss as Cecilia Kass, the abused girlfriend of a millionaire tech genius.

After escaping his clutches, Cecilia is convinced her boyfriend’s apparent suicide is a hoax.

The Invisible Man tops our list.

The Invisible Man tops our list. - Credit: Archant

Falling victim to a series of increasingly sinister coincidences, she sets out to prove to her disbelieving friends that she is being hunted by an unseen presence.

Superbly directed with a magnificently ominous score, Whannell’s Invisible Man is an outstandingly original take on a literary classic.

An unbearably tense, modern psychological thriller, boosted by an awards worthy performance from Moss.

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