Directed by Steven Spielberg
Jaws, based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel of the same name, is a thriller about a man-eating great white shark. Jaws is well-made schlock. The film has little ambition or purpose, but it’s well-paced, well-acted, and very entertaining.
Directed by Fritz Lang
M is a German movie about a serial killer. Fritz Lang’s first sound film, M is expertly plotted with near-flawless acting, music, and cinematography. M is a technical masterpiece and an insightful comment on the 1930s German environment that Lang would leave in few years’ time.
Directed by Dan Gilroy
Nightcrawler is a thriller that follows a thief who begins shooting live footage of accidents and crimes in Los Angeles and selling the content to a local news channel as a stringer. Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a successfully unnerving performance as the sociopathic main character. The film’s tone, though, fluctuates wildly. The social comment is derivative and generally aimed at easy targets. Nightcrawler has a lot to say, but little of it is meaningful.
Would not see.
All the President’s Men
Directed by Alan J. Pakula
All the President’s Men, based on Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s non-fiction book of the same name, is about Woodward and Bernstein’s investigation of the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post. The film captures the look and rhythm of journalism better than its imitators. The pacing is compelling, but the ending feels rushed.
The Bad Sleep Well
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
The Bad Sleep Well is a Japanese language thriller about revenge and corporate corruption. The film is occasionally sentimental and the female characters are thinly sketched, but it is still a great film. The Bad Sleep Well’s plot moves both unexpectedly and inevitably to its stark conclusion and pointed social criticism.
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Oldboy, based on the Japanese manga of the same name, is a Korean-language mystery, thriller, and psychodrama. Oldboy repeatedly subverts expectations, both in plot developments and in tone. The fighting is choreographed with stunning detail and skill, though there is less violence than one would expect from a revenge film. Oldboy is the rare action film that sincerely aspires to say something, and it has bold and vivid emotional motivations and reactions rather than the usual perfunctory exercises and excuses. Unfortunately, however, the film’s psychological ambition has the intensity, but neither the nuance nor the virtuosity of its physical conflict.
Children of Men
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Children of Men is a science fiction thriller set in a dystopian 2027 future where no one can have children and the United Kingdom, the last functioning government, has instituted draconian laws against immigration. The cinematography is often impressive and the scenes are sometimes striking, but the tension between the film’s desire to be exciting, its low-key banter, its obvious political messages, and its heavy handed imagery make it neither enjoyable nor illuminating.
Would not see.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Sicario follows an FBI agent into the violent world of the drug trade on the border between the United States and Mexico. The film is well acted, expertly shot, and tightly plotted, although the pacing is a little uneven. Sicario defies expectation and cliché to create a punishing and unflinching look at the nature of violence that only grows bleaker on reflection.
Directed by Alex Garland
Ex Machina is a science fiction thriller about artificial intelligence. At turns funny, thrilling, and thought-provoking, Ex Machina is, at all times, more entertaining than profound.