A top 12 of my personal favourites for the films made in the 2000s. Please add your own to the ones I forgot and vehemently disagree with any of my choices.
#12 21 Grams (2003) Dir A Inarritu (Mexico)
While it is true that anyone of half a dozen movies could have been squeezed into the number 12 spot, I have chosen 21 Grams for its brilliant performances (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro) and powerful story. The film is not told in a linear fashion with the fragmented cuts of beginning and end deliberately disorientating that build with dread. It is a story of loss and grief and attempts at redemption from the very talented Mexican duo Inarritu (director) and Arriaga (writer) who have also produced Amores Perros and Babel.
9 Nov : I have just seen The Sea Inside (2004) after the compilation of my top 12, by another of the South-of-the-border-Spanish-speaking alumni, Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes, The Others). This would be a very worthy place-getter and for the sake of argument, will put it in here as equal twelfth.
It is based on the true story of Spaniard, Ramon Sampredo, a quadriplegic for 28 years, who wants to end his life because he believes his life is one without dignity. Javier Bardem plays Ramon and it is astonishing how much charm and charisma and humour he can extract when all he is allowed to do is move his head; his body is completely limp. Ramon is not bitter and has a small and dedicated band of friends who fight his legal battles and visit him. He is lovingly cared for by his sister in law as he shares her home with his brother, nephew and elderly father. Like all good movies, it is the loving relationships that give a story strength and depth and while the subject matter is difficult or confronting, this remains a positive and stirring film.
#11 The Passion of the Christ (2004) Dir M Gibson (US)
While I really liked Gibson’s Apocalypto from 2006, I respond to The Passion more. Firstly it is a brutal and up close account of Roman ‘justice’, the political machinations and trial of an innocent man, and a faithful retelling of a well known and revered story by Christians. Jim Cavaziel plays the Christ from his arrest in the quiet of the Garden of Gethsemane to his death by crucifixion. The film’s power is a credit to Gibson who connects real world faith with celluloid image and provides context and meaning as to what Jesus had to experience to fulfil his father’s purpose, that is, to reconcile mankind with Himself. You can read what I wrote last year.
#10 Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Dir Wes Anderson (US)
Wes Anderson has made a career of off-beat comedies starting with Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums but none ever quite worked for me until this one. Steve Zissou has Bill Murray front and centre as the hapless, middle aged, undersea explorer wondering what happened to his life, mourning the loss of his friend, Esteban, to a man eating shark and confronted by a young man, Ned (Owen Wilson) who may or may not be his son. The film works because the relationships amongst the characters are genuine and played straight while the laughs are almost always deadpan or occurring behind the main action. The supporting cast are uniformly excellent, each adding their own idiosyncrasy : Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Cate Blanchett, Bud Cort and another half a dozen that you have never heard of that gives the film its magic.