Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson struggles to balance a lower-middle class identity, a rigorous relationship with her mother and a series of overwhelming coming-of-age foundations to craft an identity pleasing to herself and those around her. Greta Gerwig begins her directorial career with an explosive and heartfelt love letter to the transition into adulthood. Saoirse Ronan’s portrayal of Lady Bird is poignant, nuanced and richly textured with sadness, joy and uncertainty all packed into one. The same can be said for Laurie Metcalf, whose stellar performance gives incredible voice to her concerned mother persona, leading to the notion of right-and-wrong as nonexistent in life, but rather a series of compromises and sacrifices to instill happiness and content in those closest to one’s self. One of the most revered films of the year, “Lady Bird” spins an innovative take on the coming-of-age drama from a uniquely impassioned perspective as it carves its way into the genre’s milestones of the 2010s.
Taylor Sheridan kicks off his directorial debut with “Wind River,” in which a game hunter/tracker (Jeremy Renner) aids a novice FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) in solving the mysterious murder of a teen girl in the frigid Wind River Reservation. Totally expectant of Sheridan’s previous work in “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water,” dialogue is interspersed with claustrophobic cinematography, gorgeous vistas and sinister tension underneath each moral confrontation between the protagonists and obstacles inhibiting their investigation. The rather-straightforward whodunit is surprisingly depressing and irresistibly melancholy; the death of a child is never easy, and its impact reverberates throughout the film. Rewarding, painful and unforgettable, “Wind River” is an excellent and exciting neo-noir introduction to the screenwriter-turned-director. (would need name if deleting above)
“The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty” — perhaps two of Kathryn Bigelow’s most well-known films — cry deviated veins of tonality through her newest release, “Detroit.” Set against the backdrop of the 1967 Detroit City riots, Kathryn Bigelow turns to yet another dark moment of American history; rather than critique Western involvement in the Middle Eastern political conflict, “Detroit” comments on the ongoing racial injustice of mid-20th century America, depicting a hostage crisis helmed by a morally-objectionable officer. As the National Guard turned their heads away from the repulsive evening, Bigelow faces these concerns head-on, holding little restraint in calling out systemic corruption that continues to plague society today. While worthy of its runtime, “Detroit” is a harrowing, impactful work of film, and will leave a bitter and begrudged taste in the mouth. If it doesn’t, it hasn’t done its job.
After an exciting year of cursed dolls and demonic clowns, “Get Out” undoubtedly stands out as 2017’s best entry in the horror genre. The film follows Chris and Rose, a young interracial couple, as they reach the dreaded meet-the-parents milestone of dating. Upon arrival, Chris is overwhelmed by the anxiety-driven behavior of Rose’s parents, and soon comes to an alarming truth that he never could have anticipated. Fueled by a satirical and culturally-significant perspective on racial stereotypes, the story is an eye-opening experience for all audiences. Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is an excellent and infrequent example of an artist transitioning between genres of entertainment. His impressive evolution from comedic timing into clever jump scares and building suspense demonstrates his patience for telling his story properly. “Get Out” was a genuine surprise when it hit theaters, and its ability to move past its initial shock value and tell an important story regarding social injustice will make it a film for the ages.
Christopher Nolan adds his most profound display of filmmaking expertise with “Dunkirk.” The film portrays the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II from three perspectives: land, sea and air. Tom Hardy and newcomer Fionn Whitehead provide nuanced and expressive performances within a film with little to no dialogue. Nolan instead chooses to progress the expansive story with his cinematography and sound design. With the increasing amount of CGI-filled superhero films hitting theaters throughout the year, Nolan’s cinematography and production design is undeniably refreshing with his insistence on using practical effects. Every frame of this film looks astonishingly real, whether the soldiers are dodging bullets on the beaches of Normandy or barrel-rolling a fighter plane in aerial pursuit. From a narrative perspective, Nolan intricately weaves through distinct perspectives of the conflict with ease and creates a satisfying experience for audiences to witness them merge together into a cohesive story. This attention to detail distinguishes Nolan’s work from the plethora of war films available to fans and makes “Dunkirk” a technical masterpiece.