Ten essential films from ten years ago
Tom Jolliffe goes back 10 years in 2011, offering up to ten must-see films of the year …
I am almost stunned that we are now 10 years from 2011. For me 2011 is the future. I’m still stuck somewhere in 2004. How on earth are 21 year olds born in this century now? Yet here we are. Let’s not be overly optimistic about the future prospects of film offerings. Might as well look back instead. 2011 has been a pretty solid film year, with some real cult favorites dotted around. Here are 10 must-see movies from that year.
Let’s start with a movie that may have escaped your radar. Stellar actor Paddy Considine has grown into a stellar filmmaker, writing and directing this story of a bitter man struggling with his vices and uncontrollable anger. Outside of a small audience in the UK, it didn’t really get the attention it deserved. Peter Mullan has proven once again how a totally underrated actor he is with an amazing performance and Olivia Colman is also superb here. She has stepped into the kind of star she more deserves than in the years since, and is now (rightfully) an Oscar-winning actress. Tyrannosaurus is a grim but compelling vision.
Another film that has slipped somewhat under the radar. To protect is an exciting character play that sees Michael Shannon give a better career performance as a blue collar family man who becomes obsessed with a premonition he has about an apocalyptic event. His obsession quickly interferes with work and family life, and finds him at odds with the community as well. The film drew public attention to writer / director Jeff Nichol and the film received critical acclaim, although it failed to find a large following. It’s a wonderful movie.
Brad Pitt as a baseball coach who develops a revolutionary statistics-based screening method. It either sounds like the wet dreams of fantasy baseball league fans, or it sounds like a cinematic death song to the rest of us. It turns out that fans of the fantasy league are right. Silver ball has been unfairly dismissed in some corners as populist guts, but it’s a compelling, true story that makes the subject matter entertaining. Pitt is as effortlessly charismatic as one might expect, but the big surprise here was Jonah Hill, stepping away from stoner comedies and delivering a performance that shattered any preconceptions about his limits. Without lacking in snobbery, some rejected his six Oscar nominations (including a surprise but welcome nod to Hill and one to Pitt), but the success of awards season was justified.
Tinker Tailor Spy Soldier
Based on the novel by the late John Le Carré, this classic Cold War era story gets a perfect film adaptation (which is also worthy of the excellent British TV miniseries). Gary Oldman leads a star cast in a film excellently directed by Tomas Alfredson (Leave the one on the right in). It’s a slow-burning, old-fashioned thriller that’s constantly intriguing. Bridget O’Conner and Peter Straughan do an exceptional job adapting classic source material. Despite praise from critics, it didn’t hit everyone, due to the sluggishness that manifested itself especially around 2011 against a growing increase in relentless movies aimed at reducing attention span.
Here is a curved ball. It was pretty underrated for me. He was often rejected like Liam Neeson did Taken with wolves. In reality, the film feels a lot more like a mixture of literal and allegorical battle with the heartache of the loss. It is mere vanity but a brutally effective fight for survival in extreme conditions against a fierce animal foe. A pack of wolves eliminates one by one the survivors of a plane crash in almost uninhabitable snow conditions. The set and the enemy make for a gripping film, but Neeson’s performance (as an almost desperate hunter who finds his will to survive) is superimposed on the actors’ new heartbreak in a film that was made shortly after having lost his wife Natasha Richardson in a tragic accident.
This almost instantaneous cult hit became that year the film “have you seen…” among cinephiles. An ultra-sleek neo-noir about a stoic moonlighting stuntman as a runaway chauffeur who owed a lot to Michael Mann. Nic Winding Refn had cult fans of his Pusher series and Bronson in particular, but Drive really drew attention to him. It was, and still is, his most accessible “mainstream” film, and as such, its sequels have tended to alienate as much as they have certainly won over. Additionally, Ryan Gosling saw his popularity increase dramatically, especially with male audiences, when he suddenly became Hollywood’s coolest mofo. A superb soundtrack, stunning visuals and a sensational cast (including Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) combine for a film that remains one of the best of the past decade.
Another neo-noir. It also marked one of two key year films for Matthew McConaughey. It was really the start of the McConaussance. After spending many years in mediocre romantic comedies, which normally had him leaning askew on the poster (sometimes back to back with the female lead), he took a decisive turn and started making darker cinema. , more mature and stimulating. There was the Lincoln Lawyer also but Killer Joe was nicer for me (Mud, by Jeff Nichols came the following year). A dark story of deception and attempted murder as an indebted double criminal (Emile Hirsch) finds himself embroiled in a cop / hitman whose reputation precedes him. McConnaughey revel in his enigmatic and villainous role. He is sublime and the rest of the cast too. It’s also a great comeback for one of the masters of cinema, William Friedkin. He hasn’t been able to match her since.
Duncan Jones made a great debut in Moon, with another beautifully contained and engaging sci-fi thriller. Here Jake Gyllanhaal does groundhog day with a twist, having to repeat the same last moments before an explosion wipes out a train full of passengers. It’s up to him to find the bomber and prevent it from striking again. It’s complex, winding and well designed. Gyllenhaal is huge and the nature of his role and the simulation are tragic. The fate of those in the simulation is inevitable as they fight for the future of the next potential victims of the bomber. To the surprise of many, this was entirely ignored by the Major Awards.
Family drama meets MMA brawl. Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), an ex-marine, haunted by his past, returns home, setting his sights on MMA glory, enlisting his father (Nick Nolte) to train him. Meanwhile, once a promising fighter-turned-teacher Brendan Conlon (Joel Edgerton), the estranged older brother makes a return to low-level fighting to make ends meet. A meeting of brothers in the ring is inevitable. warrior is brilliant, anchored by outstanding performances from Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte (particularly brilliant). It’s exhausting, captivating and the fights are exceptionally well done too. I found this one more exciting than The fighter, which covered similar caveats (in this realistic tale with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg from 2010).
Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender recombined after their star flick Hunger (2008) with Shame. Fass plays a sex addict whose hedonistic activities are disrupted by the arrival of his rebellious sister (Carey Mulligan). As we now expect and appreciate, McQueen is uncompromising in his austere character study and likewise, Fassbender is fully committed to his complex role. Mulligan is also exceptional. It’s a mind-boggling movie that won’t suit all tastes given its flawless take on a sort of addiction not often covered in the movies (realistically anyway). It’s a perfect cohesion between the director and the cast.
SEE ALSO: Back to 2001: ten essential films from twenty years ago
What are your favorite movies of 2011. Let us know on our social media @ flickeringmyth…
Tom Jolliffe is an award-winning screenwriter and avid film buff. It has a number of films on DVD / VOD around the world and several releases in 2021, including Renegades (Lee Majors, Danny Trejo, Michael Pare, Tiny Lister, Ian Ogilvy and Billy Murray), Crackdown, When Darkness Falls and The War. of Worlds: The Attack (Vincent Regan). Find more information on the best personal site you have ever seen … https://www.instagram.com/jolliffeproductions/