The POP team's favourite films of 2017

2017 has been an exciting year for film. Box office records have been smashed (‘It’ became the highest grossing horror movie of all time), the Oscars were won by La La Land Moonlight, and Disney bought… well, what didn’t Disney buy? With 2017 coming to a festive close, the POP team have been thinking about the films they enjoyed the most over the last 12 months.

Robert (Head of Engineering) - Dunkirk

Why choose Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk as my film of the year? Its photography is powerful, scene after scene lingers in the memory. The silent drift of the Spitfire over the beaches; the soldier marching straight into the sea to drown; the pale hand struggling for the surface of the water and the anguish underwater howl of desperation at being forced to choose between drowning and being burnt alive.

The soundtrack creates a ticking, throbbing aural manifestation of menace and threat. In the absence of more conventional antagonists it constantly reminds the viewer of the ever-tightening trap the protagonists are struggling to escape. Rarely has the sound design been so powerfully married to the visual tempo and themes of a film.

The script’s interweaving storylines allows a complex interwoven story to be collapsed into hours. Initially presenting a puzzle to the viewer it then resolves into a rich tapestry that reveals more of its characters and frames their decisions with the life and death consequences that war entails. It also underpins its playful artistic invention with the conventions of linear storytelling with the powerful emotion of the desire to survive in the constant presence of death.

With the presence of actors like Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh the cast is exceptionally talented but as an ensemble you spend more time with the newer faces who sell the inchoate fear of the young soldiers looking desperately for a way out. Rylance’s mixture of stoicism and strangled emotion dragged me into the moment with him, but Tom Hardy’s performance from behind a flight cap and goggles is maybe the most technically accomplished. Never has staring at a chalk scribble been so intensely felt.

Dunkirk, in a year of striking cinema, was the most complete demonstration of its medium as an artform, combing excellence in all the disciplines required to create a film and rendering a work of art that lingers in the mind.

Liv (Account Manager) - Moonlight

While yes, this technically came out in 2016, I don’t care, I watched it in 2017 and it’s just that great a film. Moonlight is a story that hasn’t been told before and needed to be, especially at a time of increasingly hostile race relations in the States. Moonlight gave a voice to many who are oppressed due to the colour of their skin, their religion, their sexual preferences, and their social status. With all of these identities intersecting in one character, we learn that these are not separate issues to be dealt with one by one. Everyone’s lives, especially those of the disadvantaged, become a complex entanglement of various experiences, and we cannot become aware of how people experience the world in different ways, nor our own privilege, if these stories are not told.

The film unfolds beautifully across three time periods, with the richly coloured, lingering shots immersing you in Chiron’s world. The performances are strong and deserving of the Oscar nominations and wins. Some people have trouble with a film being left open-ended, however I feel this was completely natural and necessary - we have not achieved the levels of compassion and tolerance that society requires to accept people like Chiron. We cannot know where things will go from here, we can only know what we aim to do about it.

Tunch (Head of Quality) - Blade Runner 2049

PLEASE DO NOT MAKE A SEQUEL TO BLADE RUNNER - This is how I reacted when first hearing the news of a sequel to the much loved 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner. I thought if there was ever a film which did not need a following up it was Blade Runner, oh how I was wrong, so very wrong.

My confidence in the sequel grew when Denis Villeneuve was announced as it’s director. Being a fan of his previous films (watch Arrival, Enemy and Prisoners) I knew we were all in good hands. What Villeneuve created was a flat out modern day sci-fi masterpiece which couldn’t complement the original film better. Set 30 years after the original Blade Runner 2049 expands on the story while introducing so many new and thought provoking ideas, I don’t want to say too much about the story, the less you know the better trust me!

Blade Runner 2049 is without a doubt the best looking and sounding film I’ve seen in years, a glorious treat for all the senses. Normally I would say this film has to be seen by anyone who loves sci-fi but actually anyone who loves cinema should see it. Oh and that Ryan Gosling is pretty good too.

Callum (Account Manager) - The Disaster Artist

Oh hai Denny. The Disaster Artist is an Incredibly funny, and yet, surprisingly touching story of Tommy Wiseau, the err.. “visionary” director/producer/actor behind the cult hit ‘The Room’. A film so hilariously bad, has been called the ‘Citizen Kane of bad movies’.

The Disaster Artist passed the six-laugh test within the first 15 minutes (no easy feat), and consistently delivered throughout its 1h 44m runtime. I can’t actually remember a point where I wasn’t engaged. The painstaking level of detail and love that went into this film can be seen in every facet, from costume, to set, right through to actors asking questions that have plagued audience members for years like “why is he having sex with her belly button!?”.

James Franco (an actor who I’ve generally not enjoyed on screen), absolutely nailed it as Tommy Wiseau, one of the strangest humans to grace Hollywood. From discovering the origins of the classic line “YOU ARE TEARING ME APART LISA” to hearing Tommy’s bizarre robotic laugh, and even discovering why he dresses like ‘that’, ‘The Room’ fans and non-fans alike, will have a great time with this excellent piece of filmmaking. Anyway, how is your sex life?

Olly (Apprentice Developer) - IT

Horror is my favourite genre and this one was for me, alongside Get Out, the best horror of 2017. Nightmarish and disturbing, but with a masterfully added comedic undertone, IT really possess the scare factor, giving audiences a new reason to fear clowns. It’s impressive how true the film sticks to the original’s tricks; it isn’t filled with ‘quiet-quiet-quiet-bang’ scares, in fact, a lot of what makes this film scary is the slick cinematography and intricate shadow play.

As one of those who appreciates horror movies, but with a distaste of obnoxious gore, I enjoyed the way IT used lighting and atmosphere creation to build tension. I also relished the effective way the movie used lightness and darkness to toy with the emotions of the audience. The scenes that are quite menacing are always undercut by comedy throughout the film. My friends and I (as well as others in the cinema) found ourselves gasping at scenes of sheer terror, then only moments later laughing hysterically at the banter between the main characters.

The majority of casting choices were inspired, as there was a great chemistry amongst the kids, giving it a real Stand By Me coming of age feel to the macabre main plot. Bill Skarsgård in particular, had some big shoes to fill (clown pun intended). He gave a majestic performance, adding his own spin to the Pennywise role, and pushed it to a new level of creepiness.

Lauren (Community Manager) - Baby Driver

There were so many great films to choose from this year! It’s a tough decision but I’ll go with Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver. This is a highly choreographed film, its action timed perfectly to the (bloody good) music and whilst not without problems, this is one film that kept me hooked from beginning to end in a way no other film from this year has done (well, so far, I’ve not seen The Last Jedi yet).

I left the cinema feeling completely entertained, which is exactly how an audience should feel when leaving the cinema. Stylish, fun and action-packed, I’d really recommend a watch - preferably with a home surround sound system.

Michael (Marketing) - Logan

For me, Logan was hands down the best film of 2017 (as well as best Wolverine/X-Men film to date). James Mangold did an excellent job of retaining the spirit of X-Men while still creating a gritty, melancholic and grounded tone (well, as grounded as a man with knife hands can be) that was more akin to a western than a superhero film. It was a pleasant departure from the other, often campy, X-Men films.

Rather than just a CGI fest, I enjoyed that the story was highly character driven, with Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart delivering powerful performances as men tired of the world; a world that had also given up on them. After 17 years of their roles as Logan (Wolverine) and Professor Xavier this was the perfect swan song for them. There was also the surprise scene stealer, Dafne Keen who played Laura/X-23 that really blew me away.

The action was well shot, fast, very very violent, and yet still grounded. Proof that you don’t need over the top and CGI action to create an exciting and dramatic superhero movie.

With the abundance of superhero films on the market at the moment, I expected to be mildly entertained at best, bored at worst. I certainly didn’t expect to be shedding tears at it’s incredible finale (although, I basically cry at anything remotely sad in films). For me, Logan firmly sits with up there with The Dark Knight as one of the best superhero films ever made.

I’m sad that this is probably the final Wolverine to include Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart, but I’m happy they finished on such a high note. Over Christmas I’m certainly looking forward to enjoying this all over again with the Logan Noir cut.

Emilie (Apprentice Developer) - Spiderman Homecoming

Most would agree that the best Spiderman movie made was 2004’s Spider-Man 2 with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst. That said, during the last decade, it has been hard for Marvel to come up with other Spiderman adaptations as good as the latter until they brought the great Micheal Keaton to the cast.

Let’s put it straight, the movie was great and it had its own touch of humour but most of all, Jon Watts, the director of the movie, showed himself to be a master with the handling of the villain ‘The Vulture’ (Micheal Keaton). Coming from the working class and possessing a profound humanity, he is also well committed to fight against the elite; represented by Tony Stark aka Iron Man. I believe that the combination of Keaton’s amazing acting and his good character story, made it a perfect combo to bring success to the movie.

Aside from the fact that the story doesn’t change much with a young Peter Parker discovering his identity and desperately trying to join the superhero team under the watch of the arrogant Tony Stark, Jon Watts did a great job at producing a simple and modest teenager adaptation of Spider-man. It was a light, pop and fun entertaining movie that I feel really contributed to the best movies of 2017.

Stathis (Software Developer) - Get Out

Horror? Comedy? Drama? Social satire? It is hard to categorise this movie, but one thing for sure is, this was one of the most rewarding film experiences of 2017.

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is an exhilarating masterpiece that creeps you out, but also manages to both spark humour and comment on social issues. The plot delves into a traditional terror frenzy, but also unearths the horrors of racism. The societal commentary plays on audience expectations and results in holding a big ugly mirror up to liberal racism in America.

Peele’s confidence as a first time filmmaker is extremely refreshing and is reflected in Toby Oliver’s swift cinematography. The writing is spot on as well, with Peele fully utilising his background as a comedian to blend the satire so perfectly with the horror. The script keeps the audience on their toes, wondering where the film will turn next; which is an extremely important quality of any dramatic film, as it grabs the audience’s attention.

Coming on to the performances, Get Out excels above many horror films with a talented and strong cast. Daniel Kaluuya was quite exceptional as the likable lead character Chris Washington, impressing with each passing minute as the paranoia within his character grows. As an actor he projects and provokes empathy. Whatever your background, you will be in his shoes, feeling what he’s feeling. I felt I was with him throughout. Expect to see much more of this talented guy in the future.

My praise extends to Bradley Whitford and the phenomenal Catherine Keener, who were both excellent at playing creepy parents of Washington’s love interest Rose. Their performances produced a considerable sinister atmosphere, enforcing the films message that - just because you’re invited, doesn’t mean you’re welcome.

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