- Mad Max: Fury Road
- Son Of Saul
- The Revenant
- 45 Years
- The Lobster
- Jafar Panahi’s Taxi
- Best Of Enemies
- The Witch
The least obvious and most intelligent performance of the year comes from the head of the team at Spotlight, a film whose intricacies didn’t persistently overwhelm me but whose ultimate message was a brilliant one: no human injustice occurs without our tolerance of it, and Michael Keaton appears as the figurehead to realize this responsibility in the film’s intelligent conclusion. It’s a performance whose details cannot be pinpointed, it isn’t given any of the embarrassing shouty monologues that co-star Mark Ruffalo has; instead, Keaton has a masterful command of the screen that makes you completely forget that in real life he doesn’t spend his days in a newspaper office chasing a good story.
Those smouldering eyes have been captivating camera lenses for decades by the time that Andrew Haigh casts the magnificent Charlotte Rampling in his masterful 45 Years, eyes that give the story so much depth as her gaze takes in her situation. As a woman who, on the eve of her forty-fifth wedding anniversary, discovers secrets about her husband that lead her to realizing that no life is without its devastating compromises, Rampling is incredibly subtle, her sharp edges coming through her unapologetic voice but the vulnerability oozing out from her core. There’s no need to call it the crowning achievement in a career full of so many terrific performances, but it’s one of her best.
A lifetime of fame in the United Kingdom as one of its most celebrated actors has never done Mark Rylance much good in the movie business, popping up in a number of projects but never achieving the fame of the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis or Kenneth Branagh. That threatens to change with the acclaim heaped on him for his terrific characterization in Bridge Of Spies, a richly enjoyable Cold War thriller that sees him portraying a Russian spy who becomes part of a shell game between competing governments that are constantly trying outwit each other. Speaking quietly with a cast-down gaze and a wan expression, Rylance, who is only in a small portion of the film, brings a real person to life and doesn’t get lost in silly mannerisms, the effect of the performance making him affably charming and mysterious at the same time.
Paolo Sorrentino’s indulgently delightful Youth is a full pleasure to enjoy for quite a long time before a cameo by the scintillating Jane Fonda shows up to steal the whole thing. As an aging actress who comes to give filmmaker Harvey Keitel the truth about his heretofore unacknowledged lack of relevance, Fonda has one scene and two short appearances, delivering her dialogue with all the fire and intelligence she has been giving so generously to the movies since she debuted almost fifty years earlier. Her wig a consciously false apparatus on her head and the lighting showing her lines in the most unforgiving possible manner, she is something of a fright and yet she has also not been this beautiful in ages. She proves the old adage that there are no small parts given how much room she takes up in your imagination after she appears, to the point that even Keitel fantasizes about her in the moments that follow.
It looked like George Miller was going to leave live-action feature filmmaking behind him for good when he followed his ill-appreciated sequel Babe with his Oscar-winning Happy Feet, but there’s nothing like time to make a great artist gather their powers for something incredible. Seventeen years after his last live-action feature as director and thirty years following the last of the entries in the Mad Max series, Miller sets the world on fire with his exceptionally astute action adventure that rebooted the series to the heights of The Road Warrior. The almost mystical landscape of Mad Max: Fury Road is the setting for some impressive chases that become a matter of dire importance thanks to the highly charismatic personalities involved, the film catching much of its praise for involving female characters in a more nuanced and complex way than the genre usually enjoys. The blend of all its elements is something it owes to Miller’s unique vision, which sinks you deep into a rare atmosphere and convinces you that you have actually traveled to a new world.