Welcome to the JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2020: “I’ll see you in the beginning, friend.”
What a year it’s been. At the start of 2020, who would have believed how we’d end it? Back in lockdown is how. But end it did and from a movie perspective, the year was a bit all over the place with cinemas shut for long periods and still closed as I write this. What seemed to leap out for the quote for my JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2020 was one about friendship (something we’ve all felt was important this year) from Robert Pattinson’s character Neil in Tenet. And that then leads me to think that emotion was an essential part of all of the movies on my list this year. From a true Christopher Nolan event film to a landmark Oscar-winning Korean feature about a very unique family; from a beautiful adaptation of a much-loved classic novel to an immersive trip through the horrors of the First World War and a gloriously funny Dickensian rites-of-passage tale.
So, here’s my round-up of the year, my REVIEW OF 2020. As always, the films are in no particular order apart from when I saw them and to read my full review, simply click on the film’s title.
Ooo, what a way to start the year with writer/director Greta Gerwig’s sumptuous second film. Following her much-lauded debut Lady Bird, I felt Gerwig rose to new heights with her beautiful adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s much-beloved novel. And what a cast she assembled to tell this new version of the life of the four March sisters during the American Civil War. Headed by the ever-extraordinary Saoirse Ronan as tomboy Jo, there was Emma Watson as the sensible Meg, the fantastic Eliza Scanlen as Beth and a bravura Florence Pugh as the flighty Amy. On top of that, Timothee Chalamet was superb as their childhood friend Laurie and a certain Meryl Streep popped up memorably of course as the sisters’ Aunt March. This is a joyful, emotional telling of Alcott’s story for which Gerwig deserves all the accolades going. A must-see.
To say that director Sam Mendes’ World War I drama was an immersive experience is almost an understatement. Collaborating again with the Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins, they made this story of the dangerous mission of two young soldiers (the so-brilliant George Mackay and Dean-Charles Chapman) into enemy territory to deliver a message and stop an attack into a breathtaking, heart-pounding, gut-wrenchingly visceral journey. With the camera walking in the boots of the men as they clambered across no man’s land and dodged enemy bullets, we were given a glimpse into what it must have been like for the boys on the front line in that most painful of wars. You have to see this.
Although I didn’t see writer/director Bong Joon Ho’s incredible comedy/drama/thriller until after its historic Oscar win scooping ‘Best Picture’, that in no way diminished its power. This was storytelling at its finest from the South Korean filmmaker, richly deserving that Academy Award, as he delivered a movie of such brilliant twists and turns that keep you guessing right up to the delicious, macabre finale and then beyond to its plaintive epilogue. Without a doubt, one of the films of the year and one that can’t be missed.
Oh, what a treat was writer/director Armando Iannucci’s glorious new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. Right in the middle of 2020, there it popped onto my tv screen for me to delight in Dickens’ delightfully wacky cast of characters – Uriah Heep, Betsey Trotwood and Mr Micawber among them – all rendered so beautifully thanks to Ianucci’s gorgeously told version of how David Copperfield (a peerless Dev Patel) negotiates the perils, pitfalls and pleasures of Victorian society. Do not miss this.
Thanks, Christopher Nolan for holding out and releasing your latest “event” film in the cinemas. Masked up, off I went to an actual cinema to be puzzled, wowed and blown away by Tenet, a movie that you truly need to see more than once. John David Washington was fab as the mysteriously named The Protagonist, travelling across continents in search of a very villainous Kenneth Branagh and in the process, creating a wonderful and sparky bromance with Robert Pattinson’s suave colleague Neil. Cars flipping over on a motorway and then driving backwards, a massive cargo plane crashing into a terminal – all done “in camera” of course – are just some of the jaw-dropping sequences in Nolan’s latest. Do yourself a favour and see this phenomenal, sci-fi head-scratcher of a film.
So there you have my JSHmoviestuff REVIEW OF 2020. As for special mentions, Netflix is pretty much responsible for the three films here. All of them were released in 2019 but I didn’t see them until 2020. Firstly, Martin Scorsese’s 3-hour and 29-minute epic The Irishman deserves a shout-out as this was film-making from a true master at the peak of his powers. Of the triumvirate of ace lead performances from Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino, I thought Pesci delivered an absolute masterclass with his incredible portrayal of gangster Russell Bufalino. Make sure you see it.
I absolutely loved Timothee Chalamet as firstly Prince Hal and then Henry V in writer/director David Michod’s terrific historical drama The King. Robert Pattinson popped up in this too, as a louche and angry Dauphin for the young king to spar with, Joel Edgerton was a wonderfully garrulous Falstaff and the brilliant Sean Harris was one of the stunning supporting players as a trusted member of Henry’s court.
Finally, watching Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins go toe-to-toe as The Two Popes in director Fernando Meirelles’ fantastically funny and moving account of the meeting of the traditionalist Pope Benedict XVI and the progressive future Pope Francis was a much-needed autumn tonic in the midst of lockdown #2.
Let’s look forward to the new movie-going normal in 2021 – getting back to the cinema!