(In no particular order)
1: Zero Dark Thirty – The Opening Shot
Zero Dark Thirty opens in darkness, with a montage of 911 calls from the victims in the World Trade Center terrorist attacks: A title fades in announcing the movie is “based on first-hand accounts of actual events.” From there the film cuts to a CIA “black site,” where a man named Ammar is being tortured by a CIA agent named Dan (Jason Clarke) while another agent, Maya (Jessica Chastain) looks on. The juxtaposition of the suffering of 9/11 with the payback that follows is intense, sincere, and sets the stage for 157 minutes of powerful filmmaking. Those first few minutes of audio, will deeply move any viewer, no matter where you stand in the controversy. Director Kathryn Bigelow, along with her sound editor, handle the sequence in a way that honours the victims without being sloppy or crass. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, an opening like this could have felt simply, manipulative.
2: Zero Dark Thirty – The Closing Shot
The final minutes of Zero Dark Thirty recognizes the personal and moral effect on Jessica Chastain’s character, Maya, a character who arguably symbolizes the entire country, and what should be the moment of glory isn’t at all. It is a truly empty, sad and lonely moment: Maya falls back in tears with the bloody American flag behind her. Moments like these truly make Zero Dark Thirty one of the best American films in recent memory.
3: Zero Dark Thirty – The Raid
The running time for Zero Dark Thirty adds up to 157 minutes, but only about 40 minutes of it is pure action, but oh what action! As Zero Dark Thirty shifts into thriller mode for its final act, director Kathryn Bigelow and cinematographer Greig Fraser shoot the assault on bin Laden’s compound in virtual real time, while switching between standard and night-vision views. Zero Dark Thirty’s cinematography draws the viewer into the action without resorting to shaky camera work, although handheld, and the shots are stable enough so that the viewer is never lost in the action. In mixing traditional third-person shots with first person views, the camera emphasizes the cinematic urgency of a cinema verite documentary. More importantly, the final 40 minutes is presented with an unnerving real-time depiction of the Navy Seal-team raid, but the raid is very much a matter of fact sequence that deflates any notion of heroism. Bravo!
4: The Last Stand: Cornfields
The Last Stand’s action scenes range from various shoot outs to a daring helicopter car chase. With all the high-speed races and high octane explosions, perhaps the most exciting and tense scene features the fugitive’s ride, a modified Corvette with a 1,000-horsepower engine racing against a high powered Corvette. The game of cat and mouse which culminates through cornfield is thrilling and unique.
5: The Last Stand: A schoolbus full of guns
In The Last Stand, Johnny Knoxville offers comic relief as the oddball owner of a barnyard gun museum, a character very similar to Weird in The Good. The Bad, The Weird. His gallery of firearms conveniently allows for an odd assortment of weapons to be used in one of the film’s big action set-pieces. During a shootout in the small town’s main road, Knoxville’s Lewis Dinkum and Schwarzenegger’s Ray Owens save the day via a school bus and a large gatling gun.
6: West of Memphis: Giant flesh eating turtles
Following from the original Paradise Lost film and its two sequels, West of Memphis follows the events of one of the most media-covered American crime stories of the last two decades: The West Memphis Three. If you disregard the States’ Satanic ritual theory, the entire nature of the crime changes. In West of Memphis, producers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh, hired a private investigative team with legal and forensic experts to re-examine old evidence. One of these individuals included a turtle expert, who was brought in to explain, how the post-mortem mutilations found on the bodies of the three eight-year-old boys, were most likely caused by giant sea turtles who live in abundance by the creek where the bodies were found. The sequence is certainly one of the more theatrical and disturbing moments of the documentary. Peter Jackson and Amy Berg had to actually sacrifice a pig. As Berg said, “It was insane. We had to humanely kill a pig.”
7: Resolution: The French professor
One of the first things about Resolution that catches you off guard is the strange Lynchian-like characters that appear throughout the film. The most fascinating of the bunch is a mysterious French professor living not too far away in a trailer home. The man servers as a voice of doom, speaking in riddles and his cameo ads a new layer of mystery to the proceedings. The filmmakers of Resolution, toy with our desire to have these mysteries explained; is it ghosts, demons, portals to alternate dimensions, or some other supernatural phenomena?
What was your favourite movie moment of January? Let us know. Leave a comment below.