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Top 10 films of 2017 - Part 1

Its that time again where I run down the ten films that I watched and had the most joy, pleasure, excitement and emotionally involving time with in 2017.

Before we get underway with the list there are a few honourable mentions of films I enjoyed over 2017. They were Life, Atomic Blonde, Spider-Man Homecoming, Valerian And the City Of A Thousand Planets, Dunkirk, War For The Planet Of The Apes, Logan LuckyWind River, Kingsmen: The Golden Circle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

They were enjoyable, entertaining and interesting to watch but were unable to make my Top 10 films of 2017. You can find the first half of my list below.

10. Silence

Director Martin Scorcese's latest picture is something that he wanted to bring to the big screen for years. An adaptation of the original novel by Japanese author Endo Shusaku, Silence sees Portuguese priests Sebastião Rodrigues and Francisco Garupe (played here by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver) undertaking a journey to the far away land of Japan to determine if their mentor, priest Cristóvão Ferreira (played fantastically by Liam Neeson) has apostatised and renounced the Christian faith.

The journey Sebastião and Francisco undertakes brings them to the unfamiliar Eastern country as they discover a people and culture not quite like anything they have encountered before. During their mission to determine what has happened to Ferreira they also find Japanese willing to convert to the Christian faith and those of the local Japanese authorities, aiming to stamp out the foreign belief system called Christianity.

The film is filled with great performances from the likes of Garfield, Driver, Neeson together with Japanese actors Tadanobu Asano and Issei Ogata who all give stellar performances. The picture is also wrought with drama, brutality and pain as Sebastião finds the faith in his religion tested repeatedly by the Japanese authorities, the local people and even his own mentor (you'll have to watch the film to find out why). It also brings up the interesting point of whether the local Japanese people truly understand what Christianity stands for and why it is important in the same way it is to Sebastião.

Silence is a lengthy film but does a great job of showing how a religion familiar to most of the Western world becomes an outsider itself when its advocates try to bring its belief and teachings to a new foreign land.

9. The Handmaiden

Its hard to describe in detail what the latest film from director Park Chan-wook, The Handmaiden, is really about. The film incorporates so many themes and ideas, pulling them together and intertwining them in a unique way that it doesn't easily fall into any one category. This is not necessarily to its detriment though.

The film follows young Korean woman Sook-hee who comes from a family of swindlers, aiming to pull a con with her uncle who poses as a Japanese Count in order to swindle a Japanese heiress of her family's fortune. What follows is a most unconventional but equally captivating tale that sees characters grow closer, fall in love, deceive, betray each other, partake in mature, sexual and violent activities and other things I'm not sure how to explain.

As has been the case with Park's previous films, the visual ideas on display in The Handmaiden are equally beautiful, bizarre and captivating to watch. Shots are interestingly composed and the story weaves and intertwines between the characters as developments occur in somewhat unexpected ways. It is a mature tale to watch unfold and although it might make some viewers uncomfortable (the film is not shy about showing full-on sex or violence) it is an absorbing film, something different to watch from the usual fair released by Hollywood and its ilk.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy vol.2

Everyone's favourite intergalactic gang of heroes, the Guardians of the Galaxy, return in this sequel from director James Gunn. Starlord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Racoon and Baby Groot return among familiar faces such as Ravager captain, Yondu, and Gamora's cybernetic sister, Nebula. Joining them are the likes of a Mantis (a being who has the power to feel the thoughts and memories of those she touches) and Ego, a being that has God-like powers and can stand atop a spacecraft whilst flying through space. The returning and new cast make for an entertaining mix in a tale revolving around Starlord's (Peter Quill's) origins. The film is, thankfully, much more than just another Marvel hero origins story.

In an era when superhero films are now commonplace after almost two decades of them, Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 does a great job of fleshing out our favourite group of space travellers, unveiling more about their histories, complexities, troubles and more throughout the film. Yondu and Nebula also receive similar treatment, making them more than just simple foils to the main group. Underneath it all lies a story that covers interesting themes such as one's birthright, what family really means, the destruction of the planet, loyalty and sacrifice. 

Being a GotG film and to bring some levity to the proceedings there is a reasonable dose of humour to be found here. The film is also capable of having heartfelt and emotional moments. Additionally the costumes, colour palette used and the musical choices are all excellent. It all blends into one of the most fun and entertaining times you can spend with a bunch of comic book characters yet.

There are rumours that the guardians might show up in another Marvel movie this year. If true, I look forward to seeing this group of fun and kick-ass characters again in 2018.

7. Wonder Woman

Who would have thought that after the likes of Suicide Squad and Batman vs Superman, well-known brand DC Comics would finally produce a decent superhero film with Wonder Woman? And yet director Patty Jenkins and crew were able to craft a great film, encompassing the origins of the titular character, her involvement in the events of World War 1 and some earnest heroinism.

There were various rumours around who would be caste as Diana Prince. When Gal Gadot was confirmed to have landed the role several voices around the internet and social media acted in outrage at the idea of an actress that didn't traditionally 'look' like Wonder Woman being cast in the role. And yet, following on from a charming and powerful performance in BvS, Gadot proves in her portrayal of Diana that she has the right amount of acting talent, physicality and charm to make the role her own. 

She is supported well by the acting talents of Chris Pine as American pilot Steve Trevor, Robin Wright as general of the Amazonian army, Antiope, David Thewlis as British minister Sir Patrick Morgan and many other seasoned actors. They all turn in strong performances that are more than just to collect a paycheck. The costumes, settings and film score are also great, helping to immerse viewers in the film's setting during the midst of WW1.

It comes as a surprise that when DC seemed to have focused on its comic book films being dark, grim and gritty, they can produce a movie that can be fun, entertaining, thrilling and exciting in equal measure. It also provides hope for the future that the brand will continue to produce films that are worthy competition to the likes of Marvel's ongoing output.

Although its a shame that Justice League only turned out to be just above average, I have high hopes for the upcoming Wonder Woman sequel in 2019.

6. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright's latest picture traded the usual British streets, pubs and suburbs for Atlanta's avenues, blocks, diners and highways with the cool, stylish and witty action comedy film, Baby Driver. The movie sees the titular Baby (played by Ansel Elgort) as a highly capable getaway driver with music tracks continuously flowing through his ears (the reason given in the film is that he suffers from tinnitus, using music as a means of filtering out the ringing it causes). He carries out various jobs as a driver for local criminals headed by mastermind Doc (played here by Kevin Spacey). Baby owes Doc for stealing one of his cars in the past, therefore becoming indebted to him. 

After Baby clears his debt and plans to leave his life with the criminal world behind, going straight with a waitress he met in the local dinner named Deborah, Doc pulls Baby back in by coercing him into carrying out one more job and the threat of harming Baby's new love. 

Although the film sounds generic, its execution is anything but. The film is full of style and cool with scenes edited perfectly to the various music tracks featured (something director Wright is always particular about with his films). From the opening getaway and car chase, Baby's walk through the neighbourhood from the local coffee shop and a shoot out between the police and criminal couple Buddy/Darling (played here by John Hamm and Eiza González), the film's music helps to accentuate what unfolds on screen but rarely overpowers it. Known actors Jamie Foxx puts in a humourous yet dangerous turn as loose-cannon gangster, Bats, and Kevin Spacey is his usual collected and authoritarian self as Doc.

Beyond these qualities the film is just a joy to watch. Although it won't win any awards for its depth or making the audience think about the possibilities of life, it does what it sets out to do greatly with its fair share of twists that don't feel forced. This is one to watch if you want to kick back and watch a film that is stylish, entertaining, solid acting, has witty, well-written dialogue and a great soundtrack.

Though its a shame that Wright never got to finish his directorial duties on Ant Man, Baby Driver shows he's not lost his unique touch yet. I look forward to the announcement of his next picture.

That's the first part of my Top 10 films of 2017. What will make the top half of my Top 10 in Part 2? Do share any thoughts you have in the Comments section. Alternatively you can share this update via Facebook, Twitter or your social media network of choice.

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