5. The Usual Suspects 1995 (Bryan Singer) – Despite Pete Postlethwaite’s truly abysmal Japanese accent, which unfortunately makes him look like he’s just suffered a stroke, The Usual Suspects is a genuinely suspenseful film. Indeed, Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, played masterfully by the prodigious Kevin Spacey, has much in common with the Shakespearean character of Iago. Kint does, indeed, ‘play the villain well’, the very fabric of his character exposed at the conclusion of the film. Everything about Verbal Kint is artificial, the world he inhabits is one which he created and he, like Iago, ‘knows his price’ and is acutely aware of the power of words a monster does, indeed, hide in his thought. Unfortunately though, this film has one of greatest plot twists of all time at the end so I can’t really say much more than anyone who says this film is not one of the greatest of all time does not deserve a tongue. Verbal Kint is not what he is.
4. The Shawshank Redemption 1994 (Frank Darabont) – This film is proof that box office statistics are in no way indicative of a film's quality. The Shawshank Redemption, was not at all redeemed at the box office and Shawtanked (joke is very tenuous) only making $3m profit. With the execution of Derek Bentley, the toppling of Thatcher and the repudiation of Charles Bronson’s parole request the performance of the Shawshank Redemption at the box office remains the greatest injustice of the 21st century. Tim Robbins' performance as the stoic Andy Dufresne is not only incredible but puts one in mind of the incredible and much underrated Edward Norton’s performance in American History X (albeit a film that should be avoided). Like The Green Mile Darabont’s film is less about Andy Dufresne’s prison experience but more about the relationship he develops with Red, Morgan Freeman doing the usual Morgan Freeman performance. The final shot of the film, an extreme long shot (not sure if such a shot technically exists but nevermind) of two characters embracing whilst the camera slowly pulls away is indicative of the transcendental power of friendship, capable of escaping prison, that Darabont had been masterfully creating throughout the film.
3 The Green Mile 1999 (Frank Darabont) – as a small ‘c’ Conservative I like to repress all my emotions yet the Green Mile successfully managed to reduce me to a blubbing mess. Like most Darabont films, The Green Mile, is ostensibly character driven. Yet, whilst I avoid most Tom Hanks films like the plague, I will never be able to forgive him for the utterly emetic Big which filled me with homicidal boredom. Yet even Tom Hanks can’t ruin this film partly due to the strength of the script, the performances of Jeffrey DeMunn, David Morse and Michael Clarke Duncan, who is clearly based on Lenny in Of Mice and Men. What is amazing about this film, and is testament to the incredible film making ability to Mr Darabont, is how, as an audience, we are able to sympathise withboth John Coffey and his executioners. What makes the execution scenes particularly poignant is that, with the exception of the maladroit and horrifying execution, Darabont films the countenances of the actors, the executions ostensibly play out in their expressions rather than in gratuitous reality.
2. American Beauty 1999 (Sam Mendes) As poignant as it is amusing, American Beauty, is not so much the tale of Lester Burnham’s life as it is an allegory for Suburban life in general. The opening music instantly establishes a sense of monotony, the banality of Lester’s life is something everyone can sympathise with. Mendes, like Fincher, fuses comedy, philosophy and drama together to produce a truly unforgettable film. The scene with the floating paper bag, indicative of the freedom Burnham yearns for finding instead temporary solace in the superficial Angela, is perhaps one of the most provocative in cinematic history. Whilst all the characters undergo something or an anagnorisis, Janey, Lester, Caroline all finding satisfaction in the arms of another, it is only Lester who fully appreciates the transience of life, the Pooterish vapidity of Caroline’s material world as represented by her ‘handmade Italian silk couch’, and the power of paternalistic love. This film could quite easily have made number one had it not have been for……
Number 1 to be revealed soon (here)
Falling Down, Zulu, Downfall, The Birds, Citizen Kane, Memento, 25th Hour, 3:10 to Yuma (both versions), The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Jason and the Argonauts, Ripley’s Game and Dawn of the Dead (2004 although everything else ever made by Zack Snyder has been dreadful)