U is for UkeleleIt's getting hard to believe that M Night Shyamalan used to make good films. His recent output has been awful, but the noughties began with arguably his best work, the hugely underrated proto-superhero film Unbreakable(00). The actions of terrorists on the 11th September 2001 profoundly influenced the ensuing decade and it's not surprising that the movie world has been generally reluctant to mine such a recent tragedy for inspiration. There have been some exceptions to that including the appalling World Trade Center (06) by Oliver Stone (read my thoughts from 2007) and the infinitely superior United 93 from the same year. Bourne helmer Paul Greengrass told the story of United Airlines Flight 93 whose passengers and crew decided to fight back against their hijackers. United 93 is a difficult film to watch but is a captivating and heartbreaking memorial to the heroism of the passengers on the plane. In 2009 Pixar gave us the story of an old man who refuses to let his house to be demolished, so he ties helium balloons to it and floats away to have adventures with talking dogs and a pudgy boy scout. Up's audacious opening which follows the main character from his childhood through falling in love and getting married to the death of his wife is one of the most devastating emotional sequences I've ever seen in an animation. This gives rest of the film a certain poignancy that frames the laughs and the thrills perfectly.
V is for Velma
Alan Moore's graphic novel V for Vendetta. As with all Moore adaptations, it can't come close to matching the complex and rich source material but the Wachowskis had a damn good go. In a post-9/11 climate pitching a movie where the central hero is a bomb-wielding terrorist is a fairly bold move. The end of the decade saw a mini rush of viking movies. Pathfinder (07) and Outlander (08) mixed native americans and entertaining aliens respectively with our Norse friends to mixed affect. However, 2010's Valhalla Rising took a different path and told the tale of a mute viking warrior in an intriguing exploration of good and evil. One Eye, a mysterious man of almost supernatural strength, escapes from his captors and throws his lot in with a group of Crusaders. What ensues is not an action movie, but a bleakly beautiful (if occasionally brutal) journey into the heart of darkness (*cliche alert*). The film is very ambiguous about One-Eye; is he just a man caught in the wrong place, or is he an instrument of vengeance on the repulsive crusaders sent to take them to hell?
Part the ninth coming soon...the end is nigh.