As 2021 came to a close, we asked our readers which of this years cinematic releases truly stood out to them as noteworthy films. Here is what they had to say. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead!
Sophie Sherratt – Last Night in Soho
Edgar Wright’s latest film Last Night in Soho simultaneously places both novelty and history in conflict and harmony with one another, creating an innovate drama that promises to astonish. By enabling Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy) to embody a liminal space between fantasy and reality (alongside life and death), the audience are left just as disconcerted as the protagonist, Ellie (Thomasin McKenzie), finds herself to be. Indeed, it is apt that a pivotal moment of distress for Ellie occurs at a Halloween Party, where fantasy worlds become reality for the night. Through mimicking Sandie’s style and appearance, Ellie begins to embody the very thing she fears whilst mirroring the struggle of women throughout history.
Both Sandie and Ellie face predatory comments from men in the Soho sphere, highlighting that although inequality has evolved in the way it manifests itself, gender injustices are still very much present. It is intriguing, however, that what seems so black and white, in that Sandie is prey and the male apparitions are predators, is flipped on its head when Sandie is revealed to be a malefactor who regains her feminine power through murder. Further, Ellie’s misunderstanding of these phantoms, who are revealed to be just as frightened as Ellie herself is, questions expectations to create an intoxicating and standout end to Last Night in Soho.
Charlotte Grimwade – The Harder They Fall
Jeymes Samuel’s directorial debut, The Harder They Fall, was one of my favourite films of 2021. The film oozes with style, demonstrating the importance of decisive soundtrack and costume choices. Jonathon Majors and Idris Elba star as leaders of opposing gangs in this violent and effortlessly cool take on traditional Westerns. The film’s music is what makes it so easy and enjoyable to watch. Samuel acted as both director and composer for the project and the powerful impact of combining these two roles is apparent. In an interview, Samuel explained the importance of such a close relationship between the two roles, emphasising that writing a film score was like “one continuous thought”.
The film is shot flawlessly, playing and building upon classic Western motifs. Two and a half hours goes by in a heartbeat as we follow protagonist Nat Love and his gang contend with the wrath of Rufus Black. Despite its disappointing ending, the film acted as the perfect form of escapism, something that has become increasingly valuable over the course of the pandemic. Its’ incredible cast, plot and action easily makes The Harder They Fall one of the standout films of the year.
Grace Marshall – Spiderman: No Way Home
Having attempted to find a more ‘editorial-worthy’ film, I have found that I cannot deny that my stand-out of the year was, indeed, Marvel’s latest box office smash, Spiderman: No Way Home. A self-professed Marvel fanatic, I could hardly contain my excitement at the prospect of a multiverse collision of Peter Parker’s that have gone before. And, it was a cinematic delight to witness the cooperation of Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and Toby Maguire onscreen. A trio of Spidermen whose very presence truly tugged at my nostalgia, these three actors excelled in producing a tale of heartbreaking loss, difficult growth, and sacrifice.
Under the direction of Jon Watts and the composition of Michael Giacchino, this film employs iconic characters, scene parallels, and a powerful score, all while avoiding the possible chaos that could ensue from such a mammoth endeavour. Instead, characters appear developed and autonomous, with allusions to previous traumas consistently evidenced. Indeed, for me, the moment that truly solidified this film as my stand-out of the year occurred when the Amazing Spiderman, Andrew Garfield, caught MJ from a particularly precarious drop, finally allowing him a brief reprieve from the guilt he felt towards Gwen Stacy’s death in his own franchise. A truly powerful nostalgia kick for all of us who grew up alongside Peter Parker, Spiderman: No Way Home is undoubtedly one of the most iconic film releases of 2021.
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Illustration by: Samantha Fulton