Top 15 Films of 2022 – Allen’s Picks
A stunning comment on the tragedy of war, this German-language version of Erich Maria Remarque’s literary masterpiece follows the lives of young soldiers as they experience the nightmare of WWI battle. Amongst them is Paul (Felix Kammerer), a fresh-faced recruit whose idealism for serving his country comes crashing down. He quickly realizes the brutality and chaos that is war, and how the lives of men can so easily be replaced by those in power. The film shows how death and devastation can have a ripple effect, from the top of the ladder all the way down to the trenches. It comes as close to an “anti-war” film as any in recent memory. While it may not be as game-changing as the 1930 Best Picture Winner of the same name, this latest adaptation is a powerful and moving production in its own right.
Few films in 2022 were as angry as Athena. Coming out of France, this is a tale of police brutality, and of a small community fed up with the injustice and racism plaguing their homes. Director Romain Gavras incorporates numerous extended takes, following the action as a group of young people – led by an intense Sami Slimane – barricade themselves within their apartment complex, ready to face the authorities coming for them. The action choreography feels immediate and in your face. We are dropped right into the middle of it all, as characters cross each other in a whirlwind of commotion. It is a blast to the senses, putting us into the shoes of characters who will simply not take it anymore. Like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), Athena radiates with kinetic energy.
5) After Yang
Writer/director Kogonada’s take on Alexander Weinstein’s short story is an exploration of loss, memory, family, and the invisible ties that bind us. What does it mean to be human? In an ever-changing world of artificial intelligence, where is the line between humanity and technology? Or is the line already gone? The film is a beautifully composed take on the very essence of life – its mystery, absurdity, splendor, and inevitable end. Colin Farrell plays a father and husband whose human-like A.I. assistant Yang (Justin H. Min) has broken down. Once Farrell’s character gains access to Yang’s memory bank, he sees his family, his home, and himself in an entirely new light. After Yang is not a film of bold, dramatic displays of emotion. It is filled with quiet and contemplative moments of reflection. Most importantly, this is a story about empathy. Its effect doesn’t strike us immediately but washes over us in time, like a dream that refuses to be forgotten.
Following the success of X (2022), director Ti West returned with a prequel that not only surpassed its predecessor but provided context that actually made it better. Reuniting with star Mia Goth (who contributes to the screenplay this time), West delivers a shocking and sad character study of a person who loses themselves to the dark side. Goth is fearless in the title role, inhabiting Pearl with dreams of stardom set against a life of oppression and abuse. Incorporating vivid color photography by Eliot Rockett, the film has the aesthetics of a Golden Age Technicolor picture. The lush visuals clash with the madness bubbling out of its protagonist. This is horror at its finest because it makes Pearl empathetic and tragic at the same time. We may not agree on where she ends up, but we understand how she got there. Goth punctuates her performance with a monologue that stands as one of the best of the year, regardless of genre. X and Pearl make for a great one/two punch, and I can’t wait to see where West and Goth take us in the third installment.