Moviespirit presents the Top 10 Thrillers of 2011. These great thrillers let you imagine that you are the hero saving humanity.
Everyone is a hero in his or her own myth, according to writer and mythology scholar Joseph Campbell. These films will inspire you with a sense of the possible human.
Spies with heart
The Debt. A team of young Israeli Massad agents captures the surgeon of Birkenau, but hides a dark secret. Helen Mirren and Jessica Chastain star in John Madden’s classy and exciting exploration of truth and honor. Non-stop suspense and an all-star cast distinguish this smart thriller. Romance and regret sharpen intrigue. Atonement is impossible in The Debt’s bloody conclusion, which shows a character who can’t forgive herself. Sam Worthington, Marton Csokas, Tom Wilkinson and Ciaran Hinds also star.
Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) claims her identity as a genetically engineered super girl with a warm heart. Hanna can hunt, shoot, track, gut a deer for dinner and evade capture. Leaving her spy dad (Eric Bana) in the Arctic Circle to seek out her mother’s killer, Hanna discovers womanhood and meets new friends. Joe Wright directs. Cate Blanchett stars as a CIA operative.
Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Tom Cruise is brave, intense and smooth as agent Ethan Hunt in Brad Bird’s stylish, daring sequel to Mission: Impossible (1996). Solid acting and great action filmmaking impress. Cruise, 49 and in great shape, performs his own stunts. As Ethan swings from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, Robert Elswit’s cinematography will awe you. The IMAX version is breathtaking. Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg and Paula Patton also star.
Take Shelter is a fever dream of a thriller. It dwells on anxiety and hope, prophecy and mental illness. Jeff Nichols directs. Michael Shannon brilliantly plays sensitive everyman Curtis LaForche. Gangly, enigmatic and tortured, Curtis is plagued by hallucinations and nightmares. In an age of uncertainty, his dark night of the soul feels universal. Suspenseful from start to finish, Take Shelter portends the end. It sweeps you away with dread and faith. Jessica Chastain stars as Curtis’ wife Samantha. Tova Stewart is sweetly perceptive as their hearing impaired daughter Hannah.
X-Men: First Class. Freaks rule as the X-Men use their mutant powers to save the world. Matthew Vaughn’s smart, exciting comic book thriller features big talent, engaging story, sci-fi and espionage. Evoking the Marvel Comics original is a great cast including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence. Best Movie Quote: “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.”
Incendies. A daughter investigates her mother’s life and her own roots. Denis Villeneuve writes and directs this suspenseful family drama. Jeanne (Melissa Desoreaux-Poulin) travels to the Middle East to solve mysteries about her mother Nawal (Lubna Azabal, incredible). Politics, religion, identity and passion are explored. Best Movie Quote: “Death is never the end of the story. There are always details.”
Trollhunter, a mockumentary about Norway’s legendary trolls, is sheer fun. Brave, solitary troll hunter Hans (comedian Otto Jesperson) leads a band of film students to stop a dangerous beast. Filmed in Blair Witch-style with a cast of comedians, director Andre Ovredal considers the rights and dignity of non-human creatures. A Hollywood remake by director Chris Columbus is in the works.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. David Fincher’s classy remake of the 2009 Swedish-language thriller stars Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander, an abused heroine. Mikael Blomqvist (Daniel Craig) and Lisbeth track a serial killer implicated in the murder of Harriet Vanger 40 years ago. This is Mara’s breakout role as a fierce, determined computer hacker and survivor. Violent scenes, and a family of nefarious suspects, add grit. Jeff Cronenweth’s extraordinary cinematography highlights the play of good and evil. When the mystery is solved, a way to transcend violence is revealed.
Martha Marcy May Marlene. Elizabeth Olsen bursts into stardom in writer-director Sean Durkin’s astounding feature debut. Olsen’s dynamic, restrained performance is striking as Martha struggles to reclaim herself after escaping from a cult in upstate New York. Place and time blur as she relives her old life. Cult leader Patrick (John Hawkes) requires psychic surrender and bizarre acts. This indie psychological thriller disturbed and fascinated me as much as The Exorcist. The Silkwood-like ending is haunting.
One percent thrills
Margin Call. Sam (Kevin Spacey) is filled with pain and angst. He hates who he has become, but money and power drive him. Margin Call is a tense drama about how Wall Street investment bankers caused the 2008 economic collapse, prompting worldwide recession. J.C. Chandor’s suspenseful feature debut unfolds like a David Mamet play. The all-star cast includes Zachary Quinto and Jeremy Irons. Margin Call will make you wonder, “What would I have done?”