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The greatest movies of 2016: part II


It's time to discover the top five movies of 2016, as personally selected by Cineworld writer Sean Wilson. What will make the grade - and which movie will come out on top? Read on to find out.

5. High-Rise

Gleefully blowing a malicious raspberry at anyone who likes their films to play nice or fit within a box, Ben Wheatley's savage J.G. Ballard adaptation is defiantly its own beast. Taking as its basis the late author's prescient and satirical story of societal collapse within a London tower block, Wheatley moves from the lusciously beautiful visuals of the early stages to raw, hand-held footage as the rot sets in, working with regular writer Amy Jump and composer Clint Mansell to move unpredictably from black comedy to violent shock.

A superb cast led by Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss and Luke Evans all give impressive performances and put an all-too-recognisable face on this story of excess and human weakness. And that unforgettably bleak 'SOS' cover by Portishead? It's become the anthem of 2016.

4. Sing Street

As a year, 2016 has been seriously devoid of the feel-good factor, so let's bow down to Once and Begin Again director John Carney whose wonderful, eighties-set Irish hit reminds us of the power of dreams, music and just good old-fashioned filmmaking.

Musician and screen newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo charms the pants off us as aspiring musician Conor whose parents' imminent divorce demotes him to a grimy Catholic boys' school, during which time he falls head over heels for the alluring Raphina (Sophie Boynton, superb). Aiming to impress the latter by forming a band, the stage is set for a joyous coming of age story that fuses the idealistic outlook of its main character with a gritty, all-too-believable sense of the messiness of day to day life.

Plus, with its soundtrack of foot-stomping original songs (composed by Carney and eighties supremo Gary Clark) and pop staples from the likes of Duran Duran, no other movie this year sounded as gloriously nostalgic. And Jack Reynor in the older brother/musical mentor role is just outstanding.

3. Eye in the Sky

Distilling the thorny, morally complex and troubling issue of drone strikes into an engrossing, world-spanning thriller, director Gavin Hood's movie refuses to give the audience easy answers and is all the stronger for it.

When Helen Mirren's military commander requests her operation be elevated from a 'capture' to a 'kill' scenario based on surveillance footage captured inside a Nairobi house, a gripping and at times blackly comic drama ensues as her request follows up the chain of command. Hood and writer Guy Hibbert elicit plenty of wry humour from the politicians who are reluctant to get their hands dirty, but there is genuine humanity and compassion too in the form of the late Alan Rickman's veteran general, Aaron Paul's drone operator and Barkhad Abdi's man on the ground.

Guaranteed to stick in the mind, it's a chilling story about the slippery slope of power, as well as the cost of human life. And it gives Rickman, in his final on-screen role, one of the greatest performances of his remarkable career.

2. Pete's Dragon

Proving that the word 'remake' need not be a stigma, this utterly beautiful reworking of the 1977 Disney live-action/animation hybrid improves on its predecessor with a grand dose of emotional maturity, superb performances and assured direction from Ain't Them Bodies Saints director David Lowery.

The filmmaker creates a palpably sensuous and earthy atmosphere in this story of an orphaned boy and his friendship with his pet dragon, the movie rising above its cutesy description to introduce its young audiences to themes of love, loss and acceptance. It helps massively that the CGI effects on dragon Elliot are terrific: never once is the spell broken and the relationship is brilliantly sold by newcomer Oakes Fegley as Pete.

Plus, with support from Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, Karl Urban and Oona Laurence, it's a movie that gets us to re-invest in the power of fantasy, urging us to look beyond what's in front of our eyes and embrace the seemingly impossible. It's a powerful moral that we've needed this year more than ever.

1. Hell or High Water

There's a special kind of magic reserved for films that get everything absolutely right across the board, from direction to script, casting to cinematography and music.

Hell or High Water is one of those movies, a consummately entertaining slice of Texan neo-Western that's as juicy and salty as a piece of beef jerky, yet with profound moral resonance that lingers in the mind. Chris Pine and Ben Foster play two bank-robbing brothers and Jeff Bridges is the crusty old Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement who comes after them, director David McKenzie and screenwriter Taylor Sheridan having tremendous fun at moving the quintessential Wild West cliches into the 21st century.

No longer is this a landscape where getaways are made by horses, nor is it one where the moral boundaries are clear cut. Instead, it's a dramatic comment on how banks have become the new enemy on the dusty plains. However in the movie's best scene Bridges' scene-stealing on-screen partner Gil Birmingham, playing a Mexican Native American Catholic, succinctly summarises how this turbulent cowboy country is, and always has been, passing through the hands of those to whom it doesn't belong.

It sums up the movie in a nutshell: melancholy, witty, wise, superbly engrossing, rich with a sense of time and place, and brilliantly acted.