With the first half of 2019 coming to a close, many film fans are beginning to discuss their favourite movies of the year so far. While blockbuster cinema has failed to make much of an impact, there have been some truly fantastic story-driven releases. Without further ado, here are The Cinema Cult’s top 5 films of 2019 (so far).
5. Little Woods
Coming from first-time feature writer/director Nia DaCosta and starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, Little Woods is a fantastic tale of two sisters and their journey towards a better life. Positioning itself in a sadly relatable world, this is a film that effectively displays modern societal struggles within a well-told narrative. As a release focused on its characters, the result is a grounded story that exceptionally highlights the struggles of modern America.
4. The Standoff at Sparrow Creek
From the production company that brought another film on this list, The Standoff at Sparrow Creek is a mostly one location movie, setting the scene for a brilliant tale of mystery and trust. Coming from writer/director Henry Dunham, with James Badge Dale as the lead, we follow a group of men who must find a betrayer in their midst. Simple and effective in its set-up, this solid picture allows its viewers to exist right alongside the characters, questioning the truth every step of the way.
3. John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
While some action franchises have found success with sub-par set pieces, the John Wick series has become a clear cut above the rest. From director Chad Stahelski and star Keanu Reeves, the third entry in the saga positions Wick against a world of assassins, and may the best chapter yet. Building on a deeply intriguing world with a plethora of interesting characters and unparalleled action, Parabellum cements the franchise as one of the best.
Celebrating its limitations with a gritty character-first sensibility, Prospect shows us that you can build a universe by barely showing it at all. Written and directed by Zeak Earl and Chris Caldwell, this story follows a father and his daughter as they venture onto an unknown world. Starring Sophie Thatcher, this is the cinematic embodiment of “less is more”, taking a smaller path on the road to becoming the low-budget sci-fi western that you did not know you needed.
1. Dragged Across Concrete
Written and directed by S. Craig Zahler, Dragged Across Concrete is without a doubt the best film of 2019 so far. Like a slow burn fuse that results in an all-encompassing fire, this is a remarkable and ruthless experience that confidently prioritises its narrative over mainstream appeal. Proving that characters and story are the most important factors of all, what we witness here is 159 minutes of cinematic mastery. Solidifying himself as one of the best filmmakers working today, S. Craig Zahler has created his best movie yet.
While some releases from 2019’s first half still need to be watched, this list is a strong highlight of the years best so far. As should be the case always, character and story have won out over CGI and spectacle. With a bit of luck, 2019 will give us a few more gems worth celebrating.