With 2013 drawing to a close, we can’t help but look back on what a year it has been in cinema. From gangsters to martial artists, here’s our list of the best films of the year:
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The New World – This absolutely gripping crime thriller, about an undercover cop who finds himself in too deep when a power struggle erupts in the syndicate in which he is embedded, features some great work from Lee Jung-jae, the always dependable Choi Min-sik, and a stellar performance by Hwang Jung-min. Organized crime never looked so good with crisp suits, immaculate hair, and the promise of bloody violence and backstabbing. Commanding attention and always with purpose, the direction is superb. Polished and exquisitely acted, this is the best Korean film of the year.
Drug War – Johnnie To shows again why he is probably the best director in Hong Kong today, and perhaps ever. The plot, about a drug lord who is forced into the role of informant to avoid a death sentence, finds Louis Koo dueling with Honglei Sun in edge of you seat performances. Koo really flexes his acting muscles here and Honglei Sun, always welcome in any film, delivers a more restrained performance than he is typically associated, but with ann intensity that is clear and explosive. In a movie that is surprisingly light on action compared to many other To films, it is nonetheless one of the most exciting films in his career.[/one_half_last] [one_half]
Pacific Rim – Guillermo del Toro’s opus of giant robots and even bigger monsters was everything I wanted, or hoped, it would be. Stunning effects work and a real appreciation for the genre elevate the film past a simple homage and into a shining example of the future of kaiju films.
The Grandmaster – Wong Kar Wai does it again with this absolutely beautiful and eminently acted biopic about Ip Man and the Hong Kong martial arts circle. Humanistic as opposed to Wilson Ip’s own series of action and patriotically centered films, we get a delicate drama with impeccable direction and immense acting from Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Fight choreography by Yuen Woo-ping is flowing and tight with a real emphasis on the ‘art’ element of martial arts. Another masterpiece from a master auteur.
The Great Passage – Yuya Ishii’s story of a dictionary editor discovering the power of words is a tender and heartfelt drama that serves up some great performances courtesy of Ryuhei Matsuda and Aoi Miyazaki. Just a sweet film and a glowing example of the simplicity but extreme focus given to the dramatic genre, The Great Passage has placed Ishii firmly on my radar.
And there you have it, 5 of the must see films of 2013. Keep in mind, there are a number of films which I haven’t viewed yet including Special ID, Tom Yum Goong 2, Shield of Straw, Tokyo Family, Unforgiven, Gatchaman, Rigor Mortis, and Stray Dogs, among others. Rather than rank these films, just go out and see them, every single one of them is worth viewing.
What were your favorite films of 2013? Let us know in the comments below!