The Best Films Of 2017 You Haven’t Seen Yet
Murder mysteries, spy capers and historical dramas – here’s what we’ll be watching this autumn
From left: Mr Taron Egerton as Eggsy, Mr Colin Firth as Harry Hart and Mr Pedro Pascal as Jack Daniels in Kingsman: The Golden Circle. Photograph by Twentieth Century Fox
As summer reaches its tail end, we can nonetheless bask in the golden haze of Hollywood gearing up for its big finish to 2017. The latter half of any year typically heralds cinema’s greatest hopes for distinction, and although 2017 has proved unusual – with summer releases of sure-fire awards nominees Detroit and Dunkirk – there are plenty of strong films that will delight and thrill, even if they don’t make it onto the judges’ shortlists. From sci-fi remakes to all-star musicals, Nordic-noir thrillers to comic spy capers, the great and the good will be tempered by the fun and the frivolous. So whatever your tastes, you will be enjoying a splendid feast in cinemas as the nights draw in. What’s more, 2017 will go down in history as the year Sir Winston Churchill ruled the box office.
Mr Ryan Gosling as LAPD Officer K in Blade Runner 2049. Photograph by Twentieth Century Fox
Sir Ridley Scott passed up the chance to direct this long-awaited sequel to his 1982 masterpiece, opting instead to helm Alien: Covenant, but he still plays a pivotal role as executive producer of Blade Runner 2049. Initial rumblings of discontent that anyone, even Sir Ridley, would dare to revisit the hallowed waters of Los Angeles’ dark future were swiftly quelled when original blade runner Mr Harrison Ford was enticed to bring back Rick Deckard, and Mr Ryan Gosling was cast as this generation’s eponymous runner who is hunting him down. Throw Ms Robin Wright, Mr Jared Leto and Mr Dave Bautista into the mix, and we have a heady, credible combination of style and substance. The cast and premise (it has the words “Blade” and “Runner” in the title) are enough to guarantee 2049 its audience, but it is director Mr Denis Villeneuve, whose sublimely subtle Arrival was wrongly eclipsed by showier films at this year’s awards, who ensures its genius.
Release date: 6 October
Mr Gary Oldman as Sir Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Photograph by Focus Features LLC
Mr Joe Wright’s historical drama Darkest Hour follows Sir Winston Churchill (ambitiously and uncannily played by Mr Gary Oldman) in the days following his election to the office of prime minister, as he battles with his conscience and his public as to whether or not he should honour a peace treaty with Nazi Germany that was negotiated by his predecessor, Mr Neville Chamberlain. Mr Wright is unmatched when dealing with romantic, emotionally charged human melodrama (both Pride & Prejudice and Atonement met with phenomenal critical recognition and box office success) and, given this is a Working Title project scripted by The Theory Of Everything’s Mr Anthony McCarten, it plays perfectly to his strengths. As a footnote, Sir Winston came to power in May 1940, and just three weeks later had to handle the evacuation of Allied troops from a beach in northern France, Dunkirk. But while that evacuation framed all the action in Mr Christopher Nolan’s peerless film of the same name, Mr Wright’s battle is set in the corridors of power back in London. Don’t miss it.
Release date: 22 November (US); 12 January (UK)
Mr Michael Fassbender as Detective Harry Hole in The Snowman. Photograph by Universal Pictures
Scandi authors have cornered the detective-noir market in recent years, and none better than Norwegian Mr Jo Nesbø, with his Oslo-based thrillers that feature alcoholic cop Harry Hole. Thus Hole’s migration to the big screen has been heralded among genre fans in much the same way as graphic novel aficionados greeted the advent of Suicide Squad… Until they saw it. The Snowman, however, promises to deliver much more to both book devotees and general film fans alike. It’s a mid-series novel, but one of Mr Nesbø’s best, framed around a classic cat-and-mouse serial-killer hunt, so a great franchise kick-off point. And despite his pretty, leading-man bone structure, Mr Michael Fassbender is a remarkable character actor who can expertly deliver a dark, conflicted Hole the audience will love despite themselves. The director is Swedish master of suspense Mr Tomas Alfredson (Let The Right One In, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), the adaptation is co-scripted by Mr Peter Straughan (whose credits include Tinker Tailor and the BBC’s sublime TV adaptation of Dame Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall) and the supporting cast includes Messrs Toby Jones, JK Simmons and Val Kilmer. So really, what can go wrong?
Release date: 13 October (UK); 20 October (US)
Mr Garrett Hedlund as Jamie McAllan and Mr Jason Mitchell as Ronsel Jackson in Mudbound. Photograph by Mr Steve Dietl/Netflix
Netflix’s most impressive feature to date, Mudbound will follow the streaming service’s controversial model of a limited cinema release (thus making it eligible for awards and festivals) before moving directly to Netflix for a broader audience. Writer/director Ms Dee Rees’s slow, subtle, moving drama follows two farming families, the McAllans and the Jacksons, as their traumatised sons return home from fighting in WWII. Messrs Garrett Hedlund and Jason Mitchell excel as the former soldiers struggling to deal with the racism and expectations of civilian life in post-war rural Mississippi, but it is Mr Jason Clarke who proves unforgettable, with his layered portrayal of kind, well-intentioned, racist Henry McAllan. Ms Carey Mulligan plays his lonely, frustrated wife and Ms Mary J Blige proves to be one hell of an actress. It will be interesting to see if the Academy recognises how good Mudbound really is, or if politics means it will be roundly ignored come February. Either way, with Netflix making movies as strong as its series offerings, it really is time to subscribe.
Release date: 21 January
The Greatest Showman
Mr Hugh Jackman as Mr PT Barnum in The Greatest Showman. Photograph by Mr Niko Tavernise/Twentieth Century Fox
This promises to deliver everything required of a Christmas release: a family-friendly musical with fabulous costumes, a beautiful cast (led by Messrs Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron, Ms Michelle Williams, Zendaya and Ms Rebecca Ferguson) and more emotional highs and lows than a kindergarten nativity performance (co-writer Mr Bill Condon also adapted Chicago and Dreamgirls for the big screen). Mr Jackman plays Mr Phineas Taylor (PT) Barnum, the American entrepreneur and visionary who credited himself with creating both showbusiness and the circus. Even if you don’t enjoy having your heartstrings yanked on, it’s worth appreciating just how much the world needs something like this right now – a film that makes heroes of outcasts and so-called freaks, gathers them together, celebrates them in all their unique otherness and gives them a glorious home. So maybe it is a generous portion of cheese, with a side order of camembert thrown in for good measure, but the tone, cast and presentation promise to be so perfectly festive, we challenge you to resist.
Release date: 25 December (US); 1 January (UK)
Murder On The Orient Express
Mr Johnny Depp in Murder On The Orient Express. Photograph by Twentieth Century Fox
Too often films that feature A-list ensemble casts crumble under the weight of supporting all those big names, leaving a lifeless wisp of narrative limping along without a plot. Not so Sir Kenneth Branagh’s unrepentantly luxe remake of Ms Agatha Christie’s masterful whodunnit, probably because the story can really only deliver if equal attention (and billing) is given to its motley collection of suspects. Thus Mr Johnny Depp, Ms Michelle Pfeiffer, Messrs Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe and Leslie Odom Jr, Dame Judi Dench, Mses Olivia Colman, Penélope Cruz and Daisy Ridley bounce off each other in a series of gloriously camp portrayals of the mismatched passengers on the infamous steam train suspected of murdering one of their number. Special shoutout to Mr Sergei Polunin, who captivated Hollywood in Mr Steven Cantor’s documentary Dancer, for proving that you have not lived until you have watched this generation’s greatest ballet dancer deliver a high kick in a Hollywood fight scene.
Release date: 3 November (UK); 10 November (US)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Photograph by Twentieth Century Fox
Kingsman: The Secret Service exploded into cinemas three years ago, simultaneously celebrating and subverting just about every major film genre of this century. It was a superhero, superspy, boys-with-toys celluloid carnival ride (full disclosure: we provided the wardrobe). Alongside his long-term collaborator, writer Ms Jane Goldman, director Mr Matthew Vaughn confounds expectations by creating a follow-up that is just as much fun as the first movie, without any traces of the fatigue that typically laces big-hit action sequels. Mr Taron Egerton returns as boy-done-good Eggsy alongside a new pack of superspies, known as Statesman because they’re American (see what they did there?). Given the additional cast includes Narcos’ Mr Pedro Pascal, Mr Jeff Bridges, Mr Channing Tatum and Ms Julianne Moore as a villain so deliciously twisted she makes Hannibal Lecter look like a connoisseur of fine dining, The Golden Circle is likely to surpass both audience and box office expectations. If you enjoyed the first outing, you’ll love the second. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
Release date: 20 October (UK); 22 October (US)