Jackie (2016) Written by Noah Oppenheim Directed by Pablo Larrain
Jack was the third person Jackie had lost during her marriage. Two children, one stillborn and another passing two days after birth marked her journey to this ultimate tragedy, the one death that would resonantly define Jacqueline Kennedy for the remainder of her life. In this unique biopic, we follow the first lady through the four days after her husband was assassinated, focusing on her inner turmoil and the decisions around how she would send her husband off into the collective memory of America. There was a huge chance this film would diverge into empty melodrama; however, director Pablo Larrain chooses to not shy away from the darker, angrier aspects of this moment in Jackie’s life.
‘71 (2014) Written by Gregory Burke Directed by Yann Demange
In 1971, Northern Ireland was facing the height of the Troubles, a period where the people of that portion of the United Kingdom were in an all-out war with each other. These conflicts were based primarily on the divide between Catholic and Protestant but were based more on those who were loyal to the British throne and those who sought independence from the kingdom. The film ‘71 follows recruit Gary Hook who is thrown into the chaos of Northern Ireland with little understanding of the factions and nuance of relationships. He’s just there to do a job, supporting local police as they do residence searches for weapons caches. Things turn south quickly, and Gary finds himself trapped and wounded on the streets of Belfast. He’ll spend a night of terror, unsure of whom to trust and testing his mettle to survive.
The Revenant (2015) Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro G. Iñárritu Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
If you could combine the pantheistic mysticism of Terence Malick with the primal brutality of Cormac McCarthy, you would have The Revenant. Set in the year pre-American Westward Expansion, The Revenant follows Hugh Glass, a white scout guiding a fur trapping crew into the dangerous Shawnee territory. Glass mostly keeps to himself and fraternizes only with his half-Native son Hawk. It doesn’t take long for the trapping operations to come under attack and those men who survive the assault head down river to find a route back to the safety of Fort Kiowa. The full brute force of nature is on display as the planned escape doesn’t go, and Glass finds himself coming to the borders of life and death.
Fruitvale Station (2013) Written & Directed by Ryan Coogler
On New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Grant was on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train with his girlfriend and their friends returning home to Oakland after an evening of celebration. A prisoner who served time with Grant recognized him on the train, and a fight broke out. The train was stopped and Grant and several other men, but not the prison acquaintance, was pulled off. A tense argument ensued with the transit police which escalated to Grant being pinned to the floor, a knee driven into the back of his neck. As he was pinned an officer pulled his firearm and shot Grant in the back. The wounded man would be taken to a nearby hospital and pronounced dead later that morning. The officer was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, sentenced to two years, but was released after less than a year served.
12 Years a Slave (2013) Written by John Ridley Directed by Steve McQueen
In 1841, freeman Solomon Northrup, a resident of Saratoga Springs, New York was tricked by two white men into joining them as a traveling violinist. With his wife and children away for work for three weeks, Northrup sees an excellent opportunity to make a little money on the side and travel. Instead, his companions drug the man and sell him to a slave ring. A journey begins that brings Northrup to New Orleans and into the ownership of a plantation owner where our protagonist experiences just a taste of the hell that his life will become. From there he ends up at the cotton plantation of Epps, a drunkard and a brute who sexually abuses one slave in particular, Patsey. Northrup tries to keep his hope alive while watching those around him become brutalized and eventually murdered in some instances. Eventually, he will be free again but forever changed, terrors and evils scarred into his mind that he will never forget.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012) Written by Mark Boal Directed by Kathryn Bigelow
The September 11th attacks are without question of the most significant moments in the history of our current century and the scope of post-Cold War foreign policy. Osama bin Laden is also one of the most notorious historical figures of our age. Zero Dark Thirty creates a fictional tableau to explain how bin Laden was found and ultimately executed. Of course, because of the safety of the people involved and in an effort not to compromise the intelligence gathering apparatus we will never know the names of anyone directly involved, from the CIA agents to the members of Seal Team Six. Instead, we’re given the story of fictional analyst Maya who follows a winding path trying to discover the whereabouts of a messenger who would deliver directives from Al-Qaeda leadership to cells on the ground. Without realizing what she has stumbled upon she is shocked to discover the journey has led her to a walled compound where bin Laden is hiding out.
Lawless (2012) Written by Nick Cave Directed by John Hillcoat
In 1931, among the foothills of Virginia, the Bondurant brothers were successful moonshine runners. Forrest (Tom Hardy) runs the operations with a cool even hand making sure to reign in wild man Howard (Jason Clarke) the youngest and greenest brother Jack (Shia LeBeouf). They also have the local law under their thumb by sharing some of the product from time to time. Things change when U.S. Marshall Charley Rakes (Guy Pearce) is assigned to the region and works alongside the state’s attorney to pressure the Bondurants into handing over a more significant percentage of their profits. Meanwhile, Jack becomes obsessed with courting the preacher’s daughter (Mia Wasikowska) while Forrest strikes up a growing intimacy with city girl on the run Maggie (Jessica Chastain). Oh yeah, Gary Oldman plays a Chicago gangster who has moved into the area. Movie crowded enough yet?