After a couple of bumper weeks for By The Decade (who knew the readers of film blogs would have such great affection for movies of the 1980s and 1990s?!), we’ve arrived at the turn of the 21st Century.
To keep things a little neater, I’ve chosen five films from the 2000s, and as always they’re not the best films of the decade, but films I enjoyed or have a connection with.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
I don’t remember exactly why, but I saw the original Ocean’s Eleven before the Steven Soderbergh version (I was probably just discovering the Rat Pack in my teens, or something equally pretentious), and was delighted to find that the remake was a significant improvement on the older film.
(Incidentally, I think Ocean’s 12 feels more like the original film, in that it’s a bunch of mates hanging out in a fun location and making a movie when they remember to. I don’t think anyone enjoyed that film as much as the cast enjoyed making it.)
It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what the Soderbergh version got right without saying ‘everything’, but Clooney and Pitt have rarely been as likeable, the squabbling and camaraderie between the crooks is great fun, the David Holmes soundtrack, editing and cinematography is cool, slick and smooth as hell, and it just feels like everyone’s firing on all cylinders.
Back in the day, I had an imported US DVD of this a little while before it was available in the UK, and watched it a lot to justify the cost. The disc, player and a bunch of other stuff was then stolen in a burglary, and while I later replaced it with the UK version (and I don’t think there was any real difference between the two), some of the shine had been lost.
It’s still great, and another one of those By The Decade standards where if I’m channel surfing and spot it, I’m glued to it for a good hour before I’ve realised.
Just don’t ask me to explain exactly how they pulled off the heist…
The Bourne Identity (2002)
The film that helped us realise Matt Damon could play a tough guy, The Bourne Identity and its sequels have been blamed/praised for changing/ruining (depending on who you listen to), the way spy and action films were made -specifically the Bond franchise (glares at Quantum Of Solace).
But going back to seeing this for the first time, it was a real breath of fresh air for a tired and bloated genre. Watching Damon’s amnesiac arse-kicker using a radio and a map to break free from an embassy was as cool as the bleak, snowy streets he climbed down to, and his use of a biro is the best use of a pen in a fight sequence since Grosse Pointe Blank.
When Doug Liman left and Paul Greengrass took over, that’s when the much-maligned shaky camera stuff really took off (though I largely think it works well for the sequels – adding urgency but removing clarity), but The Bourne Identity plays like a real thriller, simultaneously a bit of a traditional throwback (but far better than the book, in my opinion), and something utterly modern.
Extra marks also for the Moby track on the credits, a brilliant car chase and the coolest silenced pistol sound effect in cinema.
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Urgh. I’m not even sure I like this film, but it’s one of the most powerful feelings I’ve ever had in the cinema.
I saw it alone at an afternoon screening in my first year of university, going in knowing pretty much nothing about it other than it was from the Pi guy and dealt with addiction. Two hours later, feeling like I’d been kicked in the stomach, I emerged into a drizzly, grey day and returned to my flat hoping to find signs of life and cheer, but my flatmates were all out, so I sat and drank tea and wallowed in bleakness for a while.
The performances are incredible, especially Ellen Burstyn who is utterly heartbreaking in her role as a mother so addicted to the idea of fame and escape she descends into a mental breakdown while her son (Jared Leto), plunges into heroin addiction with his girlfriend (Jennifer Connolly), and friend (Marlon Wayans).
I’ll be honest, I’ve had this on DVD since it came out because I still want to revisit and see if it’s aged well and still has the gut-punching power it did back in the day, but I’ve never had the bottle to stick it in the player.
I’ll get round to a Late Review of it one day, but until then I’ll just listen to the incredible Clint Mansell soundtrack and drink tea.
Casino Royale (2006)
Like many, I was disappointed with Die Another Day on its release – although looking back at it now, I’d argue there’s probably 45 minutes of a good film there, before it goes off the rails.
Martin Campbell’s second Bond film to make my By The Decade lists, Casino Royale was a much needed shot in the arm for the franchise, and as sad as I was to see Pierce Brosnan go, it introduced Daniel Craig’s 007 as more of a grunt and brought the series slightly more back to basics.
I was lucky enough to blag a couple of tickets to a regional premier screening of the film just before release (in full black tie, no less!), so obviously my memories of seeing this on the big screen are slightly rose-tinted, but between the thrilling opening black-and-white fight scene/assassination, Daniel Kleinman’s amazing titles set to Chris Cornell’s terrific You Know My Name, and the parkour chase, it’s clear we’re on different ground from the outset.
Is it perfect? No – in my opinion it’s too long, the Venice sequence feels tacked on and the running commentary over the poker game drags for me. It also set the course for the franchise to wallow in 007’s self-pity, leading to films of varying quality throughout the rest of Craig’s tenure.
But the action, chases and plot is all handled well, it’s shot brilliantly, and Eva Green, Judi Dench and Craig himself all work really well together. Like many on the By The Decade lists, it’s one that seems doomed to repeats on ITV4, but I’ll usually ending up tuning in for a bit when it does.
Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy (2004)
Probably the lowest-brow film on this week’s list, but one that has made me laugh a lot over the years, I feel conflicted about including Anchorman, if I’m honest.
On the one hand, it’s the prime example of the improv-heavy, self-indulgent comedy films that were everywhere in the latter half of this decade. You know the ones, where you rarely see two characters in the same shot because they’ve just left the camera running on one performer and got them to come up with hundreds of alternative lines then just cut the best ones together.
But on the other hand, after 17 years it’s genuinely funny and rewatchable. I’ve laughed at this with people 30 years older than me and 20 years younger, and when lines or gags from it occasionally come to mind, they’ll always put a smile on my face. Likewise, if I ever hear Afternoon Delight, any mention of Zeus, a reference to an old wooden ship… you get the idea.
Famously, there was so much unused footage from production they made an entirely separate semi-sequel – Wake Up, Ron Burgundy – which I’ve had on my shelf for a long time but have never got round to watching. Not for the same reason as Requiem For A Dream, but because I’m worried it’ll be rubbish (like the proper sequel mostly was). However, in the interests of Late Reviewer, I’ve got it lined up for a later date.
Reducing the number of entries on this week’s list meant there were a LOT of films I’d love to include but couldn’t, and I’m hoping to see a lot of them from readers who take part.
This is the penultimate By The Decade, by the way, and if anyone’s got an idea for the best way to refer to the 2010s in the same we we refer to the eighties, nineties and noughties, I’m all ears. Best I can come up with so far is the teenies and frankly, that just sounds weird.
Anyway, get on Twitter, Facebook or the comments and let me know which five films you’d recommend from the 2000s using #5FromThe00s – and if you’re really struggling, feel free to add #5MoreFromThe00s!