I am a big fan of the French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve and today I am going to talk about his Top 5 Films. This is a personal list based on my own opinions. I know it is obvious, but then again, this is the Internet.
Many people, I’ve even met some of them personally, think that the crime thriller Prisoners is his first film. But Denis Villeneuve has been active in the film industry since 1998. Before his Hollywood journey, he made several critically acclaimed French Canadian films like August 32nd on Earth, Maelström, Polytechnique, Incendies etc. If you haven’t watched these movies and if you are a fan of this filmmaker, I can’t recommend these films enough.
Now, without wasting anymore time, let’s get into it.
5. Sicario - The Ugly War On Drugs
#Sicario is a 2015 crime drama film that talks about the ugly war against drugs, specifically at the border area between the US and Mexico. I was really impressed with the casting of this movie. I had my doubts about Emily Blunt. She never seemed like an actress who had any intensity, which a script like this requires. But I am so happy that I was proved wrong. But I have to say that Sicario is one of Denis Villeneuve’s weaker movies, the only reason that this movie is even in this list is because of the traffic confrontation scene. The set up and delivery of that scene was so perfectly done, that the rest of the movie couldn’t live up to the expectation set by that scene.
4. Polytechnique - A Black Day
On December 6, 1989 at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, a massacre happened. Twenty five-year-old Marc Lepin shot 28 people and murdered 14 women. He blamed it on the rise of feminism. It was a national tragedy and this film dramatizes the events around the massacre. It is a heavy film for sure, especially knowing the tragic outcome; it makes for a brutal watch. The event and the consequences were shown from the perspective of three people including that of the killers’. You can really see how Denis Villeneuve’s movies have strong female characters, even in the initial stage of his career.
3. Arrival - First Contact Done Right
A lot has been said about this movie recently, analyzing everything from the Aliens’ language and the short story it is based on. I even did a video essay on language and the next step in human evolution explored in #Arrival which I am including below. It takes complex concepts such as the nature of time and reality, and makes it accessible to someone even without any scientific background and that’s what a strong screenplay does effectively. This is yet another one of his movie with a strong female character.
Significance of language in human evolution
2. Prisoners - Film Meditation
I had a hard time with choosing the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, but I think this is one of the best character study crime drama films! It is a slow burn thriller about the abduction of two little girls and the subsequent search by the family and the detective in a small town. An incredibly detailed script powered by strong performances by the entire cast, and an equally stunning cinematography made watching this film, almost like a meditation.
The best Denis Villeneuve film so far is ...
1. Enemy - Identity & Self Awareness
Enemy is a 2013 Canadian psychological thriller film. It is loosely adapted from the Portuguese writer Jose’ Saramago’s novel The Double and for the record, The Double is my favorite book of all time. So, imagine my surprise when this film managed to completely stand on its own and not ruin the book in any way. It actually speaks volumes about the filmmaker. Enemy is a film about identity, duality, totalitarianism and human relationships. This is a film, which doesn’t reveal itself so easily. It is like a puzzle, but with all the pieces in it for you to piece it together and inside there lays a great story. If you watched the Enemy and you still feel like you have no idea what happened in the film, then watch the video that Chris Stuckmann did. I'm including it below. He did a great and in-depth analysis with strong supporting arguments and I think he nailed it.
In-Depth Film Analysis - Enemy (Spoilers)
I love this movie and I have a lot of respect for it as it assumes that its audience is brilliant. You don’t get this kind of movie often in the world where Michael Bay keeps hitting us in the head with his Transformer series.
I feel like there are three kinds of filmmakers when it comes to American cinema. Ones that are really good indie filmmakers, but when they make the transition to studio films, they don’t handle the pressure so well and they fade away. There are filmmakers who are made for studio films, but then they can’t make an intimate small film.
But then there are filmmakers who make intimate indie films and brilliant studio films like Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg and very few others. In that list, we definitely have Denis Villeneuve and I am really looking forward to his upcoming projects. I am excited about Blade Runner 2049 and his upcoming crime thriller ‘The Son’ with Jake Gyllenhaal, a movie adaptation of a Norwegian crime novel.
What's your favorite film from Denis Villeneuve? Let me know in the comments!