The big film release this week is undoubtedly sleeper hit Sicario.
The gritty drug war drama is currently racking in rave reviews, with many critics citing it as a serious contender come awards season (read our own glowing review here).
It also signals something of an arrival into the mainstream consciousness for director Denis Villeneuve, who has steadily made his rise through the movie-making ranks, first through a handful of acclaimed foreign language films, and in more recent years a couple of genuinely inventive English-language thrillers.
It’s a rise that independent film fans have been aware of for some time now, though he’s only just starting to break through to a wider audience. But with a plethora of quality movies under his belt it’s no surprise that he’s been signed on to helm the upcoming Blade Runner sequel.
We’re big fans of his at WOW, and with the release of his latest film, we thought it was high time to recommend to you some of the Canadian director’s finest works to check out if you enjoyed Sicario (and chances are you did).
Regarded by many as Villeneuve’s strongest work to date, this French language mystery-drama hauled in a load of accolades upon its release in Canada. It won eight awards at 2011’s edition of the Genie Awards (Canada’s answer to the Oscars) including Best Picture and Best Director, was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar, and was even named by the New York Times as one of the Top 10 films of 2011. High praise indeed.
Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad’s play of the same name, Incendies follows the journey of a twin brother and sister as they attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother’s life, and was the last Villeneuve film directed in French before his move to English-speaking movies.
Inspired by a tragic school shooting that took place at Montreal’s Polytechnique school in 1989, this melancholy docudrama portrays the events as seen from the perspective of two students. When an armed madman enters the school with the intention of killing as many women as possible, the lives of every student involved are forever changed.
The film sparked controversy upon its release in Quebec, with some believing it inappropriate to produce a movie about the powerful subject matter that left 14 young women dead. It’s this controversy which possibly holds Polytechnique back from being regarded as one of Villeneuve’s best, though it still managed to scoop a whopping nine Genie Awards.
Prisoners marked the moment when Villeneuve began shifting towards a wider audience, with his first English language film featuring a top cast including Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal.
The plot focuses on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search for them, and poses the question ‘How far would you go to protect your child?’ in a bold, uncomfortable and unwavering manner. A psychological thriller with more smarts than most (something Villeneuve has since become known for), Prisoners was also deservedly nominated for Best Cinematography at last year’s Oscars.
Only his second film, Maelstrom saw Villeneuve tackling some pretty outlandish ideas. It stars Marie-Josée Croze as a depressed, alcoholic woman who becomes romantically involved with the son of a man she believes to have killed in a hit and run accident, and the whole thing is narrated by a fish. Yes, you read that right. A fish.
It’s a bizarre premise to get your head around at first, but get over the weirdness, and it’s easy to see why the film has racked up so many awards in its time (23 in all).
Perhaps Villeneuve’s most esoteric work, Enemy can be a bit daunting if you happen to lose track halfway through. Stick with it though, and you’re presented with one of the most wonderfully bizarre endings in movies today, open to interpretation and sparking online debate as to what it all means like no other film could. Once you’ve seen it, check out Chris Stuckmann’s brilliant (spoiler filled) analysis.
Loosely adapted from José Saramago’s 2002 novel The Double, Villeneuve paired with Jake Gyllenhaal once again, casting him as two men who are physically identical, but different in terms of personality. A psychological thriller that breathes new life into the doppleganger tradition, Enemy is a must-watch.