Lynne Ramsay’s stark inversion of the noir thriller is a devastatingly brutal portrayal of one man’s battle with repression and abuse, anchored by a rage-fuelled, Cannes-winning performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Joe (Phoenix) is a Gulf War veteran and former FBI agent turned killer-for-hire who lives at home with his ailing mother. When Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov), a US Senator’s daughter is kidnapped, he is contracted to dispense with the perpetrators and save the girl. Having located Nina in a seedy New York brothel, Joe’s escape plan suddenly derails, unleashing a maelstrom of violence that ultimately takes him deeper into the hallucinatory darkness and closer to the truth.
Working from Jonathan Ames’ 2013 novel, Ramsay (who jointly won the best screenplay award in Cannes) is more concerned with the psyche of her unhinged protagonist than she is with the action, and she eschews the spoken word in favour of Phoenix’s eloquent, line-ravaged face. Reuniting several of her key collaborators on We Need to Talk About Kevin, her taut, syncopated cinema is intensified by Jonny Greenwood’s pulsating score, Thomas Townend’s expressive camerawork and razor-sharp editing from Joe Bini who rejects exploitation, cutting away from the action rather than to it.
Drama 2020 84 mins Director: Amy Seimetz
Amy knows she's going to die tomorrow and her fear is contagious.
Historical drama 2019 126 mins Director: Todd Haynes
Mark Ruffalo plays an attorney trying to uncover the corporate scandal of a chemical company poisoning a local community, in this searching ecological drama from Todd Haynes (Safe, Carol).
Thriller 2019 87 mins Director: Kitty Green
Kitty Green's #MeToo drama is a sobering take on one day in the life of a film company assistant.
Gangster 1996 0 mins Director: Andy Wachowski
A seductive neo-noir and cult classic centring on lesbian desire in dangerous circumstances.
Crime 1996 0 mins Director: F. Gary Gray
A tight-knit group of friends decide to rob banks in this unapologetically subversive display of black female agency.
Thriller 2003 0 mins Director: Jane Campion
This feminist erotic thriller adds a frisson of dangerous sex to a murder investigation.
Best Films of 2018
Comedy 2017 71 mins Director: Sally Potter
Following some unexpected revelations, a celebration quickly takes a turn for the worse in Sally Potter's razor-sharp comedy.
Comedy 2017 107 mins Director: Armando Iannucci
Chaos and comedy ignite in Armando Iannucci’s acerbic satire, as Soviet officials frantically react to the passing of their glorious leader.
Drama 2017 112 mins Director: Sean Baker
Tangerine director Sean Baker presents another visionary take on the wild ups and dangerous downs of life in America’s underbelly, featuring an Oscar-nominated turn from Willem Dafoe.
Drama 2017 127 mins Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Andrey Zvyagintsev (Elena, Leviathan) delivers a masterpiece in this caustic look at contemporary Russian society, a failed marriage and the disappearance of a child. A major prize winner at both Cannes and BFI London Film Festival.
Drama 2017 106 mins Director: Michael Pearce
The hunt for a Jersey serial killer sparks a dangerous awakening in a young woman in this astonishing psycho-sexual thriller, which sets all the senses aflame.
Drama 2016 88 mins Director: John Carroll Lynch
Harry Dean Stanton gives the performance of a lifetime as an irascible nonagenarian maverick in a New Mexican town, grappling with his mortality.
Featuring Joaquin Phoenix
Drama 2013 117 mins Director: James Gray
Marion Cotillard plays a Polish immigrant struggling to survive in 1920s New York, in this acclaimed drama from James Gray (We Own the Night).
Directed by Lynne Ramsay
Drama 1996 18 mins Director: Lynne Ramsay
An ex-drug addict reflects on life in and out of prison in this short by BAFTA-winner Lynne Ramsay, based on real accounts.
Drama 2010 112 mins Director: Lynne Ramsay
Tilda Swinton gives a BAFTA-nominated performance as the mother of a teenager who commits a high school massacre. With Ezra Miller and John C. Reilly.
Drama 2018 85 mins Director: Hong Khaou
Hong Khaou follows Lilting with this gorgeous drama that evokes the disorientation of returning to an unrecognisable homeland.
Drama 2020 100 mins Director: Channing Godfrey Peoples
A soulful and uplifting drama of mother-daughter bonds and deferred dreams.
Documentary 2019 81 mins Director: Rubika Shah
Revolution rock! Rubika Shah’s vital documentary profiles punky reggae protest movement Rock Against Racism, from grassroots beginnings through to a major multicultural event.
Drama 2019 84 mins Director: Nathalie Biancheri
A teenage girl forms a mysterious relationship with an older man in this atmospheric debut from director Nathalie Biancheri.
War 2019 169 mins Director: Vaclav Marhoul
Based on Jerzy Kosiński’s 1965 novel and a long time in the making, Václav Marhoul’s extraordinary The Painted Bird finds a lone Jewish boy on a dark odyssey towards home during wartime.
Romance 2019 78 mins Director: Aki Omoshaybi
Aki Omoshaybi’s earnest debut explores the love between two people who work hard to keep their romance on track while struggling to manage personal hardship.