Looking back at 2018 | The best and worst films of 2018

Our resident film critic Teodor Reljic sifts through a year’s worth of film reviews to pick the worst and best of the bunch

Solo: A Star Wars Story, Phantom Thread and The Post
Solo: A Star Wars Story, Phantom Thread and The Post

The best films of 2018

5: Mission Impossible: Fallout

Superhero films may have hijacked the box-office friendly action set pieces, but leaner and meaner -- though no less mainstream -- cinematic machines like John Wick and, indeed, Christopher McQuarrie and Tom Cruise’s handling of the Mission: Impossible franchise are doing their damnest to bring back some of the stunt-heavy, visually crisp and dynamically choreographed action to the big screen. ‘Fallout’ is a delectable piece of work -- sprinting to the finish line without missing a beat.

4: The Shape of Water

Guillermo Del Toro’s quirky tale of an amphibian fishman starting a relationship with a deaf woman in 1960s Maryland might just be among the tamest and most ‘mainstream’ of offerings from the Mexican auteur (it certainly cemented his position as a bona fide purveyor of ‘good taste’ cinema by sweeping up some of the top Oscars this year). But it’s also a much-needed story of outsiders coming together to face bigotry… and any film that has fish-man-on-human sex can’t be accused of being a sellout feature from this vaunted purveyor of the dark and fantastic.

3: Phantom Thread

Amidst much talk of his retirement, award-winning actor Daniel Day Lewis teams up once again with director Paul Thomas Anderson -- whom he had regaled with a blisteringly brutal performance as oil magnate Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood (2007) -- to help stitch together an absorbing love story with a pitch-black centre. The finest recent example of stylish, subtle Gothic romance (Roger Michell’s weaksauce adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel doesn’t even come close), it boasts all of the studied refinement and psychological insight one can expect from Paul Thomas Anderson, and is likely to reward repeat viewings.

2: The Florida Project

Already a name to watch out for following the release of Tangerine -- getting down and dirty with the transgender sex worker community on the Sunset Strip, and filmed entirely on a series of mobile phones -- co-writer and director Sean Baker enjoyed a real breakthrough with The Florida Project. With a cast mostly made up of amateurs -- held together by the warm central presence of the always on-point Willem Dafoe -- its depiction of poverty is shot from the point of view of an innocent but precocious child, played with preternatural conviction by the eight-year-old Brooklynn Prince.

1: Dogman

Matteo Garrone returns to the Italian underworld that made him a household name with Gomorrah. Only, he plumbs the more low-end depths of organised crime with Dogman, whose dark fairytale undercurrents do contain some of the spellbinding magic he worked on Tale of Tales too. Loosely based on a horrific real-life incident from the 80s, Dogman is an absolute marvel -- a gripping thriller about a put-upon dog-groomer whose soul is certainly not clean, though it’s markedly cleaner than the neighbourhood-terrorising mobster who bullies him into submission. Dark, funny and always engrossing, this is an intense but rewarding cinematic repast.

The worst films of 2018

5: The Post

Could this be Spielberg’s worst film? The Post may have the best ethical intentions and Trump-inspired timeliness on its side, but the ensuing stew of a film is a dull display of the best American cinematic talent running on autopilot. Smug and drained of all narrative energy, this one should have been a mercy killing.

4: The Nun

While the idea of a Conjuring universe will be a delight to a sizeable coterie of horror fans, The Nun is a prequel of such low stakes and even lower quality, that its very existence begs the question: ‘Why bother?’. Still, its box office takings were significant, proving that horror will always command a loyal-enough crowd. For better or for worse.

3: Solo: A Star Wars Story

Speaking of embattled franchise-universes, this one is likely to hurt a lot more than most. Firing one’s director/s late in the game is never a good idea, and even a stalwart like Ron Howard only just about manages to make this ‘hunk of junk’ float along to the finish line. What could have been an enjoyable cater -- and, potentially, the Star Wars universe’s.

2: The Cloverfield Paradox

Back to more cinematic universes, which are of course all the rage. The very loose ‘Cloverfield’ franchise is essentially an inspired idea by blockbuster-wrangler J.J. Abrams, but this semi-official space-bound sequel -- retrofitted into the universe late in the day -- is a lazily filmed, badly edited dud that seriously puts into quest.

1: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

No film of this budget range and production caliber should settle for a screenplay so spotty and devoid of life as J.K. Rowling’s second attempt at writing for cinema. Yet another casualty of the exigencies of ‘shared universes’, this sequel to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is merely a fill-in exercise for future films in this planned five-feature franchise. Gods help us.