The Keeper of Lost Causes (2013)

Is there anything more reliable in cinema than the crime drama? We have our middle-aged, grizzled police officer. He chain-smokes, drinks heavily, and seems to send his shirts to be custom-ruffled daily. He doesn’t get along with people – he’s taciturn, gruff, and so forth – but, dammit, he gets results. You will be shocked…

Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortensen in The Two Faces of January (2014)

The Two Faces of January (2014)

The Two Faces of January is set in 1962, but it could just have easily been made in the same year, or even a decade earlier. The film – from Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini – is a close facsimile of the thrillers of half a century ago, to the point where it could be a…

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin (2013)

Blue Ruin feels like a feature-length version of the suspenseful, often silent showdowns found within understated thrillers. I’m thinking Coen Bros specifically – the climax of Blood Simple, or the hotel showdown between Chirgurh and Moss in No Country for Old Men. Executed right, these scenes practically define the cliché “on the edge of one’s…

Piolo Pascual in On the Job (2013)

On the Job (2013)

On the Job is a grim yet likeable Filipino crime thriller, where cops and hitmen are pitted against one another while corrupt politicians pull their strings. It’s a familiar story, and while there are surprises lurking within an impressively dense narrative, there’s no spark of originality to distinguish it from any number of other crime…

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Spy thrillers are generally sleek and seductive. They have the cold gleam of gunmetal with the occasional sparkle of a diamond-studded Rolex. The spy thriller is a debonair gentleman clad in the perfect black tuxedo. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is a different kind of spy movie altogether. Instead of a tuxedo, think an aged duffel…

Duel (1971)

Duel (1971)

Steven Spielberg’s telemovie debut, Duel wields its raw simplicity like a weapon. Often, it’s the brute force of a cudgel, as in the bestial roar emanating from the mysterious, menacing truck that looms in the rearview of David Mann (Dennis Weaver) – his surname a nod to the archetypal nature of the story. The truck…

Liam Neeson in Non-Stop (2014)

Non-Stop (2014)

Non-Stop brackets a thrilling middle sequence between two disappointing – but thankfully brief – acts. Your enjoyment of the film will depend pretty much entirely if you can forgive the silliness of the final act. But make no mistake, this whole film is remarkably silly – that’s the point! It’s simply that the second act’s…

Barkhad Abdi, Tom Hanks and Faysal Ahmed in Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips (2013)

Captain Phillips approaches greatness. Tom Hanks has received as much praise as criticism for his work in the film as the eponymous captain, taken hostage after an aborted pirate raid on his commercial shipping vessel, with critics acclaiming the last few minutes of the film and deriding earlier scenes. I was actually impressed at how…

Bruce Dern in Black Sunday (1977)

Black Sunday (1977)

As a disaster movie, Black Sunday feels almost quaint compared to the destruction reaped in modern superhero films; the film sees the Goodyear blimp descend upon the Superbowl, laden with plastic explosives, a threat level a few notches below Superman tossing Zod through Metropolis’s skyscrapers or the Chitauri laying waste to Manhattan. The difference between…

Ewan McGregor in The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer (2010)

The Ghost Writer is a tense, understated thriller, eschewing violence for political intrigue. Director Roman Polanski channels his classic noir Chinatown, with Ewan McGregor’s ghost writer standing in for Jack Nicholson’s private detective, with the corruption here inspired by Tony Blair rather than California’s seedy underbelly. There’s also an inversion of Polanski’s “predicament” in Pierce…