I know what you’re thinking, Denis Ville-who? Well, let me be the Morpheus to your Neo and shine a light on one of my favorite up and coming director with his top 5 films. Most of these have come out in the span of only 4 years… I repeat – 4 years. Plus he’s got two big new releases coming up; Arrival, which is scheduled for later this year, and the highly anticipated Blade Runner sequel. Are you ready to take the red pill?
5. Polytechnique (2009)
Starring: Maxim Gaudette, Sébastien Huberdeau, Karine Vanasse
Unlike the other films on this list, Polytechnique doesn’t use a lengthy run time to build up suspense. Instead, we’re thrust into the drama from the opening scene, and from then on we’re hooked. What unfolds is one of the most brutally honest and shocking films. It certainly doesn’t waste any time in getting to its subject. The worst part is that the events are based on a true story, which might leave you even more awed by the end of it. It’s best that you don’t know too much about this film before you watch it, that was you can enjoy it for everything it’s worth. At only 77 minutes long, its Villeneuve’s shortest feature, but the gravitas it brings makes it feel anything but short.
4. Prisoners (2013)
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis
Something tells me you’re surprised to see Prisoners on this list. Yes, Denis Villeneueve directed this thrilling drama that thankfully did quite well at the box office. In fact, it’s his highest grossing film to date, and even if it isn’t his best, I’m glad it got him the attention he deserves. Prisoners focuses on the abduction of two young girls in Pennsylvania and the subsequent search undertaken by Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and concerned father Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman). Again, avoid doing any research on this film before viewing it as spoilers will ruin the mystery for you. Prisoners is a tense story that may leave you feeling exhausted, but hot damn is it enjoyable. One of the great thrillers to come out in the last few years.
3. Sicario (2015)
Starring: Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin, Benicio Del Toro
Sicario ups the intensity from Prisoners, and brings it to a new environment with the drug cartel battle on the borders of the USA. Emily Blunt plays an FBI Agent who is promoted to join the DOD-CIA task force in the effort to apprehend Sonora Cartel lieutenant Manuel Diaz. She quickly meets her new boss (Benicio del Toro) who is an expert with the world of the cartel and is determined to overthrow Diaz at all costs. And by all costs I mean all costs. What follows is a disturbing, yet detailed view into the life of the underground drug world in Mexico. There are moments of pure tension and moments that will stir you to your core. Another great addition to recent thrillers.
2. Enemy (2013)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon
Before I recommend this film, let me premise it with this; Enemy isn’t for everyone. If you loved Prisoners and Sicario you might not exactly feel the same way with this one. Nevertheless, if you pay attention and watch it at least twice, you’ll realise how smart this film is. Emphasis on the word twice. It’s best to go into this one with an open mind and be ready to take on what happens. All I will say is it stars Jake Gyllenhaal, in yet another great performance, as a professor who begins to realise he has a doppelganger. Have faith with this one and you’ll come away intellectually stimulated and even more appreciative of the diversity of Villeneuve as a director.
1. Incendies (2010)
Starring: Lubna Azabal, Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Maxim Gaudette
This film blew me away. If there’s one slow burn that you need to see it’s this one. Even if you hate this style of movies, trust me, it will be worth it. Incendies tells the intercontinental drama surrounding the life of Nawal Marwan, a Canadian immigrant from Israel. Her twins are tasked with tracking down their mysterious brother, whose existence they were previously unaware of, and their father, whom they believed was dead. What follows is an epic story that continues to draw you in with each new detail. Never boring and truly courageous, this film will leave you in awe and fraught with emotion. The only shame is that it’s not as popular as his other films. Start your Villeneuve marathon with this one.
Images courtesy of Remstar Media Partners, Roadshow Films, Madman Entertainment & Hopscotch Films/eOne Films