Filmmaker Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country, The Oath) delivers one of 2014’s most vital and intriguing films – be it documentary or fiction – with her thrilling first-hand account of Edward Snowden’s whistle-blowing of the NSA’s surveillance practises.
The feature debut from writer-director-star Desiree Akhavan is surely destined to be remembered as Girls-lite, what with its solipsistic, seemingly over-privileged protagonist, but at least it boasts a unique cultural dimension even if it doesn’t quite feel fully-formed or substantial enough for a feature-length project.
Director Jean-Marc Vallée follows up the Oscar success of 2013’s Dallas Buyers Club with another rousing drama that, while failing to reach the same heights, is nevertheless solidly compelling and topped by a fine performance from Reese Witherspoon.
Matthew Vaughn continues to fashion a fanboy-friendly filmography of outrageous, comic book-inspired action flicks, and while his latest effort is probably the weakest of his three action extravaganzas to date, it’s still a rollicking R-rated adventure with an amusing mix of disdain and admiration for tired spy thriller tropes.
One of 2014’s most provocative films is also one of the year’s most audacious debuts, as writer-director Justin Simien wrestles with race relations in an American Ivy League college. Look past the controversy, largely perpetuated by those who haven’t seen the film, and far from the white-hating propaganda piece its detractors so clearly wish it was, Dear White People is a frequently hilarious satire of how the race debate can end up making just about everyone look stupid.
Predominant TV director Michael Cuesta (Six Feet Under, Dexter, Homeland) might have little interest in delivering a rigorously factual account of the highs and lows of Gary Webb’s career in investigative journalism, but his film asks fascinating questions about the nature of reporting, and is headlined by a rarely-better Jeremy Renner.
A sure step up for director Daniel Barnz (Beastly, Won’t Back Down), Cake is nevertheless destined to be remembered for Jennifer Aniston’s startlingly impressive lead turn, surely her most provocative work since 2002’s The Good Girl, and easily able to paper over the sometimes uneven narrative.