Violence and Spectacle: My Top 5 Denis Villeneuve Films

French and Canadian director Denis Villeneuve can undoubtedly be considered one of the great auteurs of this generation. Much like other directors, Villeneuve stamps his unique style on all of his works, directing and producing hits after hits. Kicking off his directorial career in 1994 with his short documentary REW FFWd, about a young and aspiring photographer documenting Jamaican culture, Villeneuve’s filmography has only grown as time goes on. With the Blade Runner sequel hitting our screens this year, I thought it would be interesting to share with you my favourite Denis Villeneuve films.

#5 – Sicario (2015)

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Kicking off my top 5 is Sicario, Denis Villeneuve’s crime thriller that tailors around an idealistic FBI agent and her dealings with government corruption, an assassin’s vengeance and drug smuggling across the American border (Trump wouldn’t be pleased). Stars Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin provide stand-out performances that help glide the narrative forward, but it’s Deakin’s cinematography and Jóhannsson’s radiant score that gives the film its tenacious feel. A true Hitchcockian suspense masterclass.

#4 – Enemy (2013)

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Denis Villeneuve is no stranger to heavy, thought-provoking material, but it’s Enemy that is by far his most enigmatic feature. Through the use of symbolic imagery, Villeneuve expertly explores and challenges issues with sexual infidelity and self identity, guided by an emphatic performance by Jake Gyllenhaal. By the time the end credits roll you’ll be scratching your head in confusion, but with the benefit of multiple viewings, you won’t be able to deny the brilliance that Villeneuve has to offer.

#3 – Prisoners

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Reuniting with Jake Gyllenhaal from EnemyPrisoners is a film that places an emphasis on its characters and the captivating performances that are on display. When Hugh Jackman isn’t playing the beloved Wolverine, he has a chance to showcase his immense ability as a dramatic actor and displays one of his best roles yet. Alongside him, equally as terrific performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Paul Dano also help to drive the terrifying story forward. Prisoners is by no means an easy watch, but by delving deep into the psychological consequences of child abduction and the troubles a parent must bare; this is a film that will leave you in awe.

#2 – Arrival (2016)

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Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 Nebula Award winning short novel Story of Your Life, both Villeneuve and writer Eric Heissener meticulously study the specifics of Chiang’s novel and succeed in creating one of the most head-scratchingly mesmerising sci-fi movies of all time. Villeneuve holds a mirror in the face of humanity by exploring the boundaries that we make to separate ourselves from one another, something that has become far too noticeable in today’s current political climate. Arrival is a risky film and will undeniably leave you with a throbbing headache, but embrace that pain, because it is well earned.

#1 – Incendies (2010)

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Never before have I ever been so profoundly moved and affected by a film. Villeneuve’s 2010 film, based on Wajdi Mouawad’s play, tells the story of two twins that journey to the middle east amid the Lebanese civil war to fulfil their mother’s last wishes. As we are guided along their adventure of family discovery, the prevalence of war and its horrors become increasingly apparent, bringing forth a film that explores troublesome themes such as murder and tyranny. With some truly disturbing scenes including the death of children and extreme torture, Incendies is a film that uses the authenticity of warfare in a way that doesn’t exploit the events that occurred, but instead provides an under-sensationalised story that feels so real. I couldn’t recommend a film as much as this one.

What do you think? How would you rate Villeneuve’s filmography? Let me know in the comments or reach out on Twitter!

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3 thoughts on “Violence and Spectacle: My Top 5 Denis Villeneuve Films

  1. Great piece! Denis is already up there with the best and in a pretty short amount of time. Ive yet to see No. 4 and no. 1 but Prisoners is up there with my all time favourite movies! Ill have to get them two others watched!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m a huge fan of Villeneuve and any excuse to talk about his films is very welcome!
    Great list and as you say, he has made hit after hit. His style and choice of films fits in with my viewing habits, hard hitting, often harrowing topics, but done superbly well. Incendies is up there for me too, I don’t think I have reacted to a reveal quite like this one. It is superbly crafted, he seems able to build these stories and bring you to the point of it all and then hit you with a revelation scene that blows you away.
    I am a big fan of Polytechnique, another tough subject but it is handled amazingly well, is tense and beautifully shot in black and white.

    Like

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