I love watching film and tv show reviews after getting through a new series or movie that I’ve really enjoyed, it allows you to delve deeper in the plot, the story and the characters whilst also brining in new perspectives that may alter the way you experience the show/film. Although many of the films/shows that I’ve watched have been widely discussed in the mainstream, I’ve created a top 5 list of some shows and films that have flown under the radar but are as equally deserving of the praise of their counterparts.
- Decision to Leave
First on the list is Park Chan Wook’s masterful film ‘Decision to Leave’, this has been a heavy hitter on the film festival circuit but I don’t think that it’s been pushed enough to a wider audience. I’m sure you’ll be able to find adoring essays and rave reviews from cinephile’s who would’ve definitely taken notice of this film, but outside of the film community this has not been as big a hit as it truly deserves. Densely packed to the brim with carefully constructed motifs that thread the narrative of the story together, this film takes you on a genre-bending journey that demands your attention from the start and doesn’t let it go until the very end. At its core, the film is a tragedy but it manages to strike a perfect balance between the humour, action, mystery and the thrill. This film will definitely require more than one viewing, as there are far too many subtleties and intricate details to catch in your first watch, but each minute will be worth it.
- All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)
The second film on my list is currently streaming on Netflix, so there’s no excuse not to see it. This bleak anti-war epic, which is a remake of the 1929 novel, is one of the most the gut wrenching films that I have seen in recent memory. Offering a raw and uncut look into the harsh brutality and senseless violence of the First World War, this film does an incredible job of putting you in the shoes of the main protagonist, Paul Bäumer, from his jubilation to join the war at the beginning of the film, to the complete baron emptiness that has consumed him by the end. This film spares no details despite how gruesome and graphic they may be, Paul’s soul crushing realisation of where he is and what he has been forced to become sticks with you long after the film has ended, this is a tough watch but serves as a stark reminder that no one really wins in war.
- Scenes from a Marriage (2021)
Up next is another remake, this time of Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 miniseries ‘Scenes from a Marriage’, the 2021 remake stars Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac as the two leads as they take you on an emotional roller coaster over this 6 hour series. The fractious relationship hooks you in from the start and easily allows you to identify with these flawed characters, making their explosive fights followed by their commitment to make up feel all too familiar. The tension between the two is palpable as they constantly to and fro between the love and hate that they have for each other. This makes for a very engaging dynamic that challenges your allegiances and frequently shifts your perspective as the show goes on. Whilst the original is hard to live up to, this remake gives it a good shot and is definitely worth the watch.
- Altered Carbon
This Netflix gem, based on Richard Morgan’s noir novel, fuses sci-fi with cyberpunk to create an overwhelming visual spectacle that captures the dark moodiness of the futuristic world it’s set in, whilst also maintaining that electric spark to keep you on your toes. The mystery driven plot is sure to keep you intrigued and is only strengthened by the stand out performances from Joel Kinnaman and Anthony Mackie, respectively. The show is able to build tension that is always creeping around the corner as the twist and turns ensure that there is never a dull moment. This violent, action-packed, series is one of the best sci-fi shows out there and is criminally underrated.
- The Empress
The final show to make the list is Netflix’s German historical drama, ‘The Empress’, detailing the life of Elisabeth of Austria. I went in to this show not knowing what to expect as despite Netflix having wild success with other period pieces, such as ‘Bridgerton’, I could never get into them and so I rid myself of any expectations. To my surprise the series was captivating, the visuals were grand and extravagant, perfectly encapsulating the mood of the show and the world it took place in. To me, this show was miles ahead of some of Netflix’s other period dramas yet it only garnered a fraction of the attention. The first shot that appears on screen sets the scene for the rest of the series as it shows a young Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ on her wedding day, in an elaborately ornate wedding dress standing alone in a dark room whilst the music creates an almost heavenly atmosphere. In the age of the streaming wars when so many companies are fighting for your attention it’s important for any new movie or tv show to have its own distinct personality, it must grab your attention and have something that makes it stand out, this show manages to do this perfectly as it appeals to those who are fond of historical dramas but underpins it with a rebellious attitude that is sure to peak your interest.