Roger’s Top Ten Lists: Best Films of 2012 | Chaz’s Journal


6. FLIGHT

Denzel Washington is one of the most sympathetic and rock-solid of actors, and it’s effective here how his performance never goes over the top but instead is grounded on obsessive control. There are many scenes inviting emotional displays. A lesser actor might have wanted to act them out. Washington depends on his eyes, his manner and a gift for projecting inner emotion. In the way it meets every requirement of a tricky plot, this is an ideal performance. Among the supporting performances, Don Cheadle projects guarded motivations, Greenwood is a loyal friend, Goodman seems like a handy medic, and Brian Geraghty’s panic in the co-pilot’s seat underlines the horror.”Flight,” a title with more than one meaning, is strangely the first live-action feature in 12 years by Robert Zemeckis, who seemed committed to stop-motion animation (“Beowulf,” “The Polar Express,” “Disney’s A Christmas Carol“). It is nearly flawless.

5. ARBITRAGE

We may have seen elements of this scenario before, but the young writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, making his first feature, proves himself a master craftsman with a core of moral indignation. He knows how to make a gripping thriller, so well-constructed I felt urgently involved. “Arbitrage” is an example of good writing and sound construction at the service of plausible characters. It tells a story rather than relying on third-act action. It is in a classic tradition. Hitchcock called his most familiar subject “The Innocent Man Wrongly Accused.” Jarecki pumps up the pressure here by giving us a Guilty Man Accurately Accused, and that’s what makes the film so ingeniously involving. We can’t help identifying with the protagonist. It’s coded in our moviegoing DNA. Yet we watch in horror as Miller is willing to betray anyone — Jimmy Grant, his daughter, his wife — to win at any price. This film, especially its ending, literally could not have been released under the old Production Code.

4. END OF WATCH

End of Watch” is one of the best police movies in recent years, a virtuoso fusion of performances and often startling action. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are Taylor and Zavala, two Los Angeles street cops who bend a few rules but must be acknowledged as heroes. After too many police movies about officers who essentially use their badges as licenses to run wild, it’s inspiring to realize that these men take their mission — to serve and protect — with such seriousness they’re willing to risk their lives. Taylor and Zavala fit the template of the “cop buddy movie,” but “End of Watch” goes so much deeper than that. They’ve been partners for years and are so close that Zavala’s wife, Gabby (Natalie Martinez), and Taylor’s girlfriend, Janet (Anna Kendrick), have become like sisters. The two cops are transferred to a tough, largely Mexican-American district, where their persistence leads them across the scent of a Mexican cartel operating in Los Angeles. This is really an assignment for a detective, but they don’t avoid risk, and eventually become so dangerous to the cartel that a hit is ordered against them.

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