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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

Quarantine Escapism: 10 Unique Tales of Intrigue, Conflict and Revelation

Movie poster for the top-10 list Quarantine Escapism (Vol. I)

1. Incendies

Movie poster for the Canadian film Incendies starring Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin and Maxim Gaudette

“Incendies" (2010) is a deeply enthralling French-language drama that follows Nawal (Lubna Azabal) and Simon (Maxim Gaudette), a pair of Québécois siblings who honor their mother's final wish by traveling to the Middle East in search of their long-lost father. Their journey is finely interwoven with flashbacks to their mother’s own travails within the same war-torn region decades earlier, as a Christian-Arab driven by the injustice of losing her lover and their son amidst hardline sectarian tumult. Directed by Denis Villeneuve ("Arrival", "Blade Runner 204") “Incendies” is deeply immersive and profoundly riveting drama that provides as emotionally visceral an experience as you will ever find on film. A 2010 Best Foreign Film nominee, this one is clearly something special right from its captivating, Radiohead-themed opening sequence.

View the trailer here.

2. La Haine

Movie poster for the French film La Haine starring Vincent Cassel, Hubert Koundé and Saïd Taghmaoui

“La Haine” (1995) is an urgent black & white French drama that follows three friends residing in an impoverished section of suburban Paris. The story begins the morning after rioting has erupted throughout the community in reaction to a case of police brutality. As the victim clings to life, Vinz (Vincent Cassel) declares his desire to kill a policeman in an act of retribution, Hubert (Hubert Koundé) mourns the loss of his destroyed boxing gym while Sayid (Saïd Taghmaoui) yearns to escape to a more peaceful place. Vinz finds a policeman’s gun lost amidst the previous night’s chaos, and setting his mind on fulfilling his dark revenge fantasy, the three compatriots set off on a dangerous excursion into the heart of Paris. “La Haine” is a blistering and profound urban thriller capturing the fury and violence that engulfed French society at the time, delivering one of the most seminal cinematic achievements of the entire decade.

View the trailer here.

3. Blindspotting

Movie poster for the film Blindspotting starring Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal

“Blindspotting” (2018) is a serio-comic excursion into the lives of two Oakland-based friends, Collin (Daveed Diggs) and Miles (Rafael Casal). Collin finds himself in the final days of supervise probation and is determined on stay out of trouble despite his allegiance to Miles, a fun-loving yet volatile hothead prone to willful lawlessness. While driving a moving truck one evening, Miles witnesses the shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer, and is subsequently haunted by the incident, besieged by nightmares and lurid hallucinations. Perilous excursions with Miles only exacerbate his anxiety, culminating in a frenzied confrontation with the murderous patrolman—a moment of extreme tension conveyed in the furious spoken-word form that Diggs honed so deftly in his Tony Award-winning performance in Broadway’s “Hamilton”. It’s a wonderfully urgent and powerful film full of humor and tension, sure to raise your eyebrows and heartbeat in equal measure.

View the trailer here.

4. Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai

Movie poster for the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai starring Forrest Whitaker and John Tormey

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, “Ghost Dog” (1999) is the story of a hitman (Forrest Whitaker) who lives according to the principles of the Samurai in modern-day (1990’s) New York City, while remaining beholden to a mafia boss, Louie (John Tormey), who saved his life many years earlier. Drawing an assignment to kill a member of a rival mafia clan, Ghost Dog is soon under siege from Louie’s own henchman once it becomes clear he must be eliminated in order to avoid all-out war. Brandishing Jarmush’s unique blend of self-seriousness intertwined with moments of whimsy and wry humor, “Ghost Dog” is an engaging and enjoyable parable about one modern warrior’s path toward redemption and transcendence. Pasting together components of Samurai mythology, mafia drama and hip-hop culture, Jarmusch has created a one-of-a-kind cinematic collage of inspirations and influences not to be overlooked.

View the trailer here.

5. Sin Nombre

Movie poster for the Mexican film Sin Nombre starring Paulina Gaitan and Edgar Flores

“Sin Nombre” (2009) is a stunning and unforgettable Spanish language thriller that follows a teenage Honduran girl, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) and her family as they attempt to emigrate to the United States atop a freight train traveling through Mexico. Sayra’s fate becomes intertwined with that of Casper (Edgar Flores), a young member of Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), as the two find themselves on the run together from Casper’s ruthless fellow MS-13 brethren. Written and directed by Cary Fukunaga ("True Detective", "Beasts of No Nation") in his feature film debut, “Sin Nombre” is as much a searing adventure film as it is a harrowing and authentic depiction of the true-to-life struggles behind so many individual stories of immigration and the pursuit of opportunity on American soil. Amazingly well-shot by Adriano Goldman ("The Year My Parents Went on Vacation", "The Crown")—it's a one-of-a-kind experience not to be missed.

View the trailer here.

6. Attack the Block

Movie poster for the film Attack the Block starring John Boyega

“Attack the Block” (2011) is a rollicking sci-fi-action-adventure-comedy set amidst the council estates of South London, as a gang of tough urban youths defend their home turf against extraterrestrial invaders from outer space. From the producers of "Shaun of the Dead", "Attack the Block" shares a similar energy and irreverent sense of humor with Edgar Wright’s zombie comedy classic, and is highlighted by the lead performance of a young John Bodega (“The Force Awakens”, “The Last Jedi”) as Moses, the tough, no-nonsense leader of the heroic street gang. Writer/director Joe Cornish really scored with this one—it’s intense, extremely well-made and laugh-out-loud funny, with some of the best street slang dialogue ever captured on film, bruv. “Major ratings” to all involved.

View the trailer here.

7. Victoria

Movie poster for the German film Victoria starring Laia Costa and Frederick Lau

Shot in one single, continuous take for the entire 138-minute running time, "Victoria" (2015) is a dynamic German thriller about a young Spanish woman named Victoria (Laia Costa), swept up in a dangerous plot alongside four men she chances to meet in a Berlin nightclub. Writer/director Sebastian Schipper has crafted a thrilling potboiler with this one, balancing patient chemistry-building between Victoria and the charming Sonne (Frederick Lau), growing atmospheric tension, and ultimately frenetic, edge-of-your-seat conflict. Shipper and cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen give the film a great midnight-to-dawn (and then some) aura in-and-around the Kreuzberg and Mitte neighborhoods of Berlin, and the actors do an impressive job of improvising their dialogue throughout. It’s a vastly entertaining, one-of-a kind cinematic experience not to be passed over.

View the trailer here.

8. Green Room

Movie poster for the film Green Room starring Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat and Callum Turner

“Green Room” (2015) is a dynamic thriller about a punk band touring the Pacific Northwest, barely scraping by, and forced to trek to a remote music hall in the Oregon woods to perform to a houseful of aggressive Neo-Nazis. Backstage after their set, they stumble upon a murder scene within the titular green room, setting off a volatile scramble to barricade themselves against the murderous alt-right brotherhood overseen by Patrick Stewart (at his menacing best). Building on his previous success with the revenge thriller "Blue Ruin", writer/director Jeremy Saulnier has crafted a twistedly enjoyable and remarkably well-crafted nail-biter with this one. It’s a wicked brew of fear, claustrophobia, and startling bloodshed that’s certainly not primed for family viewing—yet it’s so finely drawn out, the characters so nicely-defined and the direction so spot-on every step of the way—it’s an undeniable pleasure.

View the trailer here.

9. Enter the Void

Movie poster for the film Enter the Void starring Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta

“Enter the Void” (2009) is a stunning, one-of-a-kind visual experience from Argentine auteur Gaspar Noé ("Irréversible", "Love"), about a young American drug dealer, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) living in Tokyo with his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta), when he is carelessly gunned down by the police. The camera subsequently follows the perspective of Oscar’s soul as it exits his body and embarks upon a mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic journey through time and space, throughout the city of Tokyo, and into the minds and bodies of his loved ones. Inspired by the "Tibetan Book of the Dead", Noé employs mind-blowing camera work and visual effects to represent Oscar’s journey through the Bardo states of intermediate existence, according to the school of Buddhism. It’s a lengthy, weighty and daring escapade showcasing psychedelic splendor and wholly uncommon existential thrills.

View the trailer here.

10. The Proposition

Movie poster for the Australian film The Proposition starring Guy Pearce and Danny Huston

“The Proposition” (2005) is an Australian western set in the 1880’s and starring Guy Pearce as Charlie Burns, an outlaw member of the notorious Burns Gang. When Charlie and his younger brother Mikey (Richard Wilson) are captured by the ruthless Captain Stanley (Ray Winstone), Charlie is given a choice between hunting down and killing his elder brother Arthur (Danny Huston), a vicious psychopath known as “The Dog Man", or watching Mikey die on the gallows. Given nine days to complete his task, Charlie sets off into the Outback in search of his formidable sibling, a journey that leads him deep into the perilous, remote interior of the Australian continent and ultimately face-to-face with his own precarious mortality. Directed by John Hillcoat ("The Road", "Triple 9"), “The Proposition” is a vicious yet strikingly visionary cinematic creation that delivers an entirely unequivocal shot in the arm to the western genre.

View the trailer here.


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