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Netflix Picks is a feature with a list of seven films currently available for streaming on Netflix and the reasons for why you should watch them.
Leon the Professional (Luc Besson, 1994) -
Famously one of the widest gaps between critics and audiences, with a 72% critics rating and 95% audience score, this is the rare action movie equal part campy, kickass, and endearing. Jean Reno plays hyper-slick assassin Leon (the professional), dolling out graphic, awesome kills that make this one of the best action movies of the 90s. Besson’s stylish and kinetic visuals intensify scenes from an exciting 9 to an exhilarating 11, but what really makes Leon the Professional and honest to god classics are two key characters and the actors who play them. Gary Oldman gives one of the great all-time villain performances as mobster Stansfield who kills while listening to Shakespeare on his walkman. But it’s a young Natalie Portman that melts your heart, and as she and the titular assassin bond in a joint fight against Stanfield you’ll feel the brilliance of the juxtaposition.
Mission Impossible (Brian De Palma, 1996) -
You know the thumping iconic theme, you know the loved director from Carrie, Scarface, and The Untouchables, and of course you know the last great movie star, Tom Cruise, leading the first great spy movie since James Bond. Unlike the bombastic (but still rocking fun) sequels, the original Mission Impossible has an actual, winding plot. One that refreshingly you ought to pay attention to. Cruise’s fresh faced Ethan Hunt leads a charismatic team who stage what for my money is one of the most exhilarating heist sequences in cinema history—you know the one, and if you don’t, you should. Now. Watch it.
Breakfest at Tiffany’s (Black Edwards, 1961)
No performance is lovelier than Audrey Hepburn as the flighty, fickle, but actually intoxicating Holly Golightly. One look and you’re a goner. She’s an accidental seductress, less a flirt and more of an elegant romance hypnotist, unwittingly beguiling men with little more than a glance. She’s difficult to characterize, the kind of impossible girl that drives you crazy as you fall in love. Breakfest at Tiffany’s is defined by Hepburn’s turn, but it didn’t need to be. This is one of the most breezy, giddily entertaining movies ever made. At times, it’s borderline euphoric. The definitive romantic comedy of its time, Golightly becomes entangled with a struggling but skilled writer, and their relationship helped define the modern love story.
Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2008)
Bronson is the movie that put Tom Hardy on the map. Hardy’s extraordinary in this early example of his limitless talent. A violently embellished account that’s also full of embellished violence, Nicolas Winding Refn, writer and director of cult smash Drive, tells the story of the real life “most violent prisoner in Britain”, Michael Gordon Peterson. Refn’s biting prison drama is a butchering tale with outlandish black comedy that bookends the biting horror and suspense, and knows when to push what button to get the biggest response possible. It’s a gruesome but irresistibly thrilling film, surreal to the max, and at a speedy 90 minutes Bronson is well worth your time.
Cast Away (Robert Zemeckis, 2000)
In the same great run of films including Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile, Catch Me if You Can, and Road to Perdition sits Cast Away, showing an uncharacteristically crazed, isolated Tom Hanks. In many ways this is one of the definitive survival movies, where a Fedex executive crash-lands on a tropical island and has to brainstorm survival. The fish out of water antics amuse while the drama of the piece hits home, asking the terrifying question what if you were in his position. Could you survive? Hanks is fantastic in his oscar nominated role, lending enough natural charm and charisma to be the everyman Cast Away needs. It’s not as fun as the space-ballet Gravity, but it’s every bit as powerful an examination of man and his place in nature. Terrific.
Force Majeure (Ruben Östlund, 2014)
Okay it’s foreign and Swedish, but so what? Endure the subtitles, this black comedy drama is as hilarious as it is perceptive, the rare crackerjack film that can actually cause a couple to squabble on the ride home. In the same way Gone Girl satirized the warring viewpoints of men and women, Force Majeure dissects relationship gender roles when a huge avalanche hits a ski ranch and instead of protecting his family, the husband flees. What follows are a series of wildly uncomfortable but laugh out loud funny conversations between a sparring husband and wife, often at the mercy of their awkward dinner companions. It smartly plays off familiar scenarios we’ve other inflicted upon others or endured ourselves, where partners trade undercutting jabs through a thin smile. It’s simply much-watch cinema, as deep as it is smart and as smart as it is funny.
All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013)
Speaking of Cast Away, the survival drama is relocated from a tropical island to a medium sized sailing boat, lost at sea. Leading the picture is Hollywood icon Robert Redford (All the President’s Men, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Chandor’s second feature is largely absent of dialogue, instead drawing us into the silent, perilous journey of a man trying to survive adrift at sea. On the surface it’s an effective and even nail-biting thriller, with carefully constructed sequences of honest to god suspense, like when a storm hits and he has to quickly think how to stop water from pooling in the cabin before the boat is done for. But it’s also a surprisingly emotional existential drama, meditating on man at his most primal and basic. There’s something poetic about separating man from society and pitting him against nature, making All is Lost the rare double-barreled film both visceral and heady.
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