The best movies of 2022, so far
Here's what has piqued our interest on screen so far this year.
We’re nearing the end of 2022, and there hasn’t been a shortage of wonderful films to entertain us both in cinemas and at home. This year at the movies, there have been enormous theatrical events like Top Gun: Maverick and Nope, straight-to-streaming smashes like Prey, and much more to delight and amaze us.
So, even if there’s still some time remaining in the year, we’ve been keeping track of which 2022 releases have piqued our interest the most, from blockbuster action-adventures to small indie genre films. All of these are worth seeing.
The entries below are shown in reverse chronological order. The most current releases are shown first, making it simple to see the most recent additions to this list. We’ll keep upgrading it till 2022. We’ll also do the same for the finest games, anime, novels, and TV series of 2022. The Woman King, Barbarian, Saloum, Orphan: First Kill, and Baby Assassins have all been added in the most recent update.
THE WOMAN KING
Gina Prince-Bythewood follows up her turn to superhero action, Netflix’s The Old Guard, with a historical epic that’s uplifting, exhilarating, and ferocious as hell. In The Woman King, Viola Davis plays General Nanisca, the leader of the Agojie, an all-female band of elite warriors tasked with protecting the West African kingdom of Dahomey in the 1820s, as a larger and more powerful neighboring tribe begins kidnapping Dahomey citizens to sell to European slave traders.The Agojie were real people — they were the inspiration for Dora Milaje in Black Panther — and Prince-Bythewood drew heavily on their real-life art, music, fashion, weaponry, language, culture, and fighting styles to give the film texture, though it’s as fictionalized as Braveheart, Gandhi, or any other Hollywood historical epic. The result is a rich and thrilling underdog narrative, with Prince-typical Bythewood’s attention to character development, relationship building, and imbuing all major plot beats with real human emotion. It’s a conventional good-versus-evil narrative with familiar themes, but it’s portrayed in a way that’s uncommon for American screens, with a degree of detail, intensity, and verve that keeps it interesting and intimate throughout every epic fight. Tamara Robinson
Barbarian, maybe the ultimate “don’t go into the basement” film, follows Tess, a young lady who is double booked at an Airbnb with a strange man in a less-than-ideal section of town. Then things become a lot worse. Then things go from bad to worse.
Barbarian is a unique horror film that keeps pushing the ante with fresh and larger surprises every few minutes, without ever feeling like it’s holding anything back. Just when you think the strange person Tess has to spend the night with is going to be a problem, the film throws open a whole underground cellar of horrifying twists and stunning grossness.
Perhaps the most surprise of these turns is how frequently the film switches between gruesomely violent scenes and humorous gags, never allowing either to feel out of place and making the entire film a shockingly pleasant experience. Goslin, Austen
I don’t want to disclose too much about Saloum because part of the film’s appeal is the way it unfolds in unexpected ways. But I will say this: it’s a delightful genre mashup with exquisite characterisation, fantastic main performers, and a breathtaking third act. —Mr. Peter Volk
Saloum is now accessible on Shudder and AMC+.
ORPHAN: FIRST KILL
Returning to a series a decade later to attempt a prequel with the same lead actor should have been a prescription for disaster, if not impossibility. Orphan is a pretty remarkable series, as it turns out, and its primary character/monster, Esther, is a very special child*.
Orphan: First Kill follows Esther, a 9-year-old girl who escapes from an Estonian hospital and then connives her way into the good graces of a wealthy American family in the hopes of escaping in the middle of the night with everything she can. This premise is essentially identical to the first film, but the prequel cleverly plays with those assumptions.The original Orphan (also fantastic) hinged on a twist revealed late in the film, but the prequel gets the reveal out of the way early in order to let audiences feel like they’re in on the secret and the joke that Esther, a 9-year-old, is still played by Isabelle Fuhrman, who is now 25, which the film uses all kinds of fun tricks to hide. First Kill, thankfully, is in on all of its own gags and manages to properly balance its tone between hilarious and a gory, well-made slasher, while also being one of the greatest “rich people are odd” movies in recent years. —AG
Orphan: First Kill is now available on Paramount Plus.
Baby Assassins is an odd slice-of-life narrative about two (very) adolescent girls who happen to kill people for a job. It’s a unique action comedy that’s equal parts amusing and badass.
Chisato and Mahiro would love nothing more than to complete their murderous tasks and then lounge around their flat all day. When their boss asks them to work part-time jobs in order to better integrate into society, the two girls try to find an alternate form of dispute resolution… other than murder.
The combat choreography in Baby Assassins is excellent, despite the fact that it is more of a fish out of water comedy than a pure action film. It has thrilling hand-to-hand action and gunplay that complements the comedy and has numerous physical punchlines. Take note, gamers: Kensuke Sonomura, the action director, is a well-known video game combat choreographer who has worked extensively on the Devil May Cry and Resident Evil series, as well as Vanquish and Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. —PV
Baby Assassins is available on Hi-Yah!, Hoopla for free with a library card, and Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play for digital rental or purchase.
Prey, a return to form for a dependably entertaining sci-fi franchise, debuted on Hulu (for commercial reasons) and rapidly became the platform’s biggest success ever. Prey relies heavily on the star-making performances of Amber Midthunder and Dakota Beavers, who dazzle as Comanche siblings on the Northern Great Plains who are hunted by the Predator.
Midthunder is Naru, a young lady determined to establish herself as a warrior despite the scorn of many of her tribe’s young males. As a monster whose sole interest is pushing himself against the mightiest adversaries he can find, it’s the ideal combat for the Predator to enter.
Prey, a gripping, economical thriller directed by Dan Trachtenberg (10 Cloverfield Lane), is low on speech and heavy on action. —PV
Thirteen Lives, based on the actual tale of the 2018 Thai cave rescue, is a wonderful marriage between filmmaker and topic. Ron Howard is a very emotional director who enjoys inspiring stories — think Apollo 13, Cinderella Man, and his outstanding sports drama Rush — and few inspirational stories have come along in recent memory than this one. It’s also one that he can’t possibly overdramatize since the genuine tale is so incredible.
Thirteen Lives, an old-school gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller, avoids the mistake of comparable Hollywood adaptations by not situating the plot as a journey of a single group of outsider heroes (in this cave, the eccentric specialty cave divers portrayed by Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell). Instead, the film clearly demonstrates how this was a collaborative effort by volunteers from all across the world. The heroism of the divers would not have been possible without the efforts of local people and other volunteers from across the world, as the film acknowledges. The diving moments are both thrilling and tense – Howard and the team erected a massive set to resemble the caverns, and Mortensen and Farrell shot their own diving sequences. —PV
Thirteen Lives is now available on Prime Video.
Jordan Peele’s alien invasion picture has problems, most notably a slow pacing that doesn’t suit the film’s suspense well. But it also stands out as one of 2022’s most aesthetically distinctive and unforgettable films, replete with horrors that leave an everlasting mark on the mind. It’s a throwback to a time when movies could be more enigmatic, and horror relied more heavily on the unknown and unknowable. At the same time, it’s a sharp character study that can be taken as an examination of celebrity, reaction to tragedy, and a variety of other topics. It’s a complex, well-constructed puzzlebox of a film that’s worth thinking about and digesting thoroughly — but it’s also just plain terrifying, and horror fans couldn’t ask for more. —TR
Nope is available for digital purchase on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
Hustle is a love letter to the sport of basketball and one of the greatest sports movies made in recent years. It is a fantastic showcase for Adam Sandler’s abilities and enthusiasm for the sport.
Stanley Sugerman, a former collegiate standout and seasoned NBA scout for the Philadelphia 76ers, is played by Sandler. He is close to the team’s owner (Robert Duvall), a father figure to Sugerman who recognizes Stanley’s significance as a basketball thinker. Sugerman gets promoted to assistant coach by the owner, allowing him to spend more time with his wife (Queen Latifah) and their young daughter. But when tragedy interferes with Stanley’s new employment, he must once again establish himself and uncover a winning possibility for the squad.
Sugerman observes Bo Cruz (played by real-life NBA star Juancho Hernangómez) dominating a local pickup game in Spain. The film shines when it depicts Sugerman and Cruz’s blossoming friendship — the two rely on one other — and Hustle offers a must-see for most sports films with a fantastic training montage sequence that has Sugerman continuously chasing Cruz up a hill with a vehicle.
Hustle’s performances are simply outstanding. Sandler’s focused, grounded depiction of a man who loves what he does but would prefer the career he was promised is yet another fantastic, deep part for one of our great modern performers. The ensemble also includes NBA players who offer remarkable performances, headlined by Hernández as the volatile and gifted Cruz and Minnesota Timberwolves great Anthony Edwards as his trash-talking opponent Kermit Wilts, a fantastic addition to a long line of sports movie heels.
Using real basketball players in major and supporting parts adds credibility to the film, especially in sequences where the athletes really play basketball. The camera is free to roam while players do what they do best, including spectacular basketball moments that outperform most sports films that attempt to recreate the kineticism of live sports with non-athlete actors. —PV
Hustle is now available on Netflix.
This entertaining Pride and Prejudice adaption transports Jane Austen’s famous narrative to the LGBT holiday spot Fire Island. Comedian Joel Kim Booster created the script and performs as Noah, the story’s Elizabeth Bennet. Noah and his buddies go to Fire Island every year for a week of vacation, but this year seems to be the last. Noah’s best buddy, Howie (Bowen Yang, who plays Jane Bennet here), has never been in a relationship, and Noah makes it his mission this week to get Howie bedded. When the couple meets a bunch of affluent males on vacation, tensions rise as some get along and others don’t.
Fire Island is a rare direct-to-streaming film that doesn’t seem like a cheap TV program, and director Andrew Ahn revels in the beauty of both the people and the surroundings. Every member of the ensemble is funny, with Booster and Yang deserving of the praise they’ve already earned for their unique spins on these well-known roles. But, for me, Conrad Ricamora as the world’s Mr. Darcy steals the show. While the other characters’ lines are loaded with jokes and puns, Ricamora must draw out the comedy and charm in his character from self-serious times. It’s an incredible achievement, and one that might easily have been overshadowed by some of the energetic performances he’s given.Instead, it’s a star-making performance in a charming 105-minute film. —PV
Fire Island is now available to watch on.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
“The sequel was so much better than the original,” moviegoers don’t often say or hear, but it’s true in the case of Top Gun: Maverick, a 36-years-later follow-up to the high-flying 1986 action film that gave Tom Cruise the urge for speed. Cruise reprises his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a Navy test pilot who consistently lives up to his moniker by violating laws, defying superiors, and creating his own path.
Top Gun: Maverick, on the other hand, walks far enough away from Top Gun’s testosterone-scented smugness to consider the cost of the Maverick life: namely, reaching a point where a fed-up military is ready to put Mav out to pasture, and he has to settle for teaching a class of up-and-coming fliers, some of whom are as cocky and off-putting as he used to be. Maverick is an exciting action picture in which the performers really fly planes and film themselves in cockpits, and despite the predictable finale, director Joe Kosinski pulls off plenty of thrilling “Is this where they all die?” action.But the film is more intriguing and gratifying for its emotional parts, which include a tearjerking farewell to (and premature goodbye to) obviously sick Top Gun actor Val Kilmer, and Maverick expressing how much he misses his wingman Goose more than 30 years later. —TR
Top Gun: Maverick is available for digital rental on Amazon, Apple, and Google Play.
Few things go together better than Vikings and vengeance, and The Northman is the ideal example. Drawing inspiration from the same Norse saga that inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet, filmmaker Robert Eggers (The VVitch, The Lighthouse) has crafted a unique historical epic. Amleth (Alexander Skarsgaard) wants vengeance against his Uncle, who murdered his father and took his reign.
The Northman is a violent film, yet within Amleth’s epic fights and lava-soaked duels is a surprising heart and compassion, providing the character with more compelling reason than most vengeance films accomplish. Eggers achieves this balance in every area of the film, whether it’s the beauty and harshness of the Icelandic countryside or the combination of very accurate realism with the more operatic side of Norse mythology. With its meticulous harmony of real and unreal, The Northman comes the closest to bringing mythological fiction to a live-action cinema. —AG
The Northman is available for digital rental on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR
Jane Schoenbrun, the writer-director, has produced something genuinely unique: a coming-of-age horror picture for the generation that grew up online. We’re All Going to the World’s Fair conveys the thrill and dread that comes with building a new self on the internet, as well as the joy and worry that comes with meeting others online who think they know you.
Casey (Anna Cobb, in her feature film debut), an internet-obsessed lonely girl, stumbles into The World’s Fair Challenge, a horror-themed online challenge that promises bodily transformations to those who participate. Casey starts making recordings of her involvement in the challenge, which opens the door to new experiences (and observers) in both her actual and virtual worlds.
We’re All Going to the World’s Fair is a disturbing, immersive online horror experience that is both new and familiar to those who have visited these isolated corners of the internet, thanks to clever use of creepypasta aesthetics (including stunning collaborations with genuine YouTube producers). Schoenbrun’s feature debut is memorable, and they’re a filmmaker to watch as future projects develop. —PV
Everyone is going to the World’s Fair. is available for streaming on HBO Max, free with a library card on Hoopla, and digital rental on Amazon and Apple.
Ambulance depicts two brothers who hijack an ambulance following a failed bank heist and lead the Los Angeles Police Department on a pursuit across the city, all while carrying a couple of unwitting hostages. Yahya Abdhul Matteen II, who gives a sympathetic presence to the high-stakes chase, and Jake Gyllenhaal at his unhinged best portray the thieves. The actual star of the show, though, is action director extraordinaire Michael Bay.
Ambulance is Michael Bay’s greatest rendition after 10 years in the dark dungeons of Transformers sequels. The film bears all of the trademarks of Bay’s finest work, such as The Rock and Bad Boys, as well as his command of modern technology, as seen by 13 Hours. Drone cameras fly through automobile chases, hand-held pictures show frenzied amateur surgery, and every explosion looks spectacular. Does every detail of the tale make perfect sense and follow the rules of reality? It most clearly does not. But it’s a fantastic 2-hour automobile pursuit, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s great to see Bay back on top of his game. —AG
Ambulance is now available on Prime Video.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
People who only know Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert from their 2016 indie-movie parody Swiss Army Man — yes, the one where Daniel Radcliffe spends the entire film as a vomiting, farting corpse — may be surprised by the sheer scope, scale, and ambition of the writer-directors’ new film Everything Everywhere All At Once. It’s a wacky, winning multiverse comedy slash kung-fu epic about a melancholy laundromat owner (Michelle Yeoh) who is summoned to defend billions of parallel worlds from evil, but it just touches the surface of what the Daniels are after.
It’s simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking, a stunning special-effects experiment and a massive brain reset on the level of The Matrix. This is the only film you’ll watch this year (or perhaps ever) in which one man is beaten to death with huge floppy dildos while another changes the world with the Kurt Vonnegut-inspired message “Be nicer to one other.” —TR
Everything Everywhere All At Once is a digital rental available on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
YOU WON’T BE ALONE
You Won’t Be Alone is a folklore tone poem that employs horror as a kind of desire to tell the narrative of a young witch who uses her power to shapeshift to dwell among humans in a tiny town. You Won’t Be Alone wanders into a dreamy, Terrance Malick-esque reflection on gender, community, and memory as villages vanish and the film’s protagonist replaces them. You Won’t Be Alone, grotesque and gorgeous, stays in the imagination, yearning and hurting, desiring to wear your flesh. Rivera, Joshua
You Won’t Be Alone is a digital rental available on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
RRR is the largest, loudest, and most bombastic film set to hit cinemas this year. The film’s historical fiction follows two Indian men who believe they are on opposing sides of the country’s British rule in the 1950s. Both on covert missions at the same time, the two men end up bonding through their bravery and strength, forging a relationship strong enough to free the entire country.
RRR has great dancing routines as well as incredible combat and acrobatics, including several confrontations against numerous beasts from the Indian jungles. But it’s also a really sincere film, with no cynicism to be seen. In other words, it’s a wonderful antidote to the majority of Hollywood blockbusters. —AG
RRR can be viewed on Zee5, while the Hindi dub can be viewed on Netflix.
THE LONG WALK
Mattie Do, Laos’ first and only female film director, creates ghost stories in which individuals communicate with the dead and learn from them, but at a cost. Some of the themes from her debut feature Chanthaly (which she’s posted on YouTube) and her followup, Dearest Sister (which is streaming on Shudder), are expanded upon in The Long Walk, a genre mashup that’s part time-travel story and part serial-killer story, but still deeply concerned with the spirits of the dead, and how they both express and enable the desires of living people.
A Lao hermit living in a technologically advanced future travels 50 years back in time to interfere in events from his own painful childhood, aided by the spirit of a lady who died in the adjacent forest when he was a youngster. These are bold, striking elements that don’t seem to fit together entirely, but The Long Walk is exquisitely constructed in such a way that it gradually reveals its puzzlebox methods, building toward an emotional end that ties all of its genres, timelines, and threads together in a startling, impressive way. —TR
The Long Walk is available to watch on Shudder, Tubi for free with advertisements, and Hoopla for free with a library card.
JUJUTSU KAISEN 0
MAPPA’s adaptation of Gege Akutami’s supernatural dark fantasy action manga Jujutsu Kaisen swiftly established itself as one of the top anime series set to show in 2020 and 2021. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Jujutsu Kaisen 0 — the series’ feature-length prologue directed by returning director Sunghoo Park — would build on that momentum even more. Set one year before the events of the anime, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 recounts the narrative of Yuta Okkotsu, an unhappy person who, like series protagonist Yuji Itadori, finds himself the involuntary host of the tremendously destructive cursed spirit in the guise of his departed childhood friend Rika.Yuta is taken under the care of Jujutsu sorcerer (and famed anime heathrob) Satoru Gojo, who teaches him how to perfect his supernatural skills in humanity’s continuous battle against cursed spirits. The action is thrilling, as promised, with rapid punches, brilliant flashing power techniques, and monstrous lumbering adversaries.
Yuta’s personal path matches Yuji’s, creating a likeable protagonist who is easy to cheer for and root for. Though the film as a whole is the type of “prequel” that benefits from prior knowledge of the series it presupposes, Jujutsu Kaisen 0 is an entertaining watch that more than deserves to be included among the finest animated films to come out of 2022. —Egan, Toussaint
Crunchyroll is now streaming Jujutsu Kaisen Zero.
It’s difficult to remember the agonizingly uncomfortable middle school years fondly, but Pixar’s Turning Red examines the tumultuous ups and downs of early adolescence without flinching, and with an astounding amount of affection. Domee Shi, who directed the Pixar short Bao in 2018, makes her theatrical debut with this one-of-a-kind film that embraces quirky enchantment, cultural identity, and, most importantly, an overwhelming love for little girlhood in all of its messy splendor.
Mei, thirteen, realizes that when she is overcome by tremendous emotion, she transforms into a massive red panda – a trait that all the women of her family have had since ancient times. Mei, like other family members, strives to manage the panda, but she also begins to develop and appreciate her own identity outside of her family. The enormous-red-panda-sized feelings she feels on the verge of maturity transfer into giant emotions for the audience, who can reflect on that key point in their life when everything seemed to be happening all at once.Turning Red blends such profound feelings with delightful comedy and real kindness, making it one of Pixar’s greatest and most unusual films. Radulovic, Petrana
Turning Red is now available on Disney Plus.
Matt Reeves’ version of the Dark Knight isn’t as daring as it might be, but it’s certainly gorgeous. The Batman is a lengthy, slow-burning thriller in the style of David Fincher’s Seven, infusing a familiar plot with darkly gorgeous cinematography and mesmerizing performances from leads Robert Pattinson and Zoe Kravitz. When it isn’t too preoccupied with topics already explored in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, The Batman lays intriguing groundwork for a deeper, stranger type of Batman film, which will hopefully materialize as a sequel reuniting everyone who made this one so enjoyable to watch. —JR
The Batman is now available on HBO Max.
After Yang, the newest film by Columbus filmmaker Kogonada, is a somber science fiction film that balances the subject of how we should think about artificial life with the more fascinating topic of how it should think about us. Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith play adoptive parents who raise a little Chinese girl with the assistance of a “technosapien” – a robot built to serve as her language instructor, cultural counselor, and big brother. When his systems fail, his family goes through the same emotions that any family member would go through, with the extra question of what his death reveals about their lives and relationships.It’s a little, quiet, contemplative picture, yet it’s aesthetically rich and full of concepts about prejudice and preconceptions, cultural integration, and how everyone is navigating an inner life that would astound everyone else. —TR
After Yang may be seen on Showtime or rented digitally on Amazon, Apple TV, and Google Play.
I WAS A SIMPLE MAN
Christopher Makoto Yogi’s August at Akiko transforms this ghost story into a slow-burn meditation on mortality, memory, and what lingers on after we die. As the old patriarch of a fractured family (Steve Iwamoto, superb in his first major feature role) approaches the end of his life, he is visited by spirits from the past as well as family members from the present, including his long-deceased wife (Constance Wu). Intergenerational tensions emerge as the ghosts of past battles resurface — squabbles and clashes amongst estranged family members, as well as historical struggles surrounding Hawaii’s route to statehood.
I Was A Simple Man takes us on this voyage through numerous historical periods, using surrealism and dream aesthetics to great effect. It earned the Made in Hawaii Award for Best Feature at the 2021 Hawaii International Film Festival for its lovely film loaded with amazing visuals of Hawaii’s gorgeous landscapes and rich textures. I Was A Simple Man is an incredible experience that attempts to represent the last days of one man’s existence on Earth. —Mr. Peter Volk
The Criterion Channel has a screening of I Was A Simple Man.
Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac has been adapted for cinema several times, including the modern-day Steve Martin/Daryl Hannah rom-com Roxanne in 1987 and the Toshirô Mifune action-drama Samurai Saga in 1959. As with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the narrative of unrequited love (and, arguably, utter romantic cowardice) resonates in any period and readily spans countries. But there has never been a production quite like this magnificent film adaptation of Erica Schmidt’s musical version of the play. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) plays Cyrano, a French soldier and poet who is in love with his childhood friend Roxanne (Swallow actress Haley Bennett), but is hesitant to tell her because he is terrified she will reject him. When she falls for Christian (Luce’s Kelvin Harrison Jr.),When she falls in love with Christian (Luce’s Kelvin Harrison Jr.), a gorgeous rookie in Cyrano’s regiment, Cyrano offers to ghost-write Christian’s love letters to her, mostly so that he may finally, totally express himself, even if she doesn’t realize it’s him.
Joe Wright’s production is lush and bright, with a subtle visual warmth courtesy of his longstanding partner Seamus McGarvey, cinematographer on his previous films, including Atonement and Anna Karenina. Dinklage’s singing isn’t very powerful, but he still feels like he was destined to portray this tortured, passionate swashbuckler, and the primary trio all offer wonderful performances that help to make this a genuine tearjerker. It’s a large-hearted project with enormous emotions that struck home hard. Do not watch this immediately after a breakup or when someone you secretly wished for marries someone else. —TR
Cyrano may be rented digitally through Google Play, Amazon, Vudu, and Apple.
Kimi, the heroine of Steven Soderbergh’s tech-crime thriller, travels around the world as if she’s been plugged into a power line and is anxious to burn off all the surplus energy. The film moves at the same breakneck pace and fury. Kimi follows a Seattle tech worker who stumbles across evidence of a crime and draws some dangerous attention when she tries to report it, essentially an internet-age take on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window via Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (among many other cinematic touchstones). Soderbergh and Panic Room screenwriter David Koepp pare the plot down to its essentials, zipping in and out of the action in 89 minutes.The narrative is straightforward, and the attitude is upbeat, which makes the film’s energy contagious and the action exciting. It’s not profound, but it’s a lot of fun. —TR
Kimi is now available on HBO Max.
(Update, 4/14: A former pupil has accused Farhadi of plagiarizing the concept of A Hero.)
Asghar Farhadi, the Oscar-winning Iranian director, returns with another stunner, portraying a lovely, nuanced portrait of a man in crisis. Rahim, played by Amir Jadidi, is a lovely man who simply cannot get his life together, no matter how much his friends and family adore him. When his lover discovers an abandoned purse containing gold coins, Rahim contemplates using the money to pay off his debt while on leave from debtor’s prison. However, a chain of events causes him to return the bag and money to a woman who claims to be the original owner, and he becomes the topic of a local media frenzy for his altruistic deed.
A Hero is a touching and complex narrative about the difficulty of doing the right thing in an unjust society. It is also a study of how difficult it is to nail down clear reasons or objective facts, especially when confronted with a story filtered through layers of personal and organizational objectives. Even determining the truth about your own actions and motives might be challenging. And, if you do locate it, is it really useful for navigating the world? A Hero is a memorable, thrilling masterpiece that should not be missed. —PV
A Hero is now available on Prime Video.
Just when you thought Disney had forever secured the coveted title of “Best Animated Musical Rendition of the Beauty and the Beast Story,” Mamoru Hosada’s Belle arrives, giving the “story as old as time” an exciting futurist spin. The ancient story is reimagined as a fight in a virtual-reality paradise, where everyone’s digital avatars represent their deepest selves in this anime movie from the director of Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Mirai. When introverted, bereaved high schooler Suzu joins the VR world, she transforms into a popular pop singer, the center of an ardent devotion – and equally ardent disdain and criticism.Then she becomes captivated with a mysterious user whose avatar is a strong, terrifying beast, and she begins to unravel his secrets.
Hosada is attempting to encompass everything from the addicting yet harmful aspect of online life to the significance of individual human connection, and there are so many threads (and romances, and secrets) that they aren’t all fully filled out. But it’s a passionate picture with major emotional beats and breathtaking animated scenes, and even if it doesn’t resolve all the problems it raises, it appears intent to take a familiar subject to a bolder, brighter, more ambitious level. —TR
Belle is now available on HBO Max.