3. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)
The first and only English-language entry upon this list. Brad Bird’s stupendously brilliant fourth instalment in the Ethan Hunt saga (much better than this year’s Rogue Nation, we can surely all agree?) provided audiences with Seydoux’s deadly, manipulative and progressive villain Sabine Moreau: a French assassin for hire. Perhaps it might be deemed as a faux pas to cast a ‘foreigner’ as an antagonist, but when they are this efficient, everything else is just details.
A primary cog in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol‘s towering central set piece upon Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper, Bird’s all-action extravaganza has a poetic approach to set-piece filmmaking. His frame screens with bespoke naturalism, making the footage not only authentic, but entirely immersive. As Tom Cruise’s hero attempts to negotiate and exchange with Seydoux’s slick baddie, the tension is quietly cranking – pulling the viewer deeper into the moment.
The dialogue feisty, the atmosphere pulsating, the scale towering. Ignited with kills and thrills, this is muscular work from the French beauty; a role that requires much combat and weapons choreography as well as prose outside of her comfort zone. The end result is something inherently memorable.
2. Sister [L’Enfant d’en haut] (2012)
Recipient of the Silver Bear award at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival and Best Foreign Language Film nominee at the Academy Awards a year later, Ursula Meier’s fearless and timely drama Sister beautifully deconstructs the notions of class and family life, culminating in something inescapably arresting.
Twelve year-old Simon (Kacey Mottet Klein) lives with his elder sister Louise (Seydoux) in a housing complex below a luxury Swiss ski resort. With his sister drifting in and out of jobs and relationships, Simon takes on the responsibility of providing for the two of them. Every day, he takes the lift up to the opulent ski world above, stealing equipment from rich tourists to resell to the local kids down in the valley. However things get complicated when he becomes entwined with a crooked British seasonal worker who eliminates his sense of boundary. Soon Simon’s relationship with his sibling begin to fragment as he furthers into dangerous territory.
This prolifically efficient slice-of-life study is by turns heartbreaking and hopeful. Meier finds the anguish and anger of modern youth, and conveys as such through evocative imagery; something which perfectly supports her characters. Seydoux builds something intimate yet sprawling with Louise – an ill-educated, hedonistic, man-chasing young women who lives firmly on the fringes.
At times Shakespearian tragedy, others post-modernist comedy, it is a superb emotional blend which taps in deeply. This is precise filmmaking, never over-exposed or particularly flamboyant, but Sister provides a prolonged effect. Through the unpredictability of its dramatic tension, this tenderly haunting work burrows under the skin.
1. Blue is the Warmest Colour [La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2] (2013)
The unanimous winner of the Palme d’Or at the 66th Festival de Cannes is one of the most astonishing and urgent projections of love to ever reach celluloid. Abdellatif Kechiche’s provocative odyssey runs for three hours, but spans something of a lifetime creatively.
Blue is the Warmest Colour curates distinct humanity in all varying shades. The euphoria, the turmoil and everything in between. Centred on a Adèle Exarchopoulos’ 15-year-old girl of the same name, the film follows her voyage to adulthood and the desire to experience first love. A handsome male classmate falls for her hard, but an unsettling erotic reverie upsets the romance before it begins.
Adèle imagines that the mysterious, blue-haired girl she encountered in the street slips into her bed and possesses her with an overwhelming pleasure. That blue-haired girl is a confident older art student named Emma (Seydoux), who will soon enter Adèle’s life for real, making way for an intense and complicated love story.
The confidence here is unprecedented: this is a profound, passionate and tirelessly powerful work of motion picture art; intrinsically mediated by Kechiche, and entirely dictated by Exarchopoulos and Seydoux. The actors deliver fearless work, exploiting every singular insecurity and imperfection to wholly ground their characters’ realism. They serve as two of the very best performances of this decade thus far.
Many have commented on the graphic sex – so much so that it now borders on cliché – but the love-making sequences (which is what they are) further an environment of utmost compassion and resonance. The connectivity between Adèle and Emma is so overwhelmingly honest that when they merely hold hands, the audience can sense that attachment.
Blue is the Warmest Colour is an exploration which enraptures and educates; it is a picture for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or political stance. It builds a deep-seeded bond with the spectator through shared respect, intellect and admiration, and that’s something which will always remain invaluable.