Roger’s Top Ten Lists: Best Movies of 2012 | Chaz’s Diary

6. THEFT

Denzel Washington is one of the most likable and solid actors out there, and it’s effective here that his performance never goes over the top, but instead relies on obsessive control. There are many scenes inviting emotional displays. A lesser actor might have wanted to play them. Washington depends on his eyes, his mannerisms and a gift for projecting inner emotion. Insofar as it meets all the requirements of a delicate plot, it is an ideal performance. Among the supporting performances, Don Cheadle projects guarded motives, Greenwood is a loyal friend, Goodman appears to be a hands-on doctor, and Brian Geraghty’s panic in the co-pilot’s seat underscores the horror. “Flight”, a title with more than one meaning, is strangely the first action feature film in 12 years from Robert Zemeckis, who seemed attached to stop-motion animation (“Beowulf”, “The Polar Express” , “Disney’s A Christmas Carol”). It’s almost flawless.

5. ARBITRATION

We may have seen elements of this storyline before, but young writer-director Nicholas Jarecki, making his feature debut, proves a master craftsman with a core of moral outrage. He knows how to make a captivating thriller, so well constructed that I felt urgently involved. “Arbitration” is an example of good writing and sound construction in the service of plausible characters. It tells a story rather than relying on third-act action. It’s in a classic tradition. Hitchcock called his most familiar subject “The Innocent Man Wrongly Accused”. Jarecki ups the ante here by giving us a precisely accused guilty man, and that’s what makes the movie so ingeniously gripping. You can’t help but identify with the protagonist. It’s encoded in our cinephile DNA. Yet we watch in horror as Miller is willing to betray anyone – Jimmy Grant, his daughter, his wife – to win at any cost. This movie, especially its ending, literally couldn’t have been released under the old production code.

4. END OF WATCH

“End of Watch” is one of the best crime films of recent years, a virtuosic fusion of performance and often surprising action. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are Taylor and Zavala, two Los Angeles street cops who break a few rules but need to be recognized as heroes. After too many crime movies about officers who essentially use their badges as a license to run amok, it’s inspiring to realize that these men take their mission – to serve and protect – so seriously that they’re willing to risk their lives. Taylor and Zavala fit the “cop buddy movie” template, but “End of Watch” goes so much further 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 neighborhood, where their persistence leads them through the scent of a Mexican cartel operating in Los Angeles. It’s really a mission for a detective, but they don’t avoid the risk and end up becoming so dangerous for the cartel that a hit is ordered against them.

Kimberly B. Nguyen