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British Film - Is It Any Good?

Updated on November 17, 2016

A Small Collection Of British Films

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From 2010's Kings Speech to 1996's Trainspotting, modern (ranging 90's till present) British Film has produced a wide range of films, that start at the rawest, grittiest pieces of cinematography and end in the elegance and suave of the likes of The Iron Lady and James Bond. In the past it has seen the likes of Brief Encounters and A Clockwork Orange but does the modern day equivalents hold up to the high standards set by their ancestors?

Before we dive into that though, we need to examine what makes a good film, and what made the classics, well, classics.

The Art Of Motion Picture

What Makes A Good Film? Cinematography.

A good film has to be entertaining. That is a must. The issue is entertainment is different person to person. For one they may enjoy watching people kick the life out of one another in a Football Factory style film, or punching each other like Rocky or Southpaw. Other may enjoy a good cry like films such as Marley & Me, whilst others may enjoy a gripping thriller such as Girl On The Train or Taken. All the films mentioned are entertaining films in their own right. But not every person will enjoy every film mentioned. So there has to be other categories to decipher what makes a film good, rather than just entertaining.

The first thing to look at is the cinematography. It can be described as the science or art of motion-picture photography, it means, in simpler terms, how a film is filmed. The angles, the style, the scene lengths. Films such as The Blair Witch Project show how cinematography can change the reception of a film. This film for example is filmed in a first person style, and even uses this as part of the films plot. It is said to of revolutionised film, but had it of been filmed in the typical style of third person the film would never have had the impact that it did. The cinematography used here even went as far as to convince the friends of the actresses and actors that the events had taken place. This would never have been possible had the style been used. Films such as Apocalypse Now are renowned for their cinematography, with Peter Traveller of Rolling Stone magazine saying this about its opening sequence:

"The opening, with the whirling sound of choppers inter cut with Willard sweating angst in his Saigon hotel bed, a jungle burning with napalm...remains a visual and aural wonder."

As you can see, the way a movie is filmed, and the visual cuts between scenes can make a movie go from being entertaining to being good. It is these choices of angles, a smooth transition from wide angles to close ups at just the right time, and the length at which a camera lingers on the particular spot before cutting to something else can leave the viewer thinking like a rhetorical question, or even work as the punchline. But, this isn't the only factor of film that holds this ability, let alone that makes a film good.

Apocalypse Now Opening Sequence

Apocalypse Now

Music Can Be Stronger Than Visuals

Torturous Use Of Stealers Wheel

Soundtrack

Think of the film you love the most. I can guarantee for at least 90% of you that films has a soundtrack that you could recognise at least one song from. Whether it be the use of Eminem in 21 Jump Street or near enough all of the Pulp Fiction's soundtrack. The songs used in scenes of a film can make the scene go from being, again, entertaining to being a classic. The song choice in a movie can set the scene. This Is England uses a heavy reggae soundtrack, mixed with some 80's classics that can tell a viewer the era the movie is set without even watching it. Others use the soundtrack in sarcasm to create humour out of a seemingly dark scene, for example Reservoir Dogs uses Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle of you sarcastically to turn a torture scene into one of humour, to match the characters feelings towards torture (which he finds fun).

Other films, such as the 1976 original version of Carrie use music as a weapon. They build a cage around the viewer with the correct mixture of strings and drums, that slowly build up to create tension. This technique is so common in modern day film that its an instant sign to any viewer that something scary is about to happen. But in the days before CGI and special effects the soundtrack of a film did all the work. In fact for me personally, this version of Carrie has to be one of the scariest films I've seen, despite its lack of CGI and modern day effects, the cinematography used and the soundtrack behind each scene created an experience that i felt apart of, something that lots of films this day and age fail to do. Equally, visually darker films such as this, and other films such as Taken and thrillers alike, use soundtracks to emphasise moments and convince the viewers they can see things they actually can't.

This is why soundtracks are a key to a good film. The soundtrack of a film can tell a story that the viewer can't see, it can fully immerse the viewer, pulling them in with a building drum roll and plunging them further with screeching strings. It can culturally educate the viewer in what ever era the film is based in, or it can simply just set the scene, like any sex scene in a film using the same typical beats and sounds to emphasis the context.

Pulp Fiction Soundtrack, One Of The Best

The Traditional 3 Act Structure

Story

We all love a good love story, even the guys out there have a soft spot for romantic comedies - even if they wont let onto their other half's - the likes of Notting Hill and the Bridget Jones collection shows that romantic comedies are still a fore front runner in the movie biz. Hell, the most recent Bridget Jones - Bridget Jones' Baby - grossed $207.2 million worldwide in the box office.

We all love an underdog story as well, when a boy or girl starts from the bottom and ends up being the hero/heroin of the story. Cool Running's has to be the best example of this. Still to this day it's one of the most loved Disney movies as well as being overly quoted. The mixture in this film of humour on top of the underdog story of Jamaicans making it to the winter Olympics for bobsleds is nothing short of cinema mastery.

However, a good film can quite often defy these rules. A film where the hero is killed, or the guy you thought was a good guy ends up being the villain, those are damn good films. This is not to say that a rom-com or action film isn't good, but the kind of film with twists and turns that leave you questioning everything when you leave the cinema, that's a good film. If everything was to fit the conformity that we expect of movies, every film would be the same. Quite often that is the case, the guy gets the girl, loses her, then wins her back, all that changes is the characters and the slight story between them. This is known as the 3 act structure. It's tough to come across a film that doesn't match a generic 3 act structure. So when you stumble upon a film that completely changes this, that makes for an epic movie adventure. The most notable films that do this are the likes of Forrest Gump, Memento and Citizen Kane. The reason its so hard to find a film that doesn't match the 3 act style is that, by human logic, we are so used to seeing it in films. so naturally we will project the structure onto anything we watch, read or even hear. stories - which the majority of films, songs and books - follow the structure, in the sense of a beginning, middle and end. So, when we find something that doesn't, it shocks the system and so we try desperately to find it. that's why films that do not follow it are so special. It goes completely against the status quo and forces us to question things.

Great Britain, The Raw And Gritty Film Makers

British Films

Of course there are a hundred and one other categories that make up a good film, this article could literally go on for ever, but these 3 tend to be the most prolific in separating the good films from the entertaining ones. Normally the good films aren't easy to watch and can almost be uncomfortable, films such as Drive starring Ryan Gosling is one of these types of films. It's a masterpiece in film, and ultimately is quite an uncomfortable film to watch, but when its over you realise the masterpiece you had just witnessed. From the moment the credits roll and you realise Gosling's character never had a name leaves you speechless, you miss so many details in films when trying to focus on the status quo that you often miss the best parts of them. I mean, throughout the whole film 'Driver' only says 891 words. Yet you still build up a relationship with the character. Just a masterpiece.

But, how does British film compare.

Some of the best British films compare exquisitely. Films such as Trainspotting and This is England celebrate their soundtracks and their story lines are near perfection (although they do match a 3 act structure, they do so in a more gritty fashion). Meanwhile films such Slumdog Millionaire are noted as not following a 3 act structure and have long been hailed as masterclasses in movie making. Kill List is known as being the peak of British horror/thriller, the acting is outstanding and its atmosphere is creepy and spine-tingling. though the major left turn towards the end may leave some viewers confused or disappointed, once you make it through the climax becomes shocking and unsettling, the keys to a good film.

Another part of British film that answers the question with a big "yes", is the craftsmanship behind it. Often low budget, British film require's an aura of engineering about them in order to bring certain dreams to life. Often you can tell - which is a serious con of British film - that they are low budget, with films such as Cockneys Vs. Zombies and Lesbian Vampire Killers proving this, and often they can find themselves being the project of a director or actors who just want a bit of money on the side whilst they focus on larger works. However it is the raw grittiness of some of Britain's best films that really show how good it is as an industry. Take Les Miserable for example; rather than using over-dubbing from post-recorded songs played over he top of footage, the director - Tom Hooper - decided on using live singing on set to create a film that fully immerses the viewer and portrays the characters as more real then just characters played by actors.

Overall, British film is as good as Hollywood's, but it is a totally different experience. 9 times out of 10 you know you're watching a British film, but that's not such a bad thing. There is a constant amongst the films Britain creates, that is the true talent amongst it's creators on the most part. The best British films have actors who are new too the scene and trying to make a name for themselves, and the low budget found in most British films only proves the determination for each part to produce the film. The story-lines tend to be different to the mainstream movies, and the soundtracks are often some of the best around. Ultimately however, British films tend to display the true situations of the films theme, whether that be a 1980's Yorkshire, or a present day Kent, the almost purposeful trail to provide truthfulness in the films is what makes the British film industry great.

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