2022 was a year that proved that while cinema was definitely back, it hadn’t regained the position it held pre-pandemic, and perhaps never will again. Only three movies broke the billion dollar barrier compared to nine in pre-Covid 2019.
Edinburgh International Film Festival, one of the world’s oldest and most respected, was held for perhaps the final time when its parent company went into administration. Arts funding in the UK, especially outside London, continues to be cut.
Independent films are tougher than ever to get made, and even more difficult to get big-screen exhibition for with cinemas clamouring for big-budget, big audience extravaganzas that will help mitigate spiralling running costs. The majority of smaller films that make it out into the world will more than likely be first seen on one of the streamers.
Every major studio now has their own dedicated streaming service with a catalogue of exclusive, gated-off content, and in the wake of HBO Max’s culling of anything not guaranteed to bring them ever-increasing profit in the future, there’s no guarantee that easily-accessible digital libraries of classic films and TV shows will be here to stay.
It has also been proof positive (as if it was needed) that in an ever-increasingly shitty world filled with corruption, deprivation and discrimination, what most cinema-goers truly crave is pure escapism from their daily lives for as long as possible. Top Gun: Maverick had a more monumental impact than could ever be predicted and Jurassic World Dominion chased a similar nostalgia-hungry audience. The Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Extended Universe are still going, but do not quite appear to be the unstoppable box office juggernauts they once were, with even a new Batman movie not cracking a billion dollars, though you’d be a fool to bet against James Cameron and any of his many Avatar sequels not making a massive splash.
On that somewhat uncertain note, here are my 10 Best Films Released in the UK in 2022 – every single one I found far more compelling and memorable than caped heroes, Na’vi and thirty-plus year-old franchise revivals.
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RRR wasn’t released in 2022 so much as it was unleashed. Nothing else came even close to the sheer bombastic, bonkers spectacle in this Teglu blockbuster, the title of which is an abbreviation for the director SS Rajamouli and his two stars, in case you were wondering.
A fictional story inspired by the lives of two real Indian revolutionaries, we follow tribesman Bheem (NT Rama Rao Jr) and police officer Raju (Ram Charan) who form an unlikely forever friendship and work together to fight against the colonial forces of the British Raj in the 1920s.
RRR would make a great introductory movie for any fan of Western blockbusters and/or East Asian martial arts movies who wants to get into Indian cinema. The action is out of this world in scale, conception and sheer creativity, and it mercilessly skewers the monstrous acts of the British Empire by getting two singing, dancing action heroes to kick their asses in a huge variety of ways.
9. Decision to Leave
Park Chan-Wook’s sensual detective thriller plays with well-worn genre tropes with an abundance of style and slyly incorporates modern technology into its twisty investigation storyline.
An insomniac detective in Busan (Park Hae-il) becomes obsessed with a Chinese suspect (Tang Wei) who is being investigated for the suspicious death of her husband who was found at the foot of a mountain, but even after the case is seemingly closed and she is found innocent, their paths continue to cross suspiciously regularly.
Perhaps one of Park’s least twisted films to date on a pure visual level (you inevitably always end up comparing any new release to his Vengeance trilogy on the “how f-ed up is this?” scale), but he’s still fascinated by being able to explore murky moral contradictions and psychological complexity in his fascinating lead pairing, both electrifyingly portrayed by Park and Wei.