Joe Wright Movies Ranked

English film director Joe Wright grew up surrounded by marionettes at his parents’ puppet theater, Little Angel Theatre, in Islington. There, Wright immersed himself in the fairy tales, magic, and romance that have greatly influenced his work and continue to play a vital role in his filmmaking style today.

Born in 1972 in London, Wright spent the early part of his career working at Oil Factory, a music video production company. Following the completion of a few short films and serials, in 2003 Wright directed the miniseries, ‘Charles II: The Power and the Passion’, for the BBC. The series was a critical success and, just a few short years later in 2005, Wright was chosen to direct a new adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, “Pride and Prejudice”. The film, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, was a critical and commercial success, and launched the filmmaker into the spotlight. Pride & Prejudice was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards and BAFTA Film Awards, with Wright taking home the BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer at the age of 33.

Since that noteworthy breakthrough, Joe Wright has found most of his success as an artist in romantic costume dramas. He’s partial to historical fiction, particularly when it’s set during World War II, though he has dabbled in numerous genres, like action, thriller and fantasy. One of the stylistic signatures of the director’s visual work is his tendency for long tracking shots, which arguably was at its very best in the continuous, five-minute take during the evacuation of Dunkirk in Atonement (2007). To achieve this unique visual style, Wright works closely with cinematographer and frequent collaborator Seamus McGarvey, while the director’s work is also commonly associated with screen actors Keira Knightley, Ben Mendelsohn and Tom Hollander.

Wright’s 9 feature films vary in quality from Oscar-winning period pieces to $100million box office bombs. While the majority of his movies have been both commercially and critically successful, earning numerous Academy Award and BAFTA nominations, others have missed the mark completely. In this edition of Ranked from The Film Magazine, we’ll evaluate Joe Wright’s movies based on critical reaction, writing, performance, and directorial choices. From his most bewildering to his unparalleled masterpiece, these are the Joe Wright Movies Ranked.

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9. Pan (2015)

Pan was such a financial failure it nearly forced Joe Wright into an early retirement.

Set in London during World War II, the film is a prequel to J.M Barry’s 1904 stage play “Peter and Wendy” and serves as an origin story for Peter Pan, one of fiction’s most well-known and beloved characters. It is a truly bewildering film with one of the strangest uses of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” ever put to screen.

Pan claims to be an origin story for a character that has existed in the public consciousness for over 100 years, but its approach to the material is so far out of left field that it feels completely foreign. There is nothing familiar to cling to. It’s held back by Jason Fuchs’s script, which seems to have no interest in coming up with fresh ways to recount the origin of Peter Pan (Levi Miller) or any of the other well-known characters. For instance, instead of coming up with a unique and fun way to show how Captain Hook (Garrett Hedlund) lost his hand and earned his name, the film decides that nothing interesting happened at all and that “Hook” is just his last name. Captain Hook doesn’t lose his hand at all, actually, and the movie doesn’t even attempt to explain why he and Peter become enemies. It feels like half the film is missing or they were planning for a sequel that, on account of the film making no money, never materialized.

Visually, Pan is an ugly movie that rarely feels whimsical or magical, which is honestly a shock considering co-cinematographer Seamus McGarvey worked with Wright on both Anna Karenina and Atonement. The steampunk aesthetics are presented in such a way that makes everything seem grimy and unappealing, devoid of life.

The film’s humor is similarly uneven and awkward. It seems like Pan wants to have an absurdist approach to its humor, but it doesn’t commit. Because of this, Garret Hedlund’s performance as Hook feels wildly out of place and he is the only person doing… whatever he’s doing. Rooney Mara, despite being present as the result of tone deaf casting that miscasts her as a Native American, is a bright spot in the film, and her scenes with Peter are probably some of the best in the movie.

Wright’s inability to tackle a big budget spectacle, along with a messy script and unfocused visual language, makes Pan a weak link in his career.

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