Joseph Kosinski Movies Ranked

3. Only the Brave (2017)

In Joseph Kosinski’s third feature film, the director tackled the only true-to-life subject of his career. The result was the emotive and terrifically acted Only the Brave.

Josh Brolin and on-screen wife Jennifer Connelly were particularly noteworthy for their tremendous performances, the weight of the patriarch’s actions weighing heavily on each character, with the pair of actors battling in some well-written but more impressively performed scenes. Brolin played real-life firefighter sergeant Eric Marsh, and the character’s passion, pro-active nature, and damaged past, were built into Brolin’s still intensity and humble demeanour. Kosinski would also work with Miles Teller for the first time here, Teller’s role being the younger mirror image of Brolin’s and being the focus of his own strong character arc.

The visual splendour Kosinski is known for was used to great effect in Only the Brave, the CGI working to instil respect in the awesome but terrifying sight of a natural fire barrelling out of control, the director working with his usual tools to subvert the ordinarily exciting effect of spectacle. It’s an element that gifts Only the Brave a strong and impactful presence, and honours the real-life stories that act as the foundation of the film.

In many ways, Only the Brave is Kosinski’s most-grounded release to date. And, in the best way, is similar to the projects written by Taylor Sheridan (such as Hell or High Water), an almost spiritual tale of human connection told through very ordinary and relatable characters. The script may have taken shortcuts, and some of the film may have been reductive and cliché in parts, but Joseph Kosinski proved in Only the Brave that he could do more than simply establish spectacle, subverting his formula in a fascinating and ultimately emotive way.

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2. Tron: Legacy (2010)

Coming out of the gate with a film so reliant upon CGI must have proven difficult for Joseph Kosinski, whose only previous credited work was as the director of the famous “Mad World” trailer for Xbox’s ‘Gears of War’. To put so much of a film’s existence into the hands of others requires unrivalled planning, an overindulgence of shots, angles and takes, and of course an understanding of the requirements within each shot, with the camera, and behind the scenes, needed for CGI to be able to function effectively and believably. He might have spent the most of any debut filmmaker in history, but he succeeded in making something that looked great.

Tron: Legacy is visually resplendent, of that there is no doubt. The neon body suits, the graphically inspired netherworlds, the ultra modern environments, and the 80s-inspired flourishes (in nod to the original Tron, 1982), make for an ultimate Kosinski movie in many ways; an eye-popping visual experience.

What is perhaps most impressive is how musical the film is. Iconic musicians Daft Punk were hired to put together the film’s synth score, and their soundtrack is almost unrivalled in terms of originality and overall impact on its film, but Kosinski must be praised for embalming this excellent album of music into the rhythm of his own work, for recognising the importance of music in creating spectacle. Tron: Legacy was, surprisingly, as rhythmic and musical in the way its camera moved and its shots were edited as many more obvious modern choices, and all the better for it.

There’s no doubt that this sequel 28-years in the making was filled with cliché, featured some story conveniences, and lacked a real killer angle to hook onto, but the divisive reaction to the film’s release seems absent of appreciation for the dopamine-spiking fun of this endlessly enjoyable movie.

1. Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

Top Gun: Maverick Review

The cinema experience to restore the general populous’ faith in cinema experiences, Top Gun: Maverick was more than a simple movie, it was an unmissable moment in film history, a sensation in its day and one of the great action movies of the 21st century.

The real stunt work, and the manner in which it was used to create velocity and excitement within the image itself, was akin to the work of the original film’s director Tony Scott, or even Star Wars’ George Lucas. The glow of the lens, the warm colour palette, and the soundtrack, placed nostalgia at the forefront of a film about revisiting glory days. In doing so, these elements encouraged us to be nostalgic for the kind of cinema experience this film offered: a wholehearted, out-of-this-world, can only see it on the big screen, cinema experience headlined by an A-List star doing things nobody should do “for fun”.

The timing of this release – just when cinemas were touching breaking point after years and months of closures, shortened release windows, higher ticket cuts for studios, and customers were moving to streaming, had less money, had more stresses – couldn’t have been better. Kosinski, with the help of star and producer Tom Cruise, effectively took the world by the hand and guided it back to the mythical golden age of blockbuster cinema, planting a camera in a plane going so fast the actors’ faces were melting, and made a film about friendship, about finding one’s self amidst doubt and poor leadership, about refamiliarising ourselves with what we had always known. It was the perfect story for the perfect moment, presented in a way that looked and felt real during a time of CG-scapes in the movies and difficulty finding the truth in politics, culture and commercialism in the wider world.

Joseph Kosinski, a director who made his name on the back of a video game advertisement and a number of expansive CGI movies, spoke to our collective longing for better times before pandemics and wars and terrorist attacks, by presenting us with what we could see to be true. Top Gun: Maverick is one of the most culturally significant releases ever, and certainly the greatest of Joseph Kosinski’s feature directorial career.

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There is no doubt that Joseph Kosinski’s ability to incorporate top class CGI into his projects has served his career well, and that there are few filmmakers with such a profound ability to present speed and velocity quite like him, but the verdict is still out on this filmmaker. What do you think? Is Joseph Kosinski a potential A-List director? Is his work largely boring, Top Gun: Maverick a result of Tom Cruise’s overseeing eye? Let us know in the comments below.

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