Film editors' picks: Brick, The Road, The King of Comedy, Saw & Withnail & I

Film editor Joe Holloran provides us with the first 4 editions of Film's editors picks.

Joe Holloran
24th November 2019

EDITORS PICK #1 - Brick (2005)

Dir: Rian Johnson.

Genre: Neo-noir / thriller.

Rating: 15.

Runtime: 1hr 50mins.

Synopsis -

The directorial debut from future Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) director Rian Johnson, Brick stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, Looper) as the loner high-school sleuth Brendon Frye and his attempts to discover the truth about the death of a young girl and the importance of a single brick of heroin.

High school detective Brenden (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) (left) meets with 'The Brain' (Matt O'Leary) (right). Image:IMDB

Why should I watch this? -

  • Brick is a rear example of the neo-noir genre done right.
  • It is a love-letter to a dead form of cinema, yet does not feel old or un-original.
  • It is an indie film that feels like it could be a long music video for an 90's indie album (if that makes sense).
  • It's score is subtle, yet perfectly sets fits the world of the movie and helps elevate the narrative.
  • It features fantastic performances from Gordon-Levitt and supporting cast members including Nora Zehetner and Likas Haas (the guy from MCR's 'Welcome to the Black Parade' video) .
  • It is beautifully shot and edited in a way that reflects the tone of the story while respecting the genre conventions of classic 30's and 40's noir/detective films.
  • It's plot is enticing, engaging and clever.
  • It features some of the best dialogue / emotional realness in any film drama featuring teenagers.
  • It is the kind of film you want to watch again so you spot things you missed the first time around.

EDITORS PICK #2 - The Road (2009)

Dir: John Hillcoat.

Genre: Post-apocalyptic / drama.

Rating: 15.

Runtime: 1hr 51min.

Synopsis -

Based on the harrowing 2006 novel by American dystopian author Cormac McCarthy, The Road follows the desperate journey of a father and son, played by Viggo Mortenson and Kodi Smitt-McPhee, as they travel across the American wasteland just trying to live day-to-day following an unspecified disaster.

"The Man" (Viggo Mortenson) & "The Child" (Kodi Smitt-McPhee) share a rare moment of happiness. Image:IMDB

Why should I watch this? -

  • First off, do not watch this film if you are not in a 100% emotionally stable state.
  • It is one of if not the most emotionally hard-hitting film I have ever seen. It is one that is a must watch as a piece of art, but not one that you can re-watch many times.
  • There are dozens of films and novels set in a post-apocalyptic world. However in The Road there are no Zombies and no mutants. The monsters are human.
  • The cinematography is dark and beautiful. The films vision of what a broken world looks like is the single best in cinema, in my opinion.
  • The always underrated Viggo Mortenson gives one of the performances of his career. Alongside the young Smitt-McPhee, the pair give one of the most authentic father-son relationship in cinema.
  • Its plot is incredibly bleak but you won't be able to look away.
  • It shows what cinema can achieve visually with a (relatively) limited budget and the minimal dialogue.
  • The film is faithful to the novel and got the blessing of McCarthy. This is important if you have previously read the book.


EDITORS PICK #3 - The King of Comedy (1983)

Dir: Martin Scorsese.

Genre: Black comedy / satire.

Rating: PG.

Runtime: 1hr 49min.

Synopsis -

Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is an aspiring stand-up comedian with mental health problems, who dreams of appearing on Jerry Langford's (Jerry Lewis) TV show. (Sound familiar?). Pupkin goes to extreme lengths to prove to his idol that his is indeed the 'King of Comedy'.

Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) entertains the other "guests". Image:IMDB

Why should I watch this? -

  • It's influence on Joker (2019) is massive and undeniable. From plot points, actors, set design,music and tone.
  • If the Joker was aimed at a younger audience, it would be this film.
  • It showcases that Scorsese can achieve great things outside of the Gangster genre.
  • It is a brilliant example of how to mix serious political and cultural satire with dark humour.
  • De Niro has never given a performance quite like it.
  • It features a cameo by The Clash. So, that should be enough on it's own.
  • On a personal note, it ranks second on my list of the best Scorsese films, behind only Raging Bull (1980).
  • Even if it fails to rank that highly for you, it is a must see for any Scorsese fan.

EDITORS PICK #4 - Withnail & I (1987)

Dir: Bruce Robinson.

Genre: Black comedy / tragedy.


Runtime: 1hr 47min.

Synopsis -

Set in 1969 Camden, London, the film follows the drug-filled exploits of two un-employed actors - 'Withnail' (Richard E. Grant) and our narrator, simply know as 'I'. Bored of life in the capital the pair decide to take a holiday to the countryside. There things go from bad to worse.

'I' (Paul McGann) (left) & Withnail (Rupert E. Grant) (right) take a stroll through Camden Town, London. Image:IMDB

Why should I watch this? -

  • It is a British cult classic and one of the finest examples of black comedy in cinema.
  • It is one of my top 10 British films of all time.
  • The performance of Grant as Withnail is legendary, over-the-top and heartbreaking.
  • It features a great performance from a young Paul McGann (the 8th Doctor)
  • Although exaggerated, it's depiction of poverty and the tortured artist is surprisingly realistic and relatable.
  • It has some of the most quotable lines in British cinema including "Don't threaten me with a dead fish!", "I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth" and "GET IN THE BACK OF THE VAN!!!". That last one will make sense when you watch it.
  • It's soundtrack is fantastic.
  • Despite its comedy, it has more heart than most 'serious' films. It is almost Shakespearian
  • It was produced by Handmade Films, Monty Python's production company.
  • Because if you don't every time it is brought up by artsy film-buffs you will have to say to their face "No, I haven't seen it". They will not be happy.

EDITORS PICK #5 - Saw (2004)

Dir: James Wan.

Genre: Horror / Mystery.

Rating: 18.

Runtime: 1hr 43min.

Synopsis -

Doctor Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) wakes up in an abandoned bathroom with his ankle chained to a drain pipe. In the room with him is the body of a man dead from suicide holding a gun, a tape player, a saw and another man chained to the wall - a private eye named Adam (Leigh Whanell). Neither man can remember why they are there but they soon discover they are unwilling participants in a strangers twisted game.

Amanda (Shawnee Smith) fitted with the terrifying reverse bear trap during her "game". Image:IMDB

Why should I watch this? -

  • Before you read on let me answer a question I know some of you are thinking - "Saw. Isn't that the 'torture porn' film with like 20 sequels?
  • First of all the original Saw is in no way part of the same appalling club as Hostel (2005), Human Centipede (2009) or any other similar garbage.
  • Yes it has 7 sequels, and non other than Saw II (2005) are worth watching.
  • I can think of few horror movies where the antagonist's motives are as sympathetic as Jigsaw's (This is expanded upon in the second movie).
  • It has twists that even though some may see coming are still have a huge pay-off.
  • It is one of the all time best indie horror movies. (Cost $1 million. Made $103 million)
  • When I first watched it I was utterly blown away by how intense and nerve-wrecking the narrative is. With subsequent viewings, you notice more and more, which is a sign of a great movie.
  • It is very rare for a horror movie to use crime elements and thriller tropes as well as this.
  • The dynamic between the two captives is brilliant.
  • It's ending is among the best in all horror cinema. Ever.
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