Paradise Now (2005, dir. Hany Abu-Assad)

Two Palestinian friends are recruited for a next-day suicide mission into Tel Aviv. Intelligent drama with a few darkly comic touches; everyone has their reasons. The film works hard not to moralise, focusing on depiction and explanation, without asserting wider truth-value to its characters’ actions and beliefs.

The Irishman [AKA I Heard You Paint Houses] (2019, dir. Martin Scorsese)

A now-aged mob hitman reflects. A stunning revisiting of themes preoccupying Scorsese throughout his career; gang life, organised crime, Catholic guilt. Sombre and melancholy, and Ellroy-like in its alt-history approach to the American 20th century. A technical, dramatic and stylistic marvel, with fine performances all around, none less than from Pesci, who’s revelatory here. Hugely recommended.

Inside Man (2006, dir. Spike Lee)

An embattled detective tries to work out how an unorthodox bank robbery became a hostage situation. Smart heist/siege movie that works as an intelligent genre piece and a sly political commentary on post-9/11 America. Lots to enjoy, with clever performances all around and plenty to think about. Recommended.

Miss Bala (2019, dir. Catherine Hardwicke)

A young woman caught up in a nightclub shooting has to go undercover against a cartel. While its focus on people rather than action is perhaps commendable, this US remake of the 2011 Spanish-language original isn’t dramatic enough to deliver suspense, or feisty enough to please gunplay fans, despite a committed central performance.

The Standoff at Sparrow Creek (2018, dir. Henry Dunham)

Seven members of a Texas militia meet at their headquarters in the aftermath of a mass shooting. Excellent and absorbing single-location thriller, which wears its touches of Pinter lightly. A hugely impressive debut feature; highly recommended.

The Front Runner (2018, dir. Jason Reitman)

A presidential hopeful’s nomination campaign is derailed by his philandering. Smart observational true-life political drama clearly in love with the likes of All The President’s Men. While it doesn’t quite grapple with its protagonist’s weaknesses, the film is nevertheless professional, skilful and well-crafted throughout. Recommended.

Gladiator (2000, dir. Ridley Scott)

A famed general, condemned to death in a coup, seeks revenge on Roman emperor Commodus for the murder of his family. Vivid and muscular historical drama, with excellent performances, solid action, and a keen visual sense. A Hollywood history; the inspirations are less actual events than the epics of the 1950s and early 1960s.