The directorial rule of three

The year of 2012 in film could be remembered for numerous reasons. It was the year of the blockbuster most of all, a number of stars made breakthroughs, and we were stunned with the announcements of Star Wars VII, VIII and IX. But other interesting patterns emerged too. For instance, three of the highlights of the year – Killing Them Softly, Looper and Argo, respectively – were helmed by directors making film number three in their respective repertoires.

It’s interesting, then, that all three made their breakthrough film – at least in terms of financial success and mainstream attention (as well as potential awards for Argo in particular) – with outing #3 in the chair. Despite already having made a pretty good film each (The Town, The Brothers Bloom and Chopper) as well as something that could be said to be pretty fantastic (The Assassination of Jesse James, Gone Baby Gone and Brick) it seems like number three is where people really start to pay attention.

And so with that in mind, where will we be looking next? Well, here are five suggestions for directors to look out for. Each has only ever done two films, but it’s the third that counts…


5. Rupert Wyatt


Though, like those placed at #4 and #3 on this list, I’ve only seen 50% of his offerings so far, I’m still more than happy to place my confidence in all three, starting with Wyatt. His debut was The Escapist in 2008 (which is impossible to miss if you have access to Film 4), a British prison-break movie featuring the likes of Brian Cox, Damian Lewis and Dominic Cooper, and supposedly worth a hundred minutes of anyone’s time. His follow-up, last year, was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the intelligent spin-off to the notorious franchise that fans welcomed with a sigh of relief, newcomers enjoyed as a breath of fresh air, and the world revelled in a film – alongside the new Star Trek and X-Men: First Class, etc. – that proved that talented, upcoming directors did have something to say about allegedly worn-out film franchises.


4. Christopher McQuarrie

The Way of the Gun Jack Reacher

Primarily a writer, and most well-known as ‘the-guy-who-wrote-The Usual Suspects’, McQuarrie first turned his attention to the camera in 2000, with The Way of the Gun, a pretty enthralling criminal thriller with Benicio Tel Doro enjoying himself an awful lot alongside Ryan Phillipe, and supported by Juliette Lewis and James Caan. He then took an 8-year break before returning to writing with Valkyrie, The Tourist, Jack the Giant Slayer, The Wolverine and – the film he’s directing too – Jack Reacher. He just needs to stop working with Tom Cruise…


3. Martin McDonagh

Film Title: In Bruges Seven Psychopaths

To my shame and disappointment I haven’t yet managed to squeeze in Seven Psychopaths (which is the only reason McDonagh isn’t at #2) after enjoying the wonderful In Bruges on numerous occasions, and on so many levels. It’s interesting that his first film took us from a British base (though set and filmed in Bruges admittedly) with a play-like setup to a Hollywood comic-meta-thriller in the form of Seven Psychopaths – the two worlds couldn’t feel further apart. But he has his regularities: dark comedy thrillers is what the McDonagh clan do, it seems (as his brother’s debut was the entertaining The Guard). Let’s just hope that it’s not another four years until his next effort.


2. Duncan Jones

Moon Source Code

Okay, now we’re getting serious. If #5 and #4 are about potential, then these top three are already displaying serious virtuoso talent in the form of debut and/or follow-up films that have already achieved cult status at the very least. Jones is responsible for low-budget sci-fi flick Moon, as well as higher-budget sci-fi thriller, Source Code. The first of these was concerned with space exploration and delivered to us the excellent talents of Sam Rockwell (who might well steal the show in Seven Psychopaths, but shows off his talents by really carrying this one!), whereas Source Code, aka Jake Gyllenhaal time-travelling to catch a terrorist– though not as well-received critically – certainly merits a second viewing. Apparently his next film is a biopic revolving around the life of James Bond author Ian Fleming!


1. Steve McQueen

Hunger Shame

But the cream of the crop in terms of talent so far and the potential to make further films that really push boundaries has to go to the magnificent Steve McQueen (no, not the actor). His first two films have been Hunger (2008) and Shame (2011), both displaying the extraordinary talents of Michael Fassbender… his acting, I mean, nothing else. But the themes of both are certainly explicitly focused towards the body: the torments we’re willing to put them under (Hunger), and the way they might torment us through addiction (Shame). Next up is Twelve Years a Slave which gives us not only Fassbender but also Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti and Paul Dano! Next year can’t come soon enough…

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