Before he was one of the most sought-after directors in Hollywood, Denis Villeneuve was making independent films in French Canada. His little-seen feature debut premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, where Alex Martin won an acting award.
Villeneuve won the Genie Award for Best Director (the first of three) for his sophomore feature, which follows an alcoholic woman who begins a romantic relationship with the son of a man she may or may not have killed in a hit-and-run accident.
Nine years passed between “Maelström” and “Polytechnique,” but the wait was worth it. As beautifully made as it is difficult to watch, this dramatization of a mass shooting that took place in Montreal is as wrenching as Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant” — and quietly infuriating.
Villeneuve first caught Hollywood’s attention with “Incendies,” an intergenerational family drama that earned him an Academy Award nomination in the Foreign-Language Film category. It didn’t win, but it did prove to be the director’s international breakthrough.
Villeneuve’s English-language debut is his weakest Hollywood effort to date, but also his most financially successful. Roger Deakins earned his 11th Oscar nomination for his cinematography on “Prisoners,” which is its finest trait.
Easily the least-seen of Villeneuve’s recent work, this strange tale — in which “Prisoners” star Jake Gyllenhaal’s character encounters a man who looks exactly like him — may also be his best.
Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro and Josh Brolin star in this white-knuckle take on the drug war, here rendered as a zero-sum affair that continues for its own sake.
Anyone worried about Villeneuve’s sci-fi credentials ahead of next year’s “Blade Runner” sequel will have their fears assuaged by “Arrival,” a moving exploration of the overlapping relationships between people, aliens and time.