Cuaron strives to infuse his cosmic survival drama with a hyperrealism that puts the audience right in orbit with our imperiled heroes. He brilliantly emulates the sensation of weightlessness with a pageant of extended long takes wherein the camera floats seamlessly – uninterrupted for minutes on end – from one position to another, sometimes shifting right inside the astronauts' helmets so we can see from their exact point of view.
That Jonze was able to integrate such a wide variety of relationship themes – ranging from personal growth to sexual surrogacy to polygamy – so naturalistically into his farfetched narrative fabric, without reaching into farce, is quite a directorial feat. He handles the craft of his film with the same delicacy and attention to detail applied to his story.
As in the two films that preceded it, Linklater's realistic naturalism is what makes Before Midnight such an insightful and compelling drama. His lengthy takes and minimalist style allows the story to unfold almost in real time, making us feel like an unintrusive fly on the wall, and his understanding of character brings out the best of his two lead actors.
McQueen effectively employs long single takes for some of the film's most harrowing sequences. Whether allowing the camera to linger on an unsettling tableau or shifting from face to face in the same tracking shot, McQueen develops a visual language for 12 Years a Slave that manages to objectively confront the matter-of-fact-ness of these scenes while also exploring their emotional breadth.
Polley is quick to turn the camera on herself and remind us all that even her version of the story is influenced by the prism through which she perceives it. We are seeing the stories unfold through her lens (literally), and she frequently reminds us of that. This meta approach, whereby the making of the film is as crucial a part of the story as the actual stories it's documenting, is her most brilliant innovation.
The COENS for Inside Llewyn Davis
DESTIN DANIEL CRETTON for Short Term 12
PAUL GREENGRASS for Captain Phillips
MARTIN SCORSESE for The Wolf of Wall Street
DENIS VILLENEUVE for Prisoners