Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Trailers of the Decade

The art of a good trailer seems to be a secret held by a select few in the film industry. Usually, they give away the whole story, or they use tired old clichés to sell it, or they try to trick the viewer by making the trailer look like a completely different film to the one it's advertising (the worst are the trailers for foreign-language films that include snippets of English dialogue in the hope you won't guess it's subtitled). Sometimes, however, you do see a trailer that really takes you by surprise and successfully whets your appetite for a forthcoming film, although the finished product frequently doesn't live up to a great preview. Listed below are my favourites from the past ten years.

10 – Requiem for a Dream (2000)
One of two trailers on this list that develops as if it's selling one kind of film, before revealing its hand later on. This one has an dreamily romantic feel for its first minute, and then it only gives a brief glimpse of the horrors that await in Darren Aronofsky's film.

9 – Femme Fatale (2002)
An idea so ingenious and simple, it's hard to believe it had never been done before. This trailer for Brian De Palma's film simply holds down the fast-forward button and plays out the whole film in super-quick time, inviting you to see it again if you didn't quite catch it.

8 – The Incredibles (2004)
This isn't a scene from the film itself, but it's something even better, a hilarious self-contained skit that perfectly captures the tone of Brad Bird's superb movie.

7 – Sin City (2005)
This teaser was almost too good. Brilliantly edited together and full of striking shots, it set expectations far too high, and the sluggish, unbalanced film Robert Rodriguez eventually turned in was a massive disappointment.

6 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Everyone was eagerly anticipating the third instalment of Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptation, and this suitably epic trailer – the longest on my list – did a superb job of stoking those fires of expectation. It's a grand, rousing trailer, and the final third still makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand to attention.

5 – Little Children (2006)
Another trailer that's far more impressive than the film it's advertising. It has been assembled in an extremely imaginative fashion, avoiding the standard trailer structure and slowly developing towards its climax, while the use of the train on the soundtrack is a masterstroke.

4 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
I guess it's hard to go too far wrong when you're editing together images shot by Roger Deakins and a score composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, but this trailer is still a sublime piece of work. It beautifully expresses the style and tone of Andrew Dominik's masterpiece. Like the film, it's beautiful, lyrical, elegiac and mysterious.

3 – The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
Another beautifully cut trailer and another opportunity to luxuriate in Roger Deakin's stunning cinematography. I love the fluid editing style of this one, the tender score, and the well-chosen snippets of voiceover; it hints at various elements of the plot without revealing too much, which is a trick too few trailers can manage.

2 – Red Eye (2005)
A very clever piece of sleight-of-hand. This trailer for Wes Craven's film seems to be selling us some sort of romantic comedy – yeah, whatever, we've seen it all before – but then it switches gears at precisely the right moment to show us exactly what Red Eye is all about.

1 – Comedian (2002)
I still haven't seen Comedian. This documentary about Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up work never did get a release in the UK, but this marvellous trailer certainly compensated for its absence. You may have noticed a common theme among my selections in this list, that none of them have that clichéd, gravelly-voiced narration that plagues so many previews. Well, this one does have plenty of that terrible voiceover work, but it's used to brilliant effect.