Annal: 1996 Saturn Award for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film

Results of the Saturn Award in the year 1996.

Film:The Usual Suspects

The Usual Suspects

Bryan Singer

Ever since this convoluted thriller dazzled audiences and critics in 1995 and won an Oscar for Christopher McQuarrie’s twisting screenplay, The Usual Suspects has continued to divide movie lovers into opposite camps. While a lot of people take great pleasure from the movie’s now-famous central mystery (namely, “Who is Keyser Söze?”), others aren’t so easily impressed by a movie that’s too enamored of its own cleverness to make much sense. After all, what are we to make of a final scene that renders the entire movie obsolete? Half the fun…

Film:Apollo 13

Apollo 13

Ron Howard

NASA’s worst nightmare turned into one of the space agency’s most heroic moments in 1970, when the Apollo 13 crew was forced to hobble home in a disabled capsule after an explosion seriously damaged the moon-bound spacecraft. Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton play (respectively) astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise in director Ron Howard’s intense, painstakingly authentic docudrama. The Apollo 13 crew and Houston-based mission controllers race against time and heavy odds to return the damaged spacecraft safely to Earth from a distance of 205,500 miles. Using state-of-the-art special effects and ingenious filmmaking techniques, Howard and his stellar cast and crew build nail-biting tension while maintaining close fidelity to the facts. The result is a fitting tribute to the Apollo 13 mission and one of the biggest box-office hits of 1995.

Film:Braveheart

Braveheart

Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson’s Oscar-winning 1995 Braveheart is an impassioned epic about William Wallace, the 13th-century Scottish leader of a popular revolt against England’s tyrannical Edward I (Patrick McGoohan). Gibson cannily plays Wallace as a man trying to stay out of history’s way until events force his hand, an attribute that instantly resonates with several of the actor’s best-known roles, especially Mad Max. The subsequent camaraderie and courage Wallace shares in the field with fellow warriors is pure enough and inspiring enough to bring envy to a…

Film:Die Hard with a Vengeance

Die Hard with a Vengeance

John McTiernan

The second sequel to the mold-making action film Die Hard brings Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) to New York City to face a better villain than in Die Hard 2. Played by Jeremy Irons, he’s the brother of the Germanic terrorist-thief Alan Rickman played in the original film. But this bad guy has his sights set higher: on the Federal Reserve’s cache of gold. As a distraction, he sets McClane running fool’s errands all over New York—and eventually, McClane attracts an unintentional partner, a Harlem dry cleaner (Samuel L. Jackson) with a chip on…

Film:Goldeneye

Goldeneye

Martin Campbell

The 18th James Bond adventure was a runaway box-office success when released in 1995, thanks to the arrival of Pierce Brosnan as the fifth actor (following the departure of Timothy Dalton) to play the suave, danger-loving Agent 007. This James Bond is a bit more vulnerable and psychologically complex—and just a shade more politically correct—but he’s still a formally attired playboy at heart, with a lovely Russian beauty (Izabella Scorupco) as his sexy ally against a cadre of renegade Russians bent on—what else?—global domination. There’s also a seductive…

Film:Heat

Heat

Michael Mann

Having developed his skill as a master of contemporary crime drama, writer-director Michael Mann displayed every aspect of that mastery in this intelligent, character-driven thriller from 1995, which also marked the first onscreen pairing of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. The two great actors had played father and son in the separate time periods of The Godfather, Part II, but this was the first film in which the pair appeared together, and although their only scene together is brief, it’s the riveting fulcrum of this high-tech cops-and-robbers scenario.…

Film:Seven

Seven

David Fincher

The most viscerally frightening and disturbing homicidal maniac picture since The Silence of the Lambs, Seven is based on an idea that's both gruesome and ingenious. A serial killer forces each of his victims to die by acting out one of the seven deadly sins. The murder scene is then artfully arranged into a grotesque tableau, a graphic illustration of each mortal vice. From the jittery opening credits to the horrifying (and seemingly inescapable) concluding twist, director David Fincher immerses us in a murky urban twilight where everything seems to be rotting, rusting, or molding; the air is cold and heavy with dread. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are the detectives who skillfully track down the killer--all the while unaware that he has been closing in on them, as well. Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey are also featured, but it is director Fincher and the ominous, overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere of doom that he creates that are the real stars of the film. It's a terrific date movie--for vampires. --Jim Emerson

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