Justin Chang

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First Reformed is a stunner, a spiritually probing work of art with the soul of a thriller, realized with a level of formal control and fierce moral anger that we seldom see in American movies.

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How do you make a movie about stagnation? A movie that doesn't just tell you a story about someone wasting away, but that seems to embody a state of physical and moral decay for nearly two hours?

It may not sound like a glowing recommendation, but Lucrecia Martel has made such a movie with Zama, her feverishly brilliant adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto's 1956 novel of the same title. This is one of the most atmospheric and transporting films I've seen all year, and also one of the best.

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This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our critics have been making their 10 best lists. Here's film critic Justin Chang with his.

The characters in the films of Samuel Maoz are all trapped in one way or another. His 2009 drama, Lebanon, was a blistering critique of Israel's 1982 invasion of its northern neighbor and an impressively sustained exercise in confinement: It unfolded entirely inside a tank, forcing us to see the devastation of war from the limited vantage of four young troops.

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In recent years, the British heartthrob Robert Pattinson has gone out of his way to prove that there is life after Twilight. After years spent playing a shimmery, chivalrous vampire, he went all dark and dystopian in art-house chillers like The Rover and Cosmopolis, and he recently popped up in a terrific supporting role in The Lost City of Z. But Pattinson has never undergone a transformation as revelatory as the one he pulls off in Good Time, a nerve-rattling new thriller from the sibling directors Josh and Benny Safdie.

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