It’s the first month of 2021, which means unless you’re lucky enough to live where it’s always summer, you’re stuck indoors (perhaps with an entire quarantined family), looking for ways to pass entirely too many dark hours. With the added complications of a worldwide pandemic, movie pickings are slimmer than ever, but there are still several star-studded offerings to carry us through. Here is the best of what’s out in January, with many available on streaming services/Video on Demand. If you’re daring enough to head to a theater, please be careful out there!
Outside the Wire
January 15, 2021 (Netflix)
Directed by Mikael Håfström (Evil), written by Rowan Athale (The Vault, Wasteland) and Rob Yescombe, starring Anthony Mackie, Game of Thrones’s Pilou Asbæk, Into the Badlands’s Emily Beecham, House of Cards’s Michael Kelly, and Damon Idris. If you enjoy Mackie’s sci-fi tilt (Black Mirror, Altered Carbon, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) you’ll welcome this futuristic military adventure. Mackie is sent into a war zone with a young drone pilot, and the pair set out on an action-packed hunt for the device that could end the world…but Mackie’s Leo has a little Sumthin-Sumthin up his sleeve that could help them succeed.
January 15, 2021 (Theaters)
Directed by Robert Lorenz (first AD on Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, Space Cowboys, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), written by Lorenz, Chris Charles, and Danny Kravitz, starring Liam Neeson, Vikings’s Katheryn Winnick, Narcos’s Juan Pablo Raba, and Luce Rains. Speaking of action, our favorite modern-day middle-aged(+) Irishman is back doing what he does best–protecting people. This time around, Neeson’s a rancher making sure a young Mexican boy isn’t (*ahem*) taken by drug cartel baddies who’ve followed the child across the United States border with intent to kill. Look, I don’t care how many assassins they send; we all know Liam will prevail.
One Night in Miami
January 15, 2021 (Prime Video)
Feature directorial debut of queen Regina King (Watchmen, American Crime, The Leftovers), written by Kemp Powers (based on his play), starring Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Lance Reddick, Beau Bridges, Michael Imperioli, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., and Jeremy Pope. This imagined meeting of Malcolm X, Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown as they celebrate Ali’s first big boxing win premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival to rave reviews. The stellar cast depicts the young men at a pivotal moment in their lives and American history, digs into personal hardships, and lets us dream of the possibility of incredible discussions between this influential group of friends.
January 22, 2021 (Theaters)
Feature directorial debut and written by Edson Oda, starring Winston Duke, Benedict Wong, Bill Skarsgård, Zazie Beetz, and Tony Hale. What if you had to interview with Winston Duke in order to be born? (Yes, please.) The hottest arbiter of souls we could ever hope to meet offers a unique experience to a group in limbo, each of whom must pass a few tests before being offered a new lease on Earth-life.
The Little Things
January 29, 2021 (Theaters and HBO Max)
Directed and written by John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side), starring Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto, and Natalie Morales. Washington and Malek play detectives hunting a serial killer who may or may not be Jared Leto (I mean, look at him!). Three Academy Award-winning actors in a film so dark that Spielberg turned it down? Yes, please.
January 29, 2021 (Theaters and VoD)
Directed and written by Harry Macqueen (Hinterland), starring Colin Firth, Stanley Tucci, James Dreyfus, Pippa Haywood, and Sarah Woodward. If you need to get out a good cry of relief after the year that was 2020, who better than powerhouses Tucci and Firth to get the tears rolling? The pair take on the roles of partners out for their last road trip together after Tucci’s Tusker is diagnosed with early-onset dementia. Come on, you know your sinuses need a good clearing out.
January 29, 2021 (Theaters and Netflix)
Directed by Simon Stone (The Daughter), written by Moira Buffini (Harlots, Byzantium, Jane Eyre), starring Ralph Fiennes, Carey Mulligan, Lily James, Ben Chaplin, Ken Stott, Johnny Flynn, and Monica Dolan. Looking to fill that British period film hole in your heart? Check out heavy hitters Mulligan and Fiennes as Edith Pretty and Basil Brown from John Preston’s historical novel which reimagines the archeological discovery Sutton Hoo — an ancient burial site in England. The real-life excavation began in 1939 and uncovered a Byzantine-era king’s extravagant burial, including two entire ships. Hotness and history; what more could you ask for?
January 29, 2021 (Theaters, VoD)
Feature directorial debut by Kourosh Ahari, written by Ahari and Milad Jarmooz, starring Shahab Hosseini (The Salesman), Gia Mora, and George Maguire. End the month on a horror high with this Iranian American psychological thriller about a couple trapped in a hotel room by supernatural phenomena that creepily relate to problems within their marriage (inviting Kubrickian comparisons).