6 Movies Like Operation Napoleon (2023)

Staff & contributors

The directorial debut of Australian twin brothers Danny and Michael Philippou—more popularly known together as the YouTube creators RackaRacka—Talk to Me finds a surprisingly unique way of exploring themes that contemporary horror films have made commonplace. At its heart this is still a movie about one's inability to come to terms with loss, but the emotions that come with this experience are filtered through suburban ennui and the numbing effect that social media has on depictions of tragedy. It's in this specific milieu where Mia (a terrific Sophie Wilde) feels compelled to act irresponsibly and continue inviting a malevolent presence into her life. Her feelings are real, but because her peers and the adults around her aren't the best at being vulnerable, Mia begins to underestimate how destructive her grief really is.

Talk to Me only grows more despairing the longer it goes. But impressively, the film doesn't rely on the usual jump scares and excesses that would normally make a YouTube horror short go viral. The situations escalate organically (if you can suspend a little disbelief for the moments when the characters simply watch terrible things happen) and as the supernatural forces haunting these teenagers get stronger, so do Mia's isolation and her desperation to make up for her mistakes. It's bleak stuff, but sharp direction and great performances (especially from Wilde and young Joe Bird) make this a particularly exciting vision of horror.

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Actor: Alexandra Jensen, Alexandria Steffensen, Ari McCarthy, Chris Alosio, Ethan Payne, Harli Ames, Harry Lewis, Jacek Koman, Jodie Dry, Joe Bird, Josh Bradley, Kelly Butler, KSI, Leeanna Walsman, Marcus Johnson, Mark Duncan, Miranda Otto, Otis Dhanji, Robin Northover, Simon Minter, Sophie Wilde, Tobi Brown, Vik Barn, Zoe Terakes

Director: Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou

Rating: R

With its grounded approach, A Day and a Half feels real, even if the exact events are fictional. Inspired by a couple of lines from a 2008 news article, Fares Fares crafts an intimate family drama for his first directorial debut, built in the bones of a hostage thriller. As a thriller, Fares consistently maintains its suspense, camera eyeing the gun present in most of the film. However, as the cop Lucas tries to defuse the situation with hostage-taker Artan, and the situation escalates to the National Task Force, Artan and Louise confront their broken family, lines opened by improvised hostage negotiations. While Artan’s understandable reasons shouldn’t absolve him of his actions, A Day and a Half effectively builds tension, only relieved at its slightly unrealistic but cathartic ending.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Alexej Manvelov, Alma Pöysti, Annica Liljeblad, Annika Hallin, Daniel Guldstrand, Fares Fares, Richard Forsgren, Stina Ekblad

Director: Fares Fares

When the system messes with you personally, it’s such a powerful fantasy to be able to settle things with your own hands. To be strong enough to retaliate, and once things are settled, to be strong enough to be left alone, not to be messed with. The Black Book depicts this revenge fantasy, reminiscent of Liam Neeson’s Taken, albeit with corrupt police. The Nigerian action thriller isn’t afraid to go hard, with threats of splitting a person in half by a table saw, dramatic shoot-outs, and fight sequences. However, what makes the thriller work is that all these action sequences are intended to be the reckoning of corrupt institutions. There are some messy parts, certain shots that included some bad takes. Despite this, The Black Book still proves to be entertaining enough to forgive these mishaps.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Ade Laoye, Alex Usifo Omiagbo, Bimbo Akintola, Bimbo Manuel, Femi Branch, Iretiola Doyle, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Sam Dede, Shaffy Bello

Director: Editi Effiong

Rating: R

Part sci-fi and part psychological horror, No One Will Save You is an impressive outing that serves as a vehicle for Dever’s one-woman show. She is a powerhouse, a nonstop show of talent that doesn’t seem to run out of fuel. The scenes are grueling and excruciating, they involve a lot of physical, mental, and emotional turmoil, but somehow, Dever rises to the challenge with unbelievable ease. Sure, sci-fi lovers will find much to discuss in these unearthly creatures, and cinephiles will appreciate how the film relies almost solely on sound design and a single line of dialogue. But it’s Dever who does the heavy lifting here, and it’s especially apparent when the film tries, weakly, to delve into Brynn’s psyche and the town’s sociological workings. It’s not as impressive in those regards, but Dever is strong enough an actress to make you forgive the movie’s frailer parts. 

Genre: Horror, Science Fiction, Thriller

Actor: Bridget Malbrough, Dane Rhodes, Dari Lynn Griffin, Elizabeth Kaluev, Emani White, Evangeline Rose, Geraldine Singer, Kaitlyn Dever, Lauren L. Murray, Zack Duhame

Director: Brian Duffield

Rating: PG-13

Operating in a similar style and speed as the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time and Uncut Gems, Freestyle gives us a peek into the seedy underbelly of Poland through the eyes of Diego, a smalltime muscian who slides back into his drug dealing ways when he finds himself short on money. On the sensory front, Freestyle is a thrilling experience. Diego charges the film with palpable anxiety, Kraków’s underground community lights it up in dizzying neon, and the local hip-hop scene backs it with exciting new sounds. It’s a technical feat, but stripped of these elements, Freestyle is nothing more than a predictable crime thriller populated with predictable characters, many of whom, by the way, are thrown in at random points in the movie so that it often gets confusing and infuriating to watch. Despite potentially having something to say about the apathy of youth or the glaring discrepancy between social classes, Freestyle seems solely interested in being a slick crime thriller that has its characters run around in circles to save themselves. It looks good and sounds even better, but without anything substantial holding it up, Freestyle fails to relay an authentic sense of relevance and urgency. 

Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Artur Krajewski, Filip Lipiecki, Hana Nobis, Juliusz Chrząstowski, Krzysztof Zarzecki, Maciej Musiałowski, Michał Balicki, Michał Sikorski, Nel Kaczmarek, Olek Krupa, Patrik Vrbovský, Roman Gancarczyk, Zofia Kowalewska

Director: Maciej Bochniak

Between Overhaul's frequently nonsensical blend of truck racing and vehicular heists, and its focus on found families, the comparisons to the Fast & Furious series are undeniable. This also means that this Brazilian blockbuster is also much less engaging than it thinks it is; the stakes don't feel particularly urgent, and the near indifference of the rest of the world to all this criminal activity means these characters may as well be fantasy heroes. It does, however, have more significantly more color to it than its Hollywood role model, thanks to the gorgeous vistas of Brazil and the unique physical attributes of the big rigs the main characters drive. All things considered, it's pretty novel to have these high-speed chases through more cumbersome vehicles—less flashiness, more brute power.

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Evandro Mesquita, Fumassa Alves, Gillray Coutinho, Leandro Tadeu Gonçalves, Milhem Cortaz, Paulo Vilhena, Raphael Logam, Sheron Menezes, Thiago Martins, Vitória Valentin

Director: Tomás Portella

Rating: R