Gosford Park: One could easily mistake director Robert Altman for a misanthrope; his dark humor (famously displayed in M*A*S*H* and The Player) borders on meanness, while the parabolic ironies of a film like Nashville throw the audience off balance. "Is this guy making fun of the human condition?" we wonder.
Guy Ritchie's Snatch, a British comedy (at least some of the audience was laughing), puts its disregard for human life right up front. We watch a jewel heist and massacre, some brutal beatings and a guy getting his face smashed with a hammer--all during the credits.
Steven Soderbergh's Traffic places international drug trade in the broadest possible context, taking viewers into the lives of various people touched by cocaine trafficking. The film's tight script--an extraordinary balance by screenwriter Steven Gaghan of disparate storylines--and Soderbergh's terse, jumpy direction make it a riveting journey.