Review: Dunkirk

The man who gave audiences Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, The Prestige and Interstellar returns to take audiences back in time to a small, but not insignificant chapter in the history of World War II.

Nazi Germany has enveloped 400,000 French and British soldiers to the beaches of Dunkirk and the possibility of escape is practically perilous in every direction. Pinned to just one location, the enemy takes their time picking off their forces and destroying whatever hope of escape in their wake. Land, sea and air, the Allied Forces are in a bind, and the British government at the order of Prime Minister Churchill has little alternative but to requisition and commandeer civilian water craft to travel across the channel and bring their boys home.

Christopher Nolan’s take on these accounts is segmented into three perspectives on this account of history. The Mole follows a young French and British soldier navigating the beaches trying to find someway back home; The Sea features a father and son and a friend in their sea vessel crossing the channel upon hearing the order to rescue as many men as they can; The Air follows two fighter pilots soaring through the skies above the madness, shooting down German fighter planes bent on sinking anything that floats. These three perspectives all tie together to illustrate the power of the human instinct of survival. These three perspectives are the crux of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

dunkirk-poster

Image by Warner Bros. and Syncopy

Nolan told this story in three parts; I will describe this movie in three words: elegant, explosive and unyielding.

Going into this movie, I was concerned that Nolan’s take on this war story would be too clean and that might hinder its appeal as a war movie when compared to a classic war dramas such as Saving Private Ryan, The Hurt Locker or last year’s Oscar winning Hacksaw Ridge because those movies truly captured the essences of war; the gore, the graphic imagery, the bloodshed, the need to illustrate that war is hell upon seeing it unfold all around the characters for the audiences to witness themselves. Dunkirk was my boom or bust movie of the year and after seeing it, in IMAX which is the way it was intended to be seen, this movie went BOOM! A loud, resonating BOOM upon the senses that did not let up in the slightest!

My concerns going into this movie? Decimated as I watched it unfold before my eyes! Just because Nolan didn’t go excessive on bloodshed, doesn’t mean he hindered this movie; you don’t need blood or grandiose practical effects to illustrate the horrors of war! Every time a bullet fired, I jumped. Every time I saw a bomb go off or a missile or a torpedo down a ship, I was jolted. Every time a dogfight happened in the sky, I held my breath! Every time the situation became more and more dire in these three arcs, the tension just kept building and building and the suspense was as remorseless like the wind and rain in a hurricane! Nolan just brought his strengths as a filmmaker and storyteller to depict a “back against the wall” situation where individuals had to use whatever resources they could to see tomorrow and the need for bodily harm or horror was not necessary in the slightest to accomplish that.

What’s more impressive about Dunkirk is that the enemy’s presence is felt rather than seen. From the first frame, audiences see the little fliers floating from the sky onto the soldiers saying “We surround you!” you don’t see the enemy, but the presence of danger is felt every second and the tension of this film feeds off that tension for strength.

Nolan intended for Dunkirk to be seen as a story of survival and he wrote and executed this core aspect of the picture with extraordinary distinction! The focus of Dunkirk was never about winning, it was about bringing these soldiers home from extreme danger and knowing that in surviving, they were victorious! I had my doubts whether or not he could pull this off but with this powerful script, impeccable execution, the stunning cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema, the awesome music of Hans Zimmer giving this picture atmosphere where dialogue is scarce, the sound effects, Lee Smith’s editing which came together beautifully as the film went on, Nathan Crowley’s production design, Dunkirk is an outstanding achievement in filmmaking and should become the crown jewel in Christopher Nolan’s body of work so far.

This movie isn’t so much about the actors but what the actors do in the film, in these roles. The collection of Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles all do a solid job with the parts they have been given, but the true star of the show is the suspense and the tension that fills up the screen when all of the technical aspects behind the camera come together.

Dunkirk is elegant is how it is shown and heard on screen but the subject matter is brimming with explosive technical execution, resulting in an unyielding cinematic experience that should not be missed! It is the most phenomenal experience I have had this year at the movies!

Advertisements

Movie of the Week: Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan has been one of my favorite filmmakers for years. Whether it is Memento, his prolific Dark Knight trilogy, the ingenious Inception or the spectacular Interstellar, his movies always incite discussion, excitement and fervor among fans, critics and students of cinema. This week, Nolan’s newest project Dunkirk arrives in theaters, attempting to live up to the legacy and adhere to the expectations Nolan has set for himself. In the throws of WWII, 400,000 soldiers are trapped on a beach in Great Britain and the enemy is closing in ready to finish them off. With no way out, there is only one path toward victory: surviving the ordeal before them.

Director and Writer: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Barry Keoghan, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Damien Bonnard, Jack Lowden and James D’Arcy

What am I expecting to see?: It is true that I have been looking forward to Dunkirk, because I am a fan of Nolan’s films, but I believe this is the biggest boom or bust movie of the year because of a multitude of reasons. For starters, as far as war pictures go, this looks clean compared to a film such as Hacksaw Ridge, also I’m unfamiliar with the story of this battle or campaign and it’s significance in World War II. Nolan also claims that this is a survival story but the fact that it is set in war time with war iconography is something I cannot wrest away. I’m looking to be educated and surprised by Dunkirk; it has much to prove.

 

Review: Free Fire

It has most certainly been a while since my last review but I had a good reason for not writing one: there was nothing of interest for me to see lately, so I passed the time by posting news articles. On Friday, I managed to see something interesting in theaters and I thought I think this might be worth a review, so let’s jump right into Free Fire shall we?

From director Ben Wheatley, who wrote this with Amy Jump, Free Fire is a rousing, absurd but moderately entertaining shoot-em-up set in 1978 Boston, where a transaction to procure firearms between two criminal organizations goes horribly, horribly wrong!

Basically, you take a collection of good actors in Arnie Hammer, Sharlto Copely, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Enzo Cilenti, Michael Smiley, Babou Cessay, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, Noah Taylor, Patrick Bergen and Mark Monero, put them in a very volatile situation, put a gun in each of their hands, douse the situation with proverbial gasoline and have one gun go off to light the situation up. Then just sit back and revel in the carnage and let this one thought occupy your mind as you watch the bullets fly: “These people are the worst shots EVER!”

Free Fire won’t make a lot of critical noise, but it certainly isn’t a quiet picture because Wheatley allows the action and pacing of the simple plot to take center stage and the action is enough to keep its audience satisfied. These characters are all shooting at each other, getting shot, squirming around on the ground covered in glass, debris and one guy who is crawling around on the ground gets stuck with a used syringe at one point, but what’s happening and what develops is stimulating enough to keep you engaged with the picture.

I think Ben Wheatley made a very rugged and respectable film. The action is simple but welcome and the pacing of the film is also commendable. The writing is also very refreshing; this was my first time sampling something from Amy Jump and Ben Wheatley and I like what I experienced.

This isn’t exactly a movie to evaluate the actors since no one performance stands apart from the rest but the cast is definitely fun to watch.

Laurie Rose’s cinematography definitely lets you feel like you are in the middle of the action, the editing of Jump and Wheatley are precise; they don’t use any cut or jump to waste a moment, Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury’s music takes something of a backseat to the picture but the use of John Denver music is cool, Emma Fryer’s costumes are on point, Paki Smith’s production, Paul Frost and Nigel Pollock’s art decoration and Liz Griffiths’ set decoration all add to the rich mise-en-scene of the film.

Free Fire may be a low-budget movie, but the action is top-shelf and its overall value is worth the price of admission. I had fun watching Free Fire, and if you have an afternoon to kill and would like to see something silly and surprising, I’d recommend Free Fire to change your pace.