2017 Summer Movie Review: Dunkirk

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Three British soldiers waiting to be rescued in Christoper Nolan’s Dunkirk. (Source: IMDb)

Who doesn’t love Christopher Nolan? He’s one of the most ambitious yet brilliant filmmakers working today, who has a very unique style relying on the practicality. He is widely known for rebooting the Batman franchise after the dismal Batman and Robin. He often transports the audience to another world in movies such as the mind-bending Inception and the disappointing and overrated Interstellar. His latest film, Dunkirk, is a different approach for Nolan. A film taking place in a historical setting; let alone, World War II. Is there anything he can’t do?

Dunkirk features three storylines set on land, at sea, and in the air, told in non-linear fashion (make sure you pay attention to what’s going on). During the evacuation on the beaches of France, Nazi Germany has surrounded 400,000 men from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France. Among those who are waiting to be rescued are Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (One Direction’s Harry Styles), both of whom are in the British Army. While on the pier, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Col. Winnant (James D’Arcy, Agent Carter) are making sure the soldiers are settling on the ships safely.

Meanwhile, out at sea, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) is driving in his yacht with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney). They rescue a wounded soldier (Cillian Murphy), whose U-boat got hit by a torpedo, while three Spitfire planes—one of them piloted by Farrier (Tom Hardy, who is in a mask again)—fly overhead to keep the Germans out.

It has been said a thousand times, but it’s a fact that every war is hell. Even every war movie depicts them as hell. This is no surprise for Dunkirk. Unlike the graphic nature of Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge, this movie is more of a survival story than anything (hence the PG-13 rating). Nolan takes this incredible story to full advantage with minimal dialogue and tension that never lets up until the end. Hans Zimmer’s outstanding score, like the rest of the movie, resembles a ticking time bomb.

What I appreciated about Dunkirk is the authenticity and realism of its depiction. As stated above, Nolan is known for using more practical effects than CGI, which is rare for a summer blockbuster. Not only is the movie filmed at the actual location of the evacuation, it also features real WWII-era carriers, planes and guns. The action sequences—set in all three locations—are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. It makes the audience feel like they are actually there witnessing these events.

Being their acting debuts, Whitehead and Styles both bring forth such nuanced bravery into their performances as the two British soldiers risking their lives. Featuring such a tremendous cast, the audience sympathizes with the characters while it shifts between these three storylines. It’s an experience that I’ll definitely revisit time and again.

There has never been a movie that hit me harder all year than Dunkirk. This is a suspenseful, emotional roller-coaster ride. Even Peter Travers went as far as calling it “the greatest war film ever”, which is saying a lot. Dunkirk is definitely up there with some of the greats. I would be surprised if it receives little recognition at this year’s Oscars. It’s easily a front-runner for Best Picture. The question is: Will Christopher Nolan receive his first nomination as director? We’ll just have to wait and see.

4/4

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Movie Review: Free Fire

 

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A group of people try to buy some guns in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. (Source: IMDb)

A year after the dystopian film High-Rise, director Ben Wheatley teams up with an ensemble cast. Something with a straightforward narrative yet ambitious style. Something featuring characters who have a loud mouth, a quick wit, yet terrible aim. Free Fire is one of those movies where it should have work as a thirty-minute short film than a ninety-minute feature length film. What Mad Max: Fury Road did for the open road, The Breakfast Club for the school, and Gravity for outer space, Free Fire sets entirely at an abandoned warehouse. I wish it captivated me more than it should have.

The year is 1978. Two IRA specialists—Chris (Cillian Murphy) and Frank (Michael Smiley)—meet up with Ord (Armie Hammer), Justine (Brie Larson), among others outside a warehouse in Boston. They are trying to settle a deal with buying guns from South African arms dealer Vern (Sharlto Copley) and former Black Panther Martin (Babou Ceesay). Tensions begin to rise between the two groups of people, resulting in a massive shootout.

Wheatley succeeds with bringing the 1970s culture to life. With the crazy hairstyles, sideburns, outfits, and the music ranging from Creedence Clearwater Revival to John Denver. The fast-paced editing of the warehouse shootout makes it seem as if you are in the middle of it all. The amount of violence, profanity and dark humor is almost reminiscent to the films of Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese (who is also the executive producer of Free Fire). Every actor is having a blast here (particularly Copley and Hammer stealing the show), shooting it up and exchanging some great dialogue, even going as far as taking part in some dangerous stunts. However, they hardly breathe any life into their characters. By the end, making the audience care less on who gets killed.

While far from being A24’s best film, it’s impossible not to have any fun with Free Fire. However, the tension falters a bit through the second act. The bullets don’t stop flying until it’s over. I can’t listen to John Denver the same way ever again.

2.5/4