2017 Summer Movie Review: Dunkirk


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.



Movie Review: Cinderella

Lily James and Richard Madden in Kenneth Branagh's live-action rendition of "Cinderella"

Lily James and Richard Madden in Kenneth Branagh’s live-action rendition of “Cinderella”

Since 2010, with the release of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Disney is remaking their classic films for the new generation. But, they don’t quite live up to their original source material. Last year’s Maleficent was a prime example losing of its focus. Even though it wasn’t bad, not to mention Angelina Jolie’s devilishly evil performance as the title role, it didn’t live up to the hype. Now in 2015, we get a new live-action rendition of the 1950 Disney classic Cinderella. What a delightful surprise! Director Kenneth Branagh (Thor) and screenwriter Chris Weitz capture the fairy tale with a few twists while keeping it old-fashioned and beautiful without overstuffing with CGI effects.

Because I hardly remember the Disney version (I might have seen it when I was really little), doesn’t mean I’m not familiar with the story. Following the death of her parents (Hayley Atwell and Ben Chaplin), Ella (Lily James, Downton Abbey) is forced to live with her evil stepmother Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) and her stepsisters Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger). She endures the abuse from them (not to mention giving the name Cinderella) and she spends most of her time doing her chores around the house. She starts to lose hope until Kit, a prince (Richard Madden, Game of Thrones), announces to the public that he is holding a ball at his palace so he can have an ideal mate. This gives Cinderella the opportunity to meet the love of her dreams and fall in love. She loses her glass slipper at the palace, and…you know what happens next.

I didn’t expect Cinderella to be something spectacular. It’s not like Snow White and the Huntsman or Maleficent where it’s a much darker take on the source material. This is a much more faithful take on a whimsically beloved fairy tale. The cinematography is simply gorgeous, and the sets and costumes are ravishing. With a gifted cast including Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter (genuinely amusing as the Fairy Godmother), I cannot picture a better actress to play Cinderella other than Lily James. Not only is she drop-dead gorgeous, she also gives a lot of heart from the very beginning. A lot of people have been wondering if her waist was computer-generated while wearing the dress. Because the skirt is so big, her waist is actually that small. Lily James had to have a diet in order to fit in that dress. Gosh, does it look so good on her!?

Featuring a wonderful score by Patrick Doyle, Cinderella perfectly blends wit and emotion with the theme, as said by Cinderella’s mother early in the film, “Have courage and be kind.” This is the first great movie of 2015.