Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Dunkirk (2017)

Image is property of Warner Bros and Syncopy

Dunkirk – Film Review

Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles

Directors: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: With the enemy surrounding them and closing in, the Allied forces are stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, and their hopes of survival appear completely remote, barring an astonishing miracle…

Review: As a director, Christopher Nolan’s films have explored a variety of genres and topics, from deep space exploration, to dreams within dreams, within dreams, to a man who dresses up as a bat to clean up his city from crime. So for his next project, Nolan clearly fancied straying into new waters by making a war movie, one that specifically focuses on one small week in the heart of the Second World War, focusing on what has become known as the Miracle of Dunkirk. It was naturally intriguing to see what a director who has become so revered could do with this topic. With any project he directs, Nolan manages to leave a lasting impression on the audience, and with his latest, it’s another masterclass from Nolan.

It is May 1940, and with a total of around 400,000 men stranded on this beach, with boats to rescue them in scarce supply, their situation looks bleaker and bleaker with every hour that passes. Nolan chooses to tell this story from three different perspectives: Air, sea and land. And through what is what a remarkably short running time for a Nolan film (106 minutes) we watch as these three differing story-lines witness what is a defining moment in British history. Through sparse dialogue, Nolan takes his audience on an intense gripping journey as we watch these characters either battling for survival, doing whatever they can to save as many lives as possible, or flying a plane trying to down enemy planes.

CGI has become very prominent in modern day movie making, but Nolan here uses practical effects as much as he can, and it really adds so much authenticity to the story he is trying to tell. The planes, the boats and the like are all ones that were used in World War II, and filming in practical locations, including Dunkirk itself only adds so much more to the authenticity. The cinematography from Hoyte van Hoyetma, re-teaming with Nolan after Interstellar is flawless once again. The film’s editing is also terrific, it heightens the tension. And of course the score provided by Hans Zimmer is of the superb standard that one would expect from one of the world’s greatest film composers.

The extensive research that Nolan made on the operation ensures historical accuracy up to a point, but as the characters are not based on any real life people. Yet the characters that Nolan does use to tell this story are not as well utilised as they could have been. With such talented actors such as Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy among others, the development on these characters is kept to a minimum, which is undeniably frustrating, but for the sake of the story, it does make sense. Though having said that, Fionn Whitehead has the most development, and for all the intrigue and raised eyebrows that followed when he was cast, Harry Styles demonstrated that he could definitely have a future in acting, with a very impressive debut performance.

Above all though, Nolan really demonstrates what is meant by the term “Dunkirk Spirit,” fierce determination in the face of very long odds. The story is perhaps not as thorough on the specifics of the evacuation but it certainly provides you with enough detail that will make you eager to go home and do some research. The lack of character development is frustrating, and the acting is not on par with say an Imitation Game. However, for nail biting intense war scenes, Nolan certainly gives such other WW2 films like Hacksaw Ridge and Saving Private Ryan a damn good run for their money, with an important history lesson thrown in for good measure.

Telling a story that needs to be told, and telling it with real authenticity that is gripping throughout, whilst conveying important themes, and a great attention to historical detail.

 

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Free Fire (2017)

Image is property of Film4 Productions, BFI, Rook Films Protagonist Pictures and StudioCanal UK

Free Fire– Film Review

Cast: Sharlto Copley, Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Armie Hammer, Jack Reynor, Enzo Cilenti

Director: Ben Wheatley

Synopsis: Two parties meet in an old abandoned warehouse to complete a deal to buy some guns. However when the deal goes awry, the bullets begin to fly…

Review: Whenever you have a set up in a film that consists of several groups of people meeting up in a disused warehouse/factory to negotiate the sale of some weapons, appropriately enough in the case, some guns, chances are that something will go amiss. Tensions will flare for one reason or another, some folks will get angry and before you know it we have one absolutely mental shootout that has every single character fighting to stay alive.

Before those bullets fly however, we’re introduced rather quickly to our core group of characters. On one side you have Cillian Murphy as an Irishman who’s looking to buy the guns from and Sharlto Copley’s very thick accented Vernon, in a deal that has been facilitated by Justine (Brie Larson) and Ord (Armie Hammer) . The script, co-written by director Ben Wheatley and Amy Jump does its best to flesh out the characters, which it does well for some, but less so for others. Copley’s arms dealer is perhaps the shining light of this unpleasant mob. He’s a man who’s clearly got the eye for Justine, despite his less than pleasant attempts to flirt with her, amusing to the audience perhaps but less so for Justine. However, the pleasantries do not last for long, and soon enough everyone is armed and ready to kill,  and a fight to be the last man (or woman?) standing ensues.

Immediate, the film has the feel as if it was a film that was made in the era that it’s set, it has a real 1970s vibe to it. Wheatley and Jump’s script is filled with some very funny moments, with some superb lines of dialogue that feel almost as if Mr Tarantino himself wrote them. Speaking of, there will no doubt be comparisons to Reservoir Dogs given the premise and the similarity that everyone is soon turning on one another to create multiple Mexican stand off-ish situations. Except there’s no squad of men in your standard suits, as the clothes this time are a little bit more garish.

When the shooting is taking place it is gripping for the most part, however there are moments where the films lapses in terms of pace as the various crews lick their wounds in-between firing off a round of bullets, many of which do not find their targets. The nature of the shootouts are very stop-start with a lot of angry talking and yelling from the characters in between the exchanges of bullets and angry curse words being hurled, and lots of hobbling around desperately seeking cover from the bullets raining down upon them.

Wheatley helms the action by and large pretty well, the scenes are well cut together and the editing in scenes where there bullets are raining down is really well done. At the start, the tension is built really well as you know that someone is going to get trigger happy at a moment’s notice. Yet this tension is not maintained throughout the firestorm that ensues. The great humour and angry insults that the characters hurl at each other keeps the story going but for a 90 minute feature, it does drag at times, which given the premise of bullets here, bullets there and bullets everywhere is perplexing, but when the film does finally reach its conclusion, it’s a satisfying one that ensures it hits in target and in style too.

A stylish fusion of comedy and action, with some very quotable dialogue and mostly pulsating action sequences ensures that for the most part hits its target with precision.