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Dunkirk- Review

Movie Score: 4 out of 5 (Excellent)

Cast: Fion Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, & Cillian Murhpy

Director: Christopher Nolan

Synopsis: In May and June of 1941, the Nazis had surrounded the Allied forces and were pushing them into the sea near the French city of Dunkirk. The only escape for the Allied troops was for the British to shuttle them with a combination of Naval and civilian vessels across the English Channel. However, Nazi Stukas and Messerschmitts thwarted their escape, bombing and gunning down British and French soldiers on the beach and harrying the vessels ferrying them to safety. The movie follows three timelines: 1. The Mole, 2. The Sea, 3. The Air. The segments interweave throughout the movie and provide different perspectives on the Allied retreat. The Mole follows the British troops on the beaches of Dunkirk who are trying to survive the Nazi air attacks long enough to board a ship for home. The Sea tells the story of a father (Mark Rylance), his son, and his son’s friend who take their boat to help rescue the stranded soldiers. The Air runs faster than the previous two segments because its length is one hour, as opposed to 1 week for the Mole and 1 day for the Sea. The Air follows three Spitfire pilots, the main character being Farrier (Tom Hardy) whose mission it is is to protect the Allied troops from the Nazi air attacks.

While I must admit that Dunkirk failed to move me to the extreme it did Saul, I did enjoy Christopher Nolan’s tenth full-length film. With Dunkirk, Nolan, once again, impressively turned conventional storytelling on its head as he did with Memento and The Prestige. Instead of opting to show the film in a linear fashion, Nolan broke the movie into three segments that follow three different groups of characters that all span varying time lengths. One lasted a week, another one day, and, the final one, one hour. Most writers and directors would have dropped the ball trying to work such a convoluted plot into a meaningful and intense story. Yet Nolan does so seamlessly, tying all the groups together into several rewarding climaxes.

Nolan is undeniably an untouchable master of cinema, but I believe the real hero of Dunkirk to be Hans Zimmer. His score kept me on edge throughout the film, even while soldiers just waited for boats to ferry them across the English Channel. Through long pulls on stringed instruments, Zimmer constantly reminded the audience that death lurked just outside the frame, and that Time, constantly present with the ever-ticking clock sound in the background, was scarce as the enemy slowly but continuously tightened the noose around the Allied soldiers. I did not expect Dunkirk‘s score to be one of my favorite parts of the film, yet it was.

Another surprise was Harry Styles. The former One Direction singer played Alex, who despite limited screen time proved to be one of my favorite characters. This surprised me because he shared time with some of my favorite actors: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance and more than held his own. The scene that comes to mind is when a group of British soldiers are trapped in a beached fishing boat that the Nazis are using for target practice. As the tide starts to come in, the ship begins to take on water through the bullet holes in its hull. Believing that they needed to lose weight, Alex accuses the quiet solider, played by Damien Bonnard, of being a German spy. I thought this accusation to be true due to man’s failure to talk up to the point in the film.  Alex verbally attacks the man with the scary conviction of a cornered beast.

It was perilous moments like this, heightened by Zimmer’s score, where I thought the movie shone. Nolan made Dunkirk two things: a war film and a survival film. Its war aspect was what I came for (besides the fact that it is a Nolan film with excellent actors), but it was the survival element that made Dunkirk excellent. All the horrors that befell the Allied troops were believable as were their reactions to death and its ever-impending peril. Whether it was Alex threatening to throw the quiet solider overboard to the Nazis or Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked violent outburst at the prospect of returning to Dunkirk, these actors’ talent combined with Nolan’s camera work and Zimmer’s score made me share these characters’ fear.

Please go see this in IMAX. The sound quality alone is worth the extra five bucks. I felt that the Nazis were bombing my theater.

For trailer, see below.

By Hagood Grantham

 

Dunkirk

Leaving the cinema after watching Dunkirk, I was compelled to write this piece; to write about the importance of what Christopher Nolan has created.

To know Europe, you must understand The Second World War. My parents grew up in the 1960’s playing in bombsites: open wounds across Liverpool even 20 years on. Joy Division and New Order took their names from Nazi projects. My father sometimes recalls neighbours who were veterans of the World Wars, men who left legs behind on a beach during D-Day and others whose minds cracked like china under the strain of trench warfare in France and Belgium. Travelling across Europe for the first time at 19, the Nazis haunted every nation I visited, from Anne Frank’s safe-house in Amsterdam to the crumbling ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. The First World War razed the old Europe, but the pain of the Second World War forged the new.

Since the Ancient Greeks first told myths, the past has been the anchor which moors identity in a sea of clashing collectives. Across Europe, our anchor is weakening as the Second World War ebbs away from living memory onto the shores of textbooks and academia. The train from Birmingham back home stops at a particular station.  Built into the station wall is a memorial to the men from the Railway line who fought and died in both World Wars. The names of the dead stack up to the ceiling, but no one stops to read them.

Dunkirk is a gift to the future, a grain of bottled time giving meaning back to the marble names that dwell in railway stations, parks, monuments, and statues across Europe. When watching Dunkirk we can live in that unfiltered speck of memory. We can experience a time of survival where there is no good or evil, only the enemy who is everywhere yet nowhere, toying with the British as they scrabble for their lives while bombs fall, snipers fire, and submarines sink hospital boats. When death comes, there is no quiet reflection or glory, it is quick and uncaring. Pilots simply disappear and soldiers, flung into the air by Stukha bombers, with their Jericho horns deafening all,  never return to ground. The characters utter little dialogue as few words are needed: the story speaks through Hans Zimmer’s score and Nolan’s vision.  The tale of Dunkirk told in words of sight and sound, is hope in the face of horror. It is the ringing notes of stoicism, the images of heroism, of ships silently sailing to shore and pilots sacrificing themselves which kindled hope for the men trapped ashore, caught between the ocean and the German tide. Hope saved our men, hope saved us.

When the civilian boats quietly prevail and reach Dunkirk’s shores, Zimmer’s rendition of Elgar blares as red sails flutter in the cold Atlantic wind. I was moved. I felt proud  of my country. In a present where Britain seems lost inside itself, we needed the pride Dunkirk brings to remind ourselves of a moment when we stood alone, and vowed to return to our European brothers once more.

Hopefully we will return to Europe again one day.

Hagood’s review of the Dunkirk will be available soon.

By Saul Shimmin

 

 

Dunkirk (2017) – Teaser

The next movie for one of the all-time-great writer-directors, Christopher Nolan, is Dunkirk. The movie is about a little-known battle that took place in the spring of 1940 in Dunkirk, France. The movie stars Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and the legend, Kenneth Branagh. The cinematographer attached to the film is Hoyte Van Hoytema, the man behind of the lens of Interstellar, so audiences are in for a visual treat, at the least.

Hagood’s thoughts:

Admittedly, I know little about this particular battle, but I’m seeing it. No questions asked. My favorite actor, Tom Hardy, is in it, and one of my favorite directors is helming it. I have no doubts that it will be amazing. I’m interested to see if Nolan inserts his signature plot-twist at the end of it since this is a major genre change for him. Even though one could argue Nolan doesn’t work in one genre with his diverse catalogue of movies: Memento, the Dark Knight trilogy, The PrestigeInception, and the most recent Interstellar. I’ll be most disappointed in you if you don’t go see this film.

Saul’s thoughts:

Hagood’s description of Dunkirk as a ‘little-known battle’ reveals not only how narrative is shaped by so many layers, be it identity, culture or nationality, but the risk Warner Brothers has undertaken in committing to this film.

To me, a British person, Dunkirk did shape our world as the trailer declares in text between cuts of soldiers dying in cold water and scrambling for cover on the shore. By June 1940, Germany had overwhelmed France in a matter of weeks. In the British Army’s retreat, Nazi forces trapped them in Calais. The British troops fought in desperation against German encirclement so that they could escape through Dunkirk. Personally, Dunkirk was something close to Pearl Harbour, a defeat transformed into a victory which imbued the country with a resolve to fight on, becoming the island nation that defied the Nazis alone.

I think that sometimes, people outside of Europe forget how much the continent is shaped by World War Two. New Order and Joy Division take their name from Nazi phraseology, Liverpool still had bombsites from German attacks until the 1990’s. During my first time travelling through Europe, each country I visited bore scars from the war.

To keep this review brief, I think this film is going to be a masterpiece. The trailer alone is an intricate encapsulation of the story, conveying so much emotion through sound and vision. The audio beings with a faint of a Jericho trumpet, attached to German Stuka bombers to intimidate those below, which then builds with a stopwatch counting down until we see British soldiers being mowed down by planes above.

All the major World War Two films set in the Western Front have a morality to them. The Allies are on the side of good and the Germans are the incarnate of evil. Even Saving Private Ryan‘s trailer, a film that deals with the horrors of war, ripples with patriotism and good-will. The Nazis were evil and they needed to be stopped. Therefore it is refreshing to see a film that removes the binary trope of us-vs.-them where the soldiers are not heroes but men, who wanted to survive, and go home, just like Cillian Murphy’s character. In the end if you were on that beach, or any front, you probably were not thinking whether the side facing you were good or bad, but whether you would see tomorrow.