Talking Movies

July 28, 2017

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan follows his longest film with his shortest since his 1998 debut Following, with which it shares a tricky approach to time and story.

France is sucker-punched and on its way to falling. The British Expeditionary Force is leaving it to its fate and retreating through the only open port, Dunkirk, that England might still have an army with which to fight on. On the Mole Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) and Colonel Winnant (James D’Arcy) spend a week organising the evacuation of soldiers, with the difficulty of a shallow beach and one quay making a perfect target for Stuka dive-bombers. On a Little Ship Dawson (Mark Rylance) pilots his way across the Channel over a long day, with son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and stowaway George (Barry Keoghan). On a ticking clock of one hour’s fuel RAF aces Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) attempt to fend off some of the Lutwaffe’s endless attacks on the beach and convoys. Their stories intersect tensely, complexly.

Nolan hasn’t made as abstract a film as this since Following. To a large degree the presence of some Nolan repertory and a host of familiar faces lends a degree of depth to the characterisation not perhaps there simply in the spare scripting. And it is spare. The majority of screen time belongs to Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), who meet on the desolate beach, and try to stay alive thru repeated attacks, and the dubious comradeship of Alex (Harry Styles). And for the majority of their screen time, they are silent. But the film is not. Viewed in IMAX this is absolutely deafening, with Hans Zimmer’s score interrogating the line with sound design as it throws anachronistic synth blasts amidst the ticking pocket-watch effect, and, startlingly, quotes Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ Variation at high points of tension and release.

On his second collaboration with Hoyte Van Hoytema it’s still unclear whether he and Nolan are less interested in the shadows and earth tones of Wally Pfister’s palate or simply have lucked into two stories that required large swathes of white and blue. One thing that looks unique is the aerial dogfights, IMAX cameras attached to Spitfires these have a dizzying sense of reality: this is a pilot’s eye-view of combat and it’s madly disorienting. And, as the inevitability of Hardy’s choice to not return from France approaches, symptomatic of this film’s remarkable sense of dread. You can no more criticise Nolan for not following the Blake Snyder beats than you could attack Jackson Pollock for failing at figurative art. He can do that supremely well, he’s choosing not to. And making you look, follow, and feel without using words.

And, without using any words, Nolan plays a game with time that makes Dunkirk a film that will amply repay repeat viewings. As the timelines intersect you realise that events that looked simple are a lot more complicated, sometimes even the reverse of what you thought you’d understood. And the same is true for characterisation. At times it feels like Nolan is answering the tiresome critics who attacked Inception and Interstellar for having too much exposition, even as they complained they couldn’t understand them – for all the explanations. And, if those critics insist on taking the ridiculous Billington on Stoppard line of Nolan being all head and no heart, he has the ultimate conjuring trick; Nolan makes us care, with our guts in knots, for people whose names we’re not even sure about, let alone their back-story and motivations.

Nolan has taken a touchstone of British culture and produced a film with a lean running time but a Lean epic quality by viewing the world-changing through the personal.

5/5

January 17, 2017

Hopes: 2017

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John Wick: Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves’s unstoppable assassin returns,

with a new dog in the mix,

and old mentors and enemies.

 

The Fate of the Furious

Don’t the Furious need Walker?

Will Helen Mirren win an Oscar here?

Can the nonsense still prevail?

 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2

Elizabeth Debicki joins the cast,

can James Gunn sprinkle more comedy gold,

to again disguise Marvel formula?

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Wonder Woman

Snyder co-wrote the story but…

Geoff Johns and OC writer wrote script,

can Diana’s solo movie soar?

 

Dunkirk

Christopher Nolan shoots on film,

shoots Germans shooting at beached British soldiers ,

can retreat be cinematically heroic?

 

Baby Driver

Edgar Wright makes a film!

But why cast Ansel Elgort as driver?

And why call driver Baby?

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Salt and Fire

Werner Herzog does volcanoes fictionally,

Michael Shannon and Diego Luna butt heads,

but this is not Pompeii.

 

Golden Exits

Alex Ross Perry hits Brooklyn,

reunites with Jason Schwartzman for family dramas,

with a mostly female cast.

 

Death Note

Adam Wingard directs a remake,

but oddly the original sounds like Lullaby,

is Palahniuk big in Japan?

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Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig finally directs again!

Saoirse Ronan’s comedic adventures in Northern California.

Who needs Noah Baumbach anyway?

 

Wind River

Taylor Sheridan writes AND directs!

Sicario man drops deserts for snowy wastes,

teams FBI and Native Americans.

 

Blade Runner 2049

Denis Villeneuve does more sci-fi,

with the blessing of Ford, Scott, Fancher,

Ryan Gosling the new Ford.

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Goldstone

Ivan Sen made Mystery Road,

Measured, beautiful, and suspenseful Aussie crime thriller,

and now here’s his sequel.

 

The Glass Castle

Destin Cretton adapts acclaimed memoir,

starring Brie Larson who commanded Short Term 12,

this should be something icy.

 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Grieving Frances McDormand freaks out,

attacks Woody Harrellson and Sam Rockwell’s cops,

yes, it’s Martin McDonagh’s repertory.

 

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Under the Silver Lake

It Follows meets Raymond Chandler,

Andrew Garfield investigates stranger than usual case,

Riley Keough is the femme fatale.

 

Vox Lux

Brady Corbet shoots on 65mm,

Rooney Mara’s pop star scored by Sia,

his first feature was… imposing.

December 29, 2015

Christopher Nolan heads for Dunkirk

We’ve had the release date of July 21 2017 for some time, and now finally the riddle wrapped inside an enigma has been answered; Christopher Nolan’s next movie is an action epic about Dunkirk.

Nolan will direct Dunkirk from his own original screenplay. Greg Silverman, President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production at Warner Bros, described the movie as an epic action thriller set during the legendary evacuation. Nolan regular Tom Hardy is in talks to join the cast, along with Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance, but, for the first time since Following, Nolan’s ensemble will be led by unknown young actors. But some things never change: Nolan and wife Emma Thomas will produce, and the large scale film will be shot on a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large format film photography for maximum image quality and high impact immersion.

Director Joe Wright provided a hallucinatory vision of Dunkirk in Atonement‘s signature long-take in 2007; which incredibly came about for the same reason as Orson Welles’ celebrated long-take in Touch of Evil, a cheat to save time and money. But Nolan will have considerably more resources behind his vision. ​Warner Bros. Pictures is distributing Dunkirk theatrically on IMAX, 70mm, 35mm and all other screens, and when Nolan begins shooting in May he’ll be using many of the real locations of the events which form the historical background for the fictional story. The WB’s ​Silverman stated “We are thrilled to be continuing our collaboration with Christopher Nolan, a singular filmmaker who has created some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful films of all time. Dunkirk is a gripping and powerful story and we are excited to see Chris, Emma and their cast realize it on the big screen.”

It’s safe to say that nobody really saw this turn of creative direction coming. Nolan’s features comprise two diabolically constructed crime thrillers, an equally intricately structured piece about duelling magicians, a hard science fiction epic, a dazzlingly layered adventure about unconscious larceny, and three totemic Bat-films. And now a war movie… It will be interesting to see exactly what Nolan has planned in making a war movie about a deeply resonant episode in British history, where a nigh miraculous escape from a disastrous military foray almost instantly saw the process of cultural mythologising started by JB Priestley’s radio encomium.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/archive/dunkirk/14310.shtml

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