Movie review: Dunkirk

Movie reviews

Hello!

A movie, that needs no introduction, has reached theaters, so let’s talk about it. This is the review of Dunkirk.

IMDb summary: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire, and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Before we start discussing the film, I’d like to remind you that there already is a picture about Dunkirk, released in 2017 – Their Finest. It’s a completely different but as interesting take on the ‘event that shaped the Western world’. Also, my previous review of a Nolan film is the one for Interstellar.

Christopher Nolan

Both written and directed by Nolan, Dunkirk is the highly acclaimed director’s 10th feature film. It has already been labeled as his best film as well as a ‘masterpiece’ of modern cinema. With all of these accolades in mind, my expectations have also been really high. And while I certainly wasn’t let down, I haven’t been blown away either.

Writing

Dunkirk’s writing is unique (as should be expected from Nolan – the master storyteller) in that the film doesn’t tell a story of the evacuation but rather recreates the evacuation. The staples of the narrative, like the extensive dialogue or the character development, are mostly absent from the movie and the glimpses of the personal stories are scarcely dispersed throughout the intense action scenes. I believe that the lack of the character development actually serves the movie right because that makes the viewer see the characters as nobodies – a faceless mass of interchangeable soldiers – which is what they actually were. I did miss Nolan’s great dialogue, though, even if this film’s setting didn’t really call for it.

Even though, the picture doesn’t have much in terms of narrative, the plot that is in the film is told in a non-linear way (again, as it should be expected from Nolan). However, there isn’t too much of jumping around (Dunkirk is no Memento). The three main plot threads – the land, the air, and the sea – provide different and interesting perspectives on the evacuation but I wish that these viewpoints were wider within themselves. For example, I wanted to see the faiths of more than a few soldiers, or more than two planes, or more than just one civilian boat.

Another interesting choice that is made in the script is the decision to never call out the nationality of the enemy. Never once in the picture, do we hear the words ‘Germans’ or ‘Nazis’. It’s always ‘the enemy’. Is that the political correctness of today bleeding into a WW2 film or is the eternal shame and guilt of the German nation is slowly coming to an end?

Directing

Christopher Nolan has always been amazing at visuals and he proves that again with Dunkirk. The whole film feels, more or less, like the expanded version of the Saving Private Ryan opening beach sequence, with the levels of dread, fear, and destruction, never dipping below the maximum. The intensity is palpable, while the emotions – heart-wrenching. From a purely aesthetic view, the shots are masterfully composed, both in the air, on land, or in the water. To my mind, Dunkirk might not be his best film, but it is certainly a great-looking one.

Music

An element of Dunkirk that sometimes rivals the visuals as its best part, is the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (a longtime creative partner of Nolan’s). The master composer (I feel like I used the word ‘master’ too much already) surpasses the sky high expectations and delivers an emotional, eerie, thrilling, and haunting score. The sounds of the bombs are so crisp and clear that one can definitely hear if their cinema’s sound system is lacking in quality (I’m not pointing any fingers).

Acting

Dunkirk has an extensive ensemble cast, full of newcomers as well as seasoned A-listers. All of them deliver excellent if brief performances. On land, we follow Fionn Whitehead (in his first film role), Aneurin Barnard (a Welshman playing a Frenchman disguised as an Englishman) and an ex-1D member and a successful solo artist Harry Styles. Nolan has claimed to not have known about Styles’ fame before casting him in the film. I find that doubtful because Nolan has a teenage daughter who might (must) have known who he was. Also, even if she (or he) wasn’t a fan, the 1D craze a few years back far exceed the limits of the fandom and was absolutely everywhere, so Nolan should have definitely at least have heard about him. Anyways, for whatever reason Styles was cast in the picture, he did act as a somewhat box office draw, as evident by a mother-daughter duo, who sat next to me in the cinema and could not shut up when his face showed up on screen. On a side note, I didn’t see anyone complaining about his involvement in the film or that his ‘famous face’ took the viewer out of the movie, but, somehow, Ed Sheeran signing three lines on Game of Thrones is a disaster that breaks the fictional world’s continuum?

Back to the cast I was discussing in the first place, the ‘land’ portion of the plot also had Kenneth Branagh (director of Cinderella and the upcoming Murder on the Orient Express) and James D’Arcy (Agent Carter) as two officers of exposition and trailer one liners. The ‘on the sea’ perspective had Mark Rylance (whose career really took off only in 2015 with Bridge of Spies, then The BFG, and soon Ready Player One), accompanied by a screen newcomer Tom Glynn-Carney and a bit more experienced Barry Keoghan. A longtime creative partner of Nolan’s  Cillian (Free Fire) also appeared in the film, in the probably the most fleshed out role. The ‘air’ part of the plot was acted out by Jack Lowden and another of Nolan’s usuals – Tom Hardy (Mad Max, Legend, The Revenant) with his face half-obscured as always.

In short, while I might not think that Dunkirk is a masterpiece, I unquestionably agree that it is a great film. The visuals are stellar, the acting is effective, and the writing – full of bold choices that I might not like but can and do appreciate.

Rate: 4,3/5

Trailer: Dunkirk trailer

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Movie review: The Big Short

Movie reviews

Hi!

This is another movie review of the Oscar season. I had a chance to see The Big Short, nominated for 5 Academy Awards, just before I left my home country, so this is another review, written in an airport, on my way to the UK. Hope you will enjoy it.

IMDb summary: Four denizens of the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Writing and Story

The Big Short’s script was written by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay, who also directed the picture. The only film, created by Randolph, that I have seen is Love & Other Drugs – not that original romantic comedy. McKay has also mainly worked in the comedy business alongside Will Ferrell. And although I am not the biggest fan of comedies, I believe that the comedic background of both of these screenwriters helped them a lot, when tackling such a dry and boring issue as an economic crisis. The way they would explain complicated parts of the film by inserting a funny clip of famous people (Margot Robbie, Selena Gomez, Richard Thaler and Anthony Bourdain) was a very interesting choice, however, it took me out of the film a few times, because the narrative cohesion disappeared. The constant breaking of the 4th wall also did not help the viewer to stay in the film’s world.

The film provided a very sarcastic critique of capitalism. All of the people represented in the movie were quite horrible, even our supposed ‘heroes’ of the story – the crisis was a very hypocritical business and that’s how it was presented in the film. Human vices like greediness and just a plain old stupidity were also portrayed. I also enjoyed the film’s idea that money never helps people but ruins them: money does not make the world go round, it destroys it. I strongly agree with this statement and was glad to see it depicted on screen. The only minus for me in the narrative was the fact that the film was very US based, while the actual aftermath of the crisis had a global reach. Only in a single scene has a character mentioned that some European countries are also crumbling because of the things that Americans did.

I also enjoyed how the narrative was organized and divided into 3 separate stories, all revolving around and building up to the same event. The event – the actual start of the economic crisis in 2008 – was a very depressing and unpleasant ending to the film and it kinda made me feel sick after watching the movie. So, despite the fact that this picture is really funny, this is not a Friday night type of a chill comedy. The part that angered me the most was the fact that rich people never had to pay as much as poor people. And that’s why we need to come up with a new way to organize economy because capitalism clashes with our human nature. And don’t think that by saying things which are against capitalism, I somehow believe in communism – I have lived in a post-communist society and it is not pretty. Basically,  I think we need a new and completely fresh ideology.

This script was based on the 2010 book of the same name by Michael Lewis. Lots of people’s and companies’ names have been changed in the film, however, all of the characters are still based on real people and the overall film and book are inspired by real events, whose presence is still felt today to some extent.

Directing

At the beginning of the film, I thought that the cinematography and constant shifting of the camera and the focus were a bit amateurish as I am used to smooth panning of the camera. However, as the film went on, I realized that this type of filming was a creative choice. I cannot say that I liked it but I definitely respected this different type of filming.

Editing

Editing is not usually the part of the film, which I discuss, however, The Big Short’s editing was quite important to the overall film. Not only did the creators of this movie used inserts with celebrities, explaining difficult economic terms, they also over-saturated the film with montages of random everyday life clips, media coverage, and music videos. However, the opening montage (history recap) and the quotes, appearing on screen, were both nice finishing touches. The other montages were definitely a lot to take in and a bit crazy to watch but they helped the film to prove its main point. In short, the film was both an example of continuity and discontinuity editing. It had discontinuous inserts in the continuous narrative.

Acting

1st story:

  • Christian Bale as Dr. Michael Burry – a neurologist who has become the manager of the hedge fund Scion Capital. Bale hs always been an amazing actor, starring both in the mainstream films like The Dark Knight trilogy as well as awards contenders, like American Hustle. I also liked him in Exodus, despite the whole whitewashing scandal, but my favorite movie of his is Nolan’s The Prestige. He was also really good in the role of Burry – I liked his confident personality and over-the-top work aesthetic. Bale has a few movies coming out this year and he will also voice one of the characters in Serkis’s Jungle Book: Origins coming out in 2017.

2nd story:

  • Steve Carell as Mark Baum – a manager of Wall Street hedge fund FrontPoint Capital. Carell was also really great in the role, he was probably the nicest character in the whole film, because he actually felt bad for other people. The first time that I’ve seen Carell in a film was back in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine. He has also starred in one of my favorite comedies Crazy, Stupid, Love alongside his The Big Short co-star Ryan Gosling. Carell has had a few good years regarding the awards season – he was nominated for Foxcatcher last year – and this streak might continue, because he is starring in a Woody Allen’s film this year and Allen’s films tend to get recognition from the academy. 
  • Ryan Gosling as Jared Vennett – a self-interested salesman at Deutsche Bank and the narrator of the film. Also, the most charming character of the film – Gosling did an amazing job and should have gotten more recognition for this role. I have recently watched a different film, starring Gosling, called Drive (my dad actually recommend it to me). He was really good in it and delivered a very nuanced performance. The Ides of March is also a great political drama with Gosling in a lead. I am also very interested in Gosling’s next project – La La Land – it’s a musical coming out this summer.

3rd story:

  • John Magaro as Charlie Geller and Finn Wittrock as Jamie Shipley – founders of Brownfield fund. They did a good job in the roles – I really liked the fact that they were new to this game and still were able to figure out the lie. I am not familiar with both of these actors’ work, although, I can tell you that Magaro has been in another awards’ contender Carol and Wittrock has starred in Noah and Unbroken (he will also be in the aforementioned La La Land).
  • Brad Pitt as Ben Rickert – Charlie and Jamie’s trader and mentor. Pitt was also one of the producers of the film and did an amazing job as always. He was one of the most humane characters, since he was an outsider of the system. I have recently seen Pitt in Jolie’s By The Sea. While I was quick to dismiss that film at first, it kinda grew on me, so I definitely recommend it.

All in all, while economics was the most boring subject for me at school and while I always skip economy news on TV or online, I had a great time watching The Big Short – it was a bit random and weird at times, but all the different pieces somehow all worked together. The narrative and the action were amazing. The directing and the editing – cool but not to my taste. The film definitely was a bit depressing, so keep that in mind when going to see it. I do not think that it will win any Academy Awards, but it certainly deserves the nominations it has received.

Rate: 4.25/5

Trailer: The Big Short trailer

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Movie review: Interstellar

Movie reviews

Hello!

On Monday, I went to see Interstellar – the newest film by the genius Christopher Nolan and this is going to be my review. Sorry that it comes out 4 days later than it should have – my PC crashed once again. SPOILERS AHEAD.

IMDb Summary: A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in an attempt to find a potentially habitable planet that will sustain humanity.

First of all, let’s begin by saying that I knew almost absolutely nothing about the film before going to see it. I have watched the trailer but deliberately didn’t read any of the reviews or articles about it. Only piece of information I had was that this was a Nolan movie and that was enough for me to get excited. Moreover, I enjoyed last year’s Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (you cannot not talk about Gravity when talking about Interstellar; everybody will compare them because they came out so close to each other).  I also wanted to see if McConaissance is continuing and was curious, whether this was Anne Hathaway‘s role that will finally stop all the hate she is getting.

Directing

As I have previously said and you have already probably known if you live on this Earth and go on the Internet regularly, this movie is directed by Christopher Nolan. I called him genius in my introduction because I really admire his work, The Dark Knight is a peak of superhero movies and simply a masterpiece, Inception is a psychological mystical thriller that questions reality and Interstellar is a bit of both.  It has the ability to question people’s existence like Inception and also an emotional impact of The Dark Knight. I really want to watch other, older Nolan movies, like Memento, Following, and Insomnia. He is probably the only director that big studious trust with huge amounts of money (Interstellar has cost $165 million) and a lot of creative freedom. This movie is an original idea in a reboot, sequel and spin-off world. I hope that this Warner Bros-Nolan relationship will continue because it has been working great so far.

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Acting

Matthew McConaughey was amazing in his role as Cooper. The McConaissance continues. I hope he will receive at least an Oscar nomination. While I might think that the whole movie won’t get a Best Picture nomination (more about that later) he definitely deserves another Best Actor nomination and/ or another win (however, the competition is really strong this year – actually, it is getting stronger every year). The reason why I believe he should be nominated is that he sold the emotional connection between the father and daughter. You were really rooting for him to come back to his family. His scenes in space while piloting a ship or crashing one were also really well acted and believable.

Anne Hathaway’s character Brand wasn’t my favorite in the film and you know why? Because she just reminded me so much of Sandra Bullock. They both even look kind of the same. And I didn’t really understand some of her decisions when they were in space, they seemed a bit stupid. Although, her character was right in the end: They should have gone to the third planet because that one was survivable. I love Anne as an actress (even did a whole post about her), but they could have casted someone else instead of her.

INTERSTELLAR

Mackenzie Foy, who you might remember as Renesmee from Twilight saga, was really good in her role as young Murph. She sold the other part of the father- daughter relationship and I believe that she will go far as an actress. Jessica Chaistan who played the adult Murph was also really good; I could believe that Foy could grow up looking someone like Chaistan, so good casting of that role. I wasn’t familiar with Chaistan’s work before but I really want to know more about her and to watch more of her work – she got me hooked.

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Michael Caine wasn’t a particularly likeable character and I didn’t really connect with him much. He wasn’t used enough as in his other recent film – Stonehearst Asylum (review).

TARS voiced by Bill Irwin was such a likeable robot, I loved his humor.

Wes Bentley was quite good in his role as well but, when SPOILER they killed him off,  I wasn’t really surprised. They definitely weren’t planning to kill off Oscar winners or fan boy favorites in the first hour of a 3 hour film.

Murph’s science partner/ love interest (?) was also a so-so character; he kind of appeared out of nowhere two hours into the film. He was played by Topher Grace and, after googling him, I had found out that he was Murph’s husband,.

Cooper’s son played by “the other Affleck” (Casey Affleck) was also an undeveloped character. It seemed that his father forgot all about him or even didn’t care much in the first place.

Matt Damon as Doctor Mann was really good in his role but his intention were unclear to me.

Addressing the longevity of the film, it didn’t seem too long for me because I was really engaged in the story. However, I do believe that the first two hours felt quite disconnected from the final act.

Story

The film tried to connect 2 different plotlines: family drama and astronomy/end of the world crisis. I believe that they really succeed for the bigger part of the film. At first, they started with a family story that quite coincidentally turned into a space odyssey. Then they moved to a science fiction part of the film and exposed the viewers to a tremendous amount of real scientific facts about the universe. But then, the movie kind of lost it for me because it ventured into mystical and supernatural territory. Everybody, who has seen the movie, knows which part I am talking about. While I do love physics and astronomy and believe that people will be able to understand dimensions and space-time as physical elements and will reach huge scientific heights someday, I couldn’t wrap my head around it at that very moment. I had the same problems with Luc Besson’s Lucy with Scarlet Johansson. Do you remember the scene where she is transferring her brain, which is working 100 percent, into a computer? And that computer turns into…. I don’t even know how to describe it. But in both cases, I felt that the ending was too detached, too unrealistic and too unimaginable for a human mind and even a bit illogical. And the concluding idea that love is the most powerful and, moreover, a quantifiable element tried to turn movie back to a family drama storyline but didn’t succeed. It sounds like I am nitpicking the movie but I actually really liked it and I am only thinking how Nolan could have made it even better. I had the same problem with another Nolan movie The Prestige
– the mivie was so grounded and the ending was completely out of the ordinary. Still, it’s a great film that messed my mind up (in a good way.)

I don’t have a favorite scene of the film because there were just so many great ones both visually and story wise; I do have a favorite scientific part of the motion picture – relativity theory. The running of time and different speeds of it fascinate me. I like to imagine that people will learn how to manipulate time and that we will learn how to live forever by travelling to places were time runs slower.

Visuals

The visuals of the space were breathtaking and that flying thought the wormhole scene was one of the most beautiful shot scenes I have ever seen. They also did an amazing job with Earth’s scenes and really established it as a horrible place to live.

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Music

I loved the musical score of the film by Hans Zimmer. It was even more memorable for me than Inception’s dunnnnn (Inception sound effect).

All in all, I had a great time watching this film, though some people didn’t like it as much (it has the lowest score of all Nolan movies on Rotten Tomatoes and critics aren’t super nice – that’s why I think it won’t get a Best Picture nomination). Personally, it appealed to me with the portrayal of unbreakable bond between father and daughter because I have a strong relationship with my dad. It satisfied the nerd side of me with the whole scientific stuff and once again made me believe in humanity and showed that we can go far as a species if we just work hard. I had issues with a few actors but the great performances of McConaughey and Chaistan as well as Foy made up for all the problems. Lastly, while the conclusion of the story was unbelievable and a bit insane, I really do hope that we will find a way to achieve inter-dimensional communication one day.

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Interstellar trailer

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