Tag Archives: Dunkirk

1917 (2019) – CINEMA REVIEW

1917 (2020) – CINEMA REVIEW

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Produced by: Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Jaybe-Ann Tenggren, Callum McDougall, Brian Oliver

Written by: Sam Mendes, Krysty Wilson-Cairns

Cast: George McKay, Dean Charles-Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Colin Firth, Claire Duburcq, Benedict Cumberbatch etc.

Cinematography: Roger Deakins

Music by: Thomas Newman

**CONTAINS HISTORICAL SPOILERS**


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If Roger Deakins doesn’t win every single award for best cinematography in the world, I will be completely shocked! Together with Sam Mendes’ and their respective creative and production teams they have delivered a barnstorming, aggressive and beautiful work of pulsating cinema with 1917 (2019). In fact, the whole project is such a feat of technical brilliance, I think Sam Mendes will probably win best direction and the film will most likely win best film at the 2020 Academy Awards.

The form and style of the film are dictated by Mendes and Deakins audacious decision to film in one long continuous take. Set, as the title states in 1917 during World War I, we open with a long tracking shot and from there the shot never ends. Establishing the main protagonists Lance Corporal Will Schofield (George MacKay) and Lance Corporal Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), the camera glides along as they make small-talk, creating humour, warmth and calm before the storm to come. That storm derives from their mission to carry a message through perilous territory and prevent 1,600 British soldiers falling into a German trap. Immediately the stakes are high and these two brave men set out to achieve this dangerous task.



The choice to film in one continuous shot is a fascinating one and here it is executed brilliantly. Of course, there are occasions where a cut has occurred, but this is masked by darkness, water, camera movement or CGI. I personally am not a massive fan of longer takes though. They can be seen as a stylish, but empty process and usually work best in opening scenes. Moreover, by not cutting or using montage techniques I feel you can lose suspense, impact and pace from a film. However, that is certainly not the case with 1917 (2019). Here it works perfectly with the camera following, tracking, running, falling and stalking the characters, so much so, the audience becomes the camera. We are right in this war with them!

As we track Blake and Schofield through bunkers, trenches, fields, farmhouses, derelict buildings and villages, the stench of death and destruction surrounds them. Mendes and his writing partner, Krysty Wilson-Cairns, also create some heart-sweating and explosive set-pieces for the soldiers to overcome. Indeed, the pace with which they regularly find themselves under attack, married with the filmmaking style, puts you in the heart of the action and fight. The final battle where Schofield valiantly strives to reach his final destination and relay the message is utterly exhilarating and spellbinding cinema.



As the two everyman soldiers, George MacKay and Dean-Charles Chapman give convincing performances. MacKay is especially memorable as his tall frame, hollowed cheekbones and haunted eyes dominate the screen. Furthermore, the two leads are supported ably by a “who’s-who” of British actors. The likes of: Mark Strong, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Andrew Scott puncture the action throughout with their quality. Scott is especially excellent as a cynical officer, drunk and bereft of hope. The two heroes ignore his jaded battle worn persona, but soon find themselves surrounded by corpses, quickly coming to understand this character’s despairing heart.

Like Dunkirk (2017), the film is arguably thin on characterisation and character development, but stylistically impressive in it’s rendition of the horrors of war. Indeed, when the events switch to night, Deakin’s lighting skills dominate as he paints images with darkness, moonlight and fire with majestic results. Thus, overall, one could argue this is just one long chase film; an extended version of the climax of another World War I classic, Gallipoli (1981). However, the cinematic marvel that is, 1917 (2019), overcomes it’s narrative and thematic familiarity with an amazing technical achievement in both form and style. Awards glory beckons for all involved; and more importantly the film pays fine tribute to the gallant soldiers who served in an ultimately senseless war.

Mark: 9.5 out of 11


CLASSIC MOVIE SCENES #3 – ATONEMENT— “On Dunkirk Beach!”

ATONEMENT— “On Dunkirk Beach!”

Directed by: Joe Wright

Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Paul Webster

Screenplay by: Christopher Hampton – Based on: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Starring: James McAvoy, Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan, Romola Garai, Vanessa Redgrave

Music by: Dario Marianelli

Cinematography: Seamus McGarvey

Release date: 7 September 2007 (United Kingdom)

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

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Joe Wright’s majestic directorial adaptation of Ian McEwan’s tragic romantic war story is a poignant study of petty revenge and class conflict. The scene on Dunkirk beach is the standout cinematic moment of the film as James McEvoy’s weakened soldier, Robbie Turner, flanked by compatriots portrayed by Daniel Mays and Nonso Anonzie, vainly attempts to find a way off the beach.

The scene is shown in one long five minute take and involves a certain beautiful, poetic and brutal chaos. Dario Marianelli’s soaring score and a male choir on the beach accompany images of: naked men skinny-dipping, horses being shot, crushed boats, blazing fires, spinning carousels and big wheels; as trapped soldiers remain in peril from bombs overhead.

Aside from the cinematic and technical achievement on display the emotional impact is surreal, heartfelt and haunting. The power from the film’s denouement when we discover much of the episode has been filtered through Saoirse Ronan’s unreliable narration makes the scene all the more heart-breaking.

2017 – MY FAVOURITE TWELVE FILMS OF THE YEAR!

2017 – MY FAVOURITE TWELVE FILMS OF THE YEAR!

There were some fantastic films this year and here are my favourite TWELVE. These are the ones I enjoyed the most from a cinematic, entertainment and emotional perspective. They are not necessarily the critics’ favourites, so for example, Moonlight (2017) is not on the list because I thought it was brilliantly directed but arguably over-rated as a story. Similarly, La La Land (2017), was an incredibly imaginative film from a stylistic and musical point-of-view but lacked emotional impact. But hey, as The Dude once said, “That’s just my opinion, man!”

Please note that they include films I have seen at the CINEMA in 2017, including the London Film Festival. Obviously there are some omissions but that’s either because I did not see them yet – Call Me By Your Name (2017), Mudbound (2017), God’s Own Country (2017) – or did not enjoy them as much as others. Please let me know if I have made glaring omissions in case I missed them at the cinema and should stream them. Indeed, last year the brilliant Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) was one I missed at the cinema, so I was grateful to catch up with that on Netflix.

For your information my favourite films I saw at the cinema in 2016 were:

FAVOURITE TWELVE FILMS SEEN AT THE CINEMA IN 2016 (in alphabetical order)

ARRIVAL (2016)

BONE TOMAHAWK (2015)

CAPTAIN AMERICA 3: CIVIL WAR (2016)

DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

THE HATEFUL EIGHT (2015)

MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA (2016)

MEN AND CHICKEN (2015)

THE NICE GUYS (2016)

RAW (2016)

THE REVENANT (2015), ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY (2016), ROOM (2015)

FAVOURITE TWELVE FILMS SEEN AT THE CINEMA IN 2017 (in alphabetical order)

A GHOST STORY (2017)

“. . .this film transcends cinema conventions and delivers one of the most poignant and melancholic experiences of the year.”

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BABY DRIVER (2017)

“. . . Wright brings such a balletic rhythm, musical verve and kinetic drive to the movie it becomes simply irrepressible.”

BLADERUNNER 2049 (2017)

“. . . It’s like Denis Villeneuve managed to combine, with the writers and designers, an indie-Hollywood-art film installation.”

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)

“. . . Brawl in Cell Block 99 rips into the dark underbelly of the criminal landscape leaving us in no doubt to the destructive nature of the American dream.”

COLOSSAL (2016)

“. . .In a summer which will bring us blockbusters galore they will have to go some way to match Vigalondo’s Colossal for originality, humour, heart and Seoul (sorry!)”

THE DISASTER ARTIST (2017)

“. . . Franco’s Wiseau is his greatest performance to date. The fact he directed the film too is also remarkable as he got the pitch of parody and drama just perfectly.”

DUNKIRK (2017)

“. . .the film belongs to the masterful direction of Christopher Nolan who, in delivering 106 minutes of pure dramatic exhilaration, demonstrates he is more than just a genre filmmaker.” 

FENCES (2016)

“. . . Viola Davis more than matches Denzel Washington’s grandstanding and Rose’s heartfelt speech is a stunning retort to her husband’s continual tirades.”

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INGRID GOES WEST (2017)

“. . . Overall, this was just #brilliant #dark #funny #sad!  Aubrey Plaza is the shining light of this very satisfying black comedy.”

SILENCE (2016)

“While moving at a meditative pace Silence possesses some wonderful cinematography, brilliant direction, sterling performances and a brooding score.”

THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)

“. . . this is an excellent cinematic experience funny, shocking and moving; only possible because of the expert script from a great writer.”

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES (2017)

“. . . one of the best cinematic experiences in 2017 as story, style, technology and emotion all work together to bring a fitting end to one of the best film trilogies of recent years.”

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Other films I enjoyed that were very close to the list:

DETROIT (2017), GET OUT (2017), THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016), HACKSAW RIDGE (2017), THE HANDMAIDEN (2016), THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017), THE LOST CITY OF Z (2017), OKJA (2017), SPLIT (2017), THOR: RAGNAROK (2017), WIND RIVER (2017)!

Anyway, I really enjoyed last year’s cinema offerings and here’s to a happy and positive 2018!

DUNKIRK (2017) – CINEMA REVIEW

DUNKIRK (2017) – CINEMA REVIEW

**CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS**

Firstly, the evacuation of Dunkirk, France, during World War II was simply put one of the most incredible acts of survival and escape achieved. From the historical articles and documentaries I have read and seen the Allies were on the ropes and pinned back by the German army causing 400,000 beaten, starving and bedraggled human beings to be trapped on the beach waiting desperately for rescue.  It’s no spoiler to state that many brave people enabled that rescue creating that well-known phrase “Dunkirk spirit” to enter our vocabulary.

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Put yourself in that position for even just a minute and the fear drains one cold and feeling so lucky that I will never have to feel that threatened. These are people, young soldiers fighting against a fascistic foe who are backed into a corner and whose lives are about to be extinguished. So, think about that when you wake up in the morning because Christopher Nolan’s epic film, as do many other films, books and television shows about the war, give your life meaning about how lucky we are to not have to live through that. Count your blessings you’re not in a war and the life we live has relative freedom.

These and many more emotions flashed through my being while experiencing the incredible epic that master director Nolan and team have delivered via Dunkirk. Throwing us immediately into the action we are shown the hell of war from three perspectives: land, sea and air. Nolan works from a simpler focus and premise compared to his other works and this makes it all the more powerful an experience. Where films such as Inception (2010), Interstellar (2014) and Memento (2000) had complex, shifting narratives relying on heavy exposition, grand concepts and plot twists, Dunkirk deals with one simple sterling idea: survival!

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I found the whole experience immersive and pulsating from a cinematic perspective. Christopher Nolan, and his production team, have in the: editing, cinematography, composition, colour, acting, framing, sound, score and movement created pure and poetic cinema. From the safety of my comfy seat I felt real danger, peril and claustrophobia. The narratives’ drive comes from fragmented moments of fear and blasts of explosive danger. The impressionistic style was full of scenes containing quiet doom as well as noisy, confusing and fiery terror. Even the smallest situation such as the locking of a cabin door takes on great significance, sending a chill down the spine. As the enemy closes in from above and below and water fills the screen and lungs of our heroes, then death moves in for the kill.

Nolan eschews the solid build-up of traditional characterisation to create emotion through the visual form with a chopping style which serves to heighten the panic. There are so many haunting images as men and boys are stuck behind doors and ships and in boats and underwater and in the air and on moles and piers, compressed, suffocating and unable to breath as bullets, torpedoes and bombs pepper their souls. The coruscating soundscape, montage and hypnotic score from Hans Zimmer only add to the dread within the non-stop action. The dialogue is spare and at times muffled as character development is also sacrificed due to the compressed timeline. Yet, for me, empathy was garnered through verisimilitude, form and style rather than a conventional storytelling and a simplistic three-act transformational arc.

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The characters are archetypes but serve the story very well. Kenneth Branagh’s noble sea Commander brings gravitas while Mark Rylance brings a naturalistic humility to the stalwart and duty bound Mr Dawson. Aneurin Barnard’s silent soldier allows his haunting eyes to dominate, while the pathos emitting from Barry Keoghan’s young George is incredibly powerful. Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles, while inexperienced actors, represent the palpable fear any young man would exhibit when faced with certain death. Tom Hardy adds star quality in his role of RAF pilot, Farrier, and the image at the end of his plane burning in the sunset is indelibly etched in my mind.

But, overall the film belongs to the masterful direction of Christopher Nolan who, in delivering 106 minutes of pure dramatic exhilaration demonstrates he is more than just a genre filmmaker but a cinematic artist echoing the works of Sergei Eisenstein, Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick within this war and disaster film masterpiece. Dunkirk was a savage defeat for the Allies but it rallied the nation against the enemy and Nolan has produced a film that stands as a worthy tribute to those who lost their lives and those brave people who survived.

(Mark: 10 out of 11)