The Snowman – Film Review

The body of a desirable young woman artfully displayed at a crime scene. A tauntingly sadistic serial killer with an offbeat calling card. And a drunken, rulebook-shredding cop with a penchant for flattering winter wear. Director Tomas Alfredson has dusted off every moth-eaten crime drama cliche he can find for this half-baked adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s The Snowman. But while the latest Scandi-noir thriller certainly has the look of a classic crime drama, dig a little deeper and you’ll find little more than a hackneyed murder mystery lacking in pace and originality.

IMG_0038

Michael Fassbender is Harry Hole, a booze addicted detective and forgetful father-figure whose once promising career hangs in the balance unless he can find a new case to help him get back on track. Fortunately for him, plucky new recruit Kathrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) lets him tag along on the case of a missing woman whose body is found near a freshly built snowman. Needless to say, there’s more to the crime than meets the eye, as the mismatched duo uncover links to a previously unsolved cold case.

Scripted by Peter Straughan and Hossein Amini – who penned the Oscar winning screenplay for Drive – and directed by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Alfredson, the early signs were promising for this adaptation of the seventh of Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels. Yet while Alfredson beautifully captures the breathtaking isolation Oslo’s icy landscape, almost everything else about this film is a tangled mess.

IMG_0042

Many of its problems stem from a script that feels cobbled together out of disparate parts that don’t quite mesh. The investigation feels like a long slog through the snowy wilderness as the plot stumbles between different timelines that have little connective tissue between them. As a result, the resolution to the case fails to have the desired impact, offering only tenuous links rather than the devastating revelations intended.

Alfredson also struggles to gain a firm grasp of the film’s tone. The director displays a David Fincher-esque eye for macabre imagery – a shot of child’s toy drenched in blood is particularly unsettling. Yet this sits uncomfortably alongside the quirkier elements of Alfredson’s style, such as the police force’s anachronistic portable tablets, which are bulkier than most TV sets, or any scene involving Val Kilmer’s hammy detective, who appears to be acting in an entirely different film.

IMG_0040

Still, at least Kilmer can claim to be having fun with his role, which is more than can be said for the rest of the cast. The Snowman boasts a startling supporting cast, including the likes of J.K. Simmons, Toby Jones and Chloë Sevigny, but such talents are rarely afforded time to make an impact, playing a conveyor belt of unlikely suspects and easy chicken fodder for the real killer. Fassbender also struggles, failing to truly sell the personal turmoil Hole suffers in trying to solve the murders – even if he does inevitably look the part as handsomely dishevelled anti-hero.

IMG_0044.JPG

It’s Rebecca Ferguson who really shines as typically overzealous rookie Bratt. The revelation of what drives her reckless desperation to find the killer is the film’s most powerfully devastating moment and it’s a shame her character is inexplicably sidelined during the film’s final third, her impulsive actions robbing her of the opportunity for revenge.

If the intention was for this film to kick-start a franchise for Oslo’s finest detective, The Snowman is an abominable misfire. There’s little in this lacklustre and weightless thriller to suggest there’s any reason for Fassbender to dig out his tatty green duffle coat anytime soon. Perhaps he can find a place to hang it up next to his Assassin’s Creed garb…

Runtime: 119 mins (approx.)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Screenwriters: Peter Straugan, Hossein Amini

Stars: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer, Toby Jones

Advertisements

Blade Runner 2049 – Film Review

If reviving the Star Wars franchise seemed a near-Herculean task, spare a thought for Dennis Villeneuve. Revitalising the superlative space saga might’ve had its challenges, but at least its legion of fans were of one mind about their expectations. In creating this long-awaited follow-up to Blade Runner, Villeneuve faced a much tougher assignment, its diehard supporters having spend the past 35 years pouring over every iteration of the sci-fi classic, endlessly debating the plot’s myriad mysteries. While Villeneuve wisely steers clear of offering any definitive answers to those questions, there’s no doubt Blade Runner 2049 defies even the loftiest of expectations.

Scripted by Michael Green and Hampton Fancher – who also penned the original – 2049 unsurprisingly picks up three decades after the first film. The intervening years have not been kind to Earth: the climate has collapsed and the wealthiest citizens have abandoned ship for the off-world colonies, leaving only the poorest, who survive on synthetic gruel and the companionship of holographic call girls.

IMG_0031

The Tyrell Corporation has also fallen, bought out by the Jared Leto-led Wallace Corporation, who’ve created a brand new line of replicants, more compliant than the Nexus-6 models thanks to the eradication of troublesome features like emotions or free will. Ryan Gosling’s Agent K is one of the new breed, a blade runner tasked with hunting down and retiring older models. His latest mission leads K to an encounter with Dave Bautista’s protein farmer where he makes a startling discovery that causes him to question his own existence and the future of the human race.

To say anymore would be to spoil a bold, absorbing movie, who’s mysteries are best discovered as the story unfolds. What is certain is that 2049 is a much cleaner, easier watch than its predecessor. Whereas the original was deliberately, almost punishingly obtuse, Villeneuve’s update feels like a much brisker watch – despite being 45 minutes longer – and is more open about it’s intentions, rather than hiding everything behind a wall of portentous eulogising.

IMG_0036

Not that Blade Runner has become yet another commercialised blockbuster filled with city-pulverising, vertiginous actions sequences. 2049 remains a slow-burning, deeply ponderous detective story that gently muses on themes of isolation, identity and human connection in a way that feels like a natural progression to the first film. Any violence is brief but brutal and purposeful, acting as a sudden, devastating blow within a supremely satisfying, emotionally compelling narrative.

The defining elements of the original’s dark, twisted future world remain intact, too. Eyeballs are a prominent motif, fluorescent-hared denizens still munch on Asian street food and the Voight-Kampff test has become an even more distressing experience. In fact, so delicately has Villeneuve recreated the look and feel of the original, it’s almost to his detriment. Blade Runner was such a ground-breaking piece of work at least in part due to Ridley Scott’s impressively realised neon-drenched futurescape, which has been aped countless times over the intervening years. By contrast, 2049’s rain-soaked tower blocks and dust bowl necropolises feel like just another respectful copy – albeit a superbly crafted one.

IMG_0034

One area where 2049 undoubtedly excels is in the performances of its two leads. Gosling once again demonstrates his talent for imbuing deep pathos into handsomely passive characters, transforming the outwardly machine-like K into a thoughtful, engrossing presence. Harrison Ford is on similarly excellent form. Returning to yet another classic character, Ford’s skills are seriously tested in role that requires him to dig much deeper into Deckard’s emotional state than in his previous outing.

IMG_0033

Only Jared Leto, playing self-aggrandising, monologue-prone industrialist Niander Wallace, feels below his best. Though given he’s lumbered with an entirely superfluous character who exists solely to deliver drawn-out theological rants to Sylvia Hoecks’ super-humanly patient replicant enforcer, it’s perhaps no surprise that Leto would resort to biting huge chunks out of the gorgeous scenery.

IMG_0037

Without an engaging antagonist to match the Rutger Hauer’s tragic skinjob Roy and the unplanned poetic alchemy of his ‘Tears in rain’ soliloquy, 2049 misses some of the devastating emotional force of its predecessor. Yet that shouldn’t detract from what’s otherwise an extraordinary achievement by Villeneuve. Whether Blade Runner 2049 lives up to the expectations of its demanding fanbase will no doubt be debated for at least another 30 years, but there’s no denying Villeneuve has succeeded in crafting a smart, gripping and thought-provoking movie that immensley satisfying in its own right.

Runtime: 163 mins (approx.)
Director: Dennis Villeneuve
Screenwriters: Michael Green, Hampton Fancher
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Jared Leto, Sylvia Hoecks

Goodbye Christopher Robin – Film Review

One of the most beloved characters in children’s literature, the honey-stealing bear Winnie the Pooh is famous the world over. Far less known is the true story of it’s broken creator, A. A. Milne’s relationship with his son, who provided the inspiration for Pooh’s adventures only to find the burden of fame too much to bear. It’s this tragic father-son relationship that is at the heart of Goodbye Christopher Robin, a warm, charming movie that’s often overwhelmingly moving.

Scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, the story begins with Domhnall Gleeson’s Milne returning to London a changed man. Having fought on the front lines during the Battle of the Somme he comes home in the grips of PTSD, where anything from the clinking of a glass to the buzzing of a bee is enough to transport him back to the horrors he witnessed on the Western Front.

IMG_0027.PNG

His attempts to find peace lead him to escape London, moving his wife and son to the countryside where he intends to write an anti-war memoir. Instead, he finds only severe writer’s block and decides to spend more time outside with his son Christopher Robin, who’s imaginative games inspire Milne to pen an entirely different kind of book.

The scenes of father and son playing with sticks or imagining wild safaris through the woods behind their country home are some of the movie’s most joyous moments – and not only for their quaint, sun-soaked Great British Bake Off depiction of early 20th Century England. They also offer a rousing exploration of the magic of play and how the innocence of a child can rescue a man who has seen real nightmares. Watching Milne’s traumas drift further away the more he lets his son into his life is surprisingly affecting.

IMG_0028

That’s in no small measure down to Gleeson’s wonderfully restrained performance. He not only captures Milne’s famously dry wit, but also the near-silent agony of a proud man totally at a loss of how to move on from the devastation he experienced at war. He’s ably joined by Kelly Macdonald who, as Christopher’s tirelessly devoted nanny, is perhaps the film’s biggest hero when she delivers a stirring scolding to the poor boy’s neglectful parents after refusing to bite her tongue a moment longer.

IMG_0029

In fact, the only weak link is Christopher’s highly-strung socialite mother, Daphne. Despite Margot Robbie’s flawless RP accent, Daphne appears cold and distant, abandoning her husband in his time of need and treating her son as her personal play-thing to be picked up or discarded depending on her mood. That feels like a wilful ignorance of Daphne’s own traumas, particularly during childbirth, which were sorely needed to lend understanding to her seemingly heartless actions.

IMG_0026

The most praise must be reserved for Will Tilston, though, who is a revelation as the adolescent Christopher Robin. Whether it’s the unexpected joy of a new toy to play with or the confused anguish of being thrust into the spotlight to sell his father’s books, Tilston sells every emotion perfectly. Which is just as well as the film gradually shifts focus onto Christopher as he struggles to maintain his own identity while his father packages his childhood memories into a book to be flogged to the general public.

Tilston’s excellent work in making Christopher a brightly endearing presence pays off in the film’s bittersweet final scenes where the true devastation caused by his childhood are brutally laid bare. His story might not be as well known as the characters he inspired, but the tale of Christopher Robin is just as moving and impossible to forget.

Runtime: 107 mins (approx.)
Director: Simon Curtis
Screenwriters: Franker Cottrell Boyce, Simon Vaughan
Stars: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Will Tilston, Kelly Macdonald

Kingsman: The Golden Circle – Film Review

Though Matthew Vaughn has many talents, you suspect being a great poker player isn’t one of them. In an era when the makers of the biggest blockbusters are going to extreme lengths to keep their major plot points under wraps, the Kingsman director gleefully splays his cards on the table with a giant gurning grin at the earliest opportunity.

The return of Colin Firth’s suave super spy Harry in Kingsman: The Golden Circle is a prime example. Despite being relieved of his grey matter by Samuel L. Jackson’s lisping villain in the first movie, Vaughn cheerfully revealed that the classy sleuth would live to don a pair of shiny oxford brogues once again as soon as this inevitable follow-up was confirmed.

And while it’s an inarguable thrill to see Firth back in umbrella-twirling action, his entirely expected revival is indicative of this so-so sequel’s biggest flaw. The Golden Circle once again brims with Bond-turned-up-to-11 swagger and gloriously OTT thrills, but it lacks the wild creative spark that made the original such a delirious delight.

IMG_0019

We’re a year on from the first movie and hoodie-turned-hero Eggsy (Taron Egerton) has officially joined the sartorially immaculate ranks of the Kingsmen and happily settled down with his Swedish princess girlfriend. That is, until a catastrophic attack wipes out almost all of the Kingsman agents in one fell-swoop, leaving Eggsy and Mark Strong’s tech genius as the only survivors. In desperate need of back-up, the duo head across the pond to team up with their brash American cousins The Statesman in order to take down Julianne Moore’s off-kilter drug baron Poppy Adams before she unleashes her plan to monopolise the world’s drug trade.

From the opening brutally bonkers scrap inside a black cab, Vaughn’s intention is clear as he doubles down on all the mayhem that made this movie’s precursor so much fun. The locations are more extravagant; the 007-inspired gadgets are even more outlandish, with a laser lasso, killer robot dogs with drill-bit teeth and an indestructible henchman with a claw crane arm just some of the daft gadgets dreamed up for this follow-up. Even the action has been amplified from the Secret Service (a movie which culminates in a multicoloured firework display of exploding heads), the camera seemingly defying gravity as it spins and swivels fluidly through dizzying set-piece after dizzying set-piece.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

And then there’s the introduction of the American contingent, a brash and flashy outfit hidden away in a Kentucky bourbon distillery where all the agents have booze-related codenames. Whiskey, played with grit and plenty of Southern charm by Pedro Pascal; Halle Berry’s Ginger Ale, essentially the yank equivalent to Mark Strong’s guy in the chair; Champagne (Jeff Bridges), the team’s benevolent boss; and the rough-around-the-edges Tequila, played by Channing Tatum with tobacco-chewing enthusiasm, right up until he’s inexplicably sidelined for almost the entire movie. After initially playing up the differing styles between the refined Kingsman and the honky-tonk Statesman, it’s slightly disappointing that these culture clash elements not used more effectively, with the two-sides learning to get along surprisingly quickly, a few mild jibes aside.

IMG_0022.JPG

As action packed as it may be, the movie is missing the heartfelt emotional core of its predecessor. The original movie saw Firth’s sharp-suited agent training the chavvy Eggsy in the art of sophisticated espionage. While The Golden Circle tries to reverse this arc with Eggsy hoping to coax an amnesiac Harry back into action, it doesn’t have the same powerful resonance as the original. All of which leaves Eggsy without much of a journey, except for his half-baked attempts to stay faithful to his girlfriend, which is only really tested during a gross Glastonbury-set sequence when he has to seduce a target. And even then he calls his girlfriend to ask permission first.

Moore’s cheerfully off-kilter villain is also underused, her perky violence feeling only mildly threatening as she spends the entire movie stuck in her 50s Americana-inspired South American lair (think Graceland mashed-up with the Aztec zone in The Crystal Maze) offing henchman just for the hell of it.

IMG_0018

The movie also fails to justify it’s two-and-a-half hour runtime with a predictable plot that follows a near-identical structure to the original – not to mention countless Bond movies. It doesn’t help that all the surprises were let out of the bag before the film was released. As a result Harry’s return struggles to have the desired impact, being met with grateful relief rather than shock after almost an hour of needless teasing. Likewise, his journey back to his old self holds no suspense – we saw him fighting alongside Eggsy in the trailers and so never doubt that he’ll be alright again soon enough.

For all its exuberant, brazen thrills, The Golden Circle simply doesn’t hold attention or capture the imagination like it’s predecessor, coming across as an all-too familiar journey to a destination we’ve visited many time before. Maybe next time Vaughn will manage to keep his cards closer to his chest.

Runtime: 141 mins (approx.)
Director: Matthew Vaughn;
Screenwriters: Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn;
Stars: Taron Egerton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Julianne Moore, Pedro Pascal

Mother! – Film Review

Whether it’s Jennifer Connelly’s desperate drug addict in Requiem for a Dream or Natalie Portman’s barmy ballerina in Black Swan, Darren Aronofsky seems to draw an almost sadistic thrill from dragging his desirable female leads through hell. Even so, the torment inflicted upon Jennifer Lawrence’s titular Mother in the director’s latest psychological horror is beyond anything we’ve seen before.

A dense, deranged and distressingly breathtaking piece of art, it’s no wonder Mother! has polarised critics, with many praising it’s sickening beauty and others dismissing its befuddling plot as nothing more than auteuristic twaddle. The truth, as if often does in these cases, lies somewhere in the middle. Mother! is an undoubtedly astounding work of artistic vision, both horrific and mesmerising; but in his haste to disturb and disorientated his audience, Aronofsky loses sight of exactly what he’s trying to say.

IMG_0016

The movie starts off in compelling fashion, resembling a slow-burn chamber piece as Lawrence’s Mother devotedly restores the previously gutted home she shares with her husband (Javier Bardem), a poet wrestling with his latest work. Their idyllic seclusion is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of Ed Harris’ wheezing doctor and, the next day, his boozed-up wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). Invited to stay for as long as they like by Bardem, the destructive couple make themselves comfortable, breaking precious heirlooms and asking invasive questions. It’s not long before Mother starts to worry that her husband has opened the door to something far worse than passing strangers.

Aronofsky’s direction is masterfull in these early scenes, gently dialling up the tension and paranoia by drip-feeding jarring sounds (amplified by the absence of a soundtrack) and unsettling images as Mother’s anxieties take shape. And unsettling is most certainly the right word. Like Hogwarts, if J.K. Rowling had written the Harry Potter series while suffering a bad trip on LSD, the house has a mischievous life of its own. The walls shake, the doors don’t lock, and the floors ooze blood from human-like orifices. Despite her desire to make it a model home, Mother is a prisoner here, never leaving the confines of the house and shot either in tight close-up or from her own dizzying perspective. It’s a claustrophobic experience, but also an exhilarating one.

IMG_0017

Not that any of it prepares you for a brutal and bewildering final act that’s the closest thing to an actual living nightmare ever committed to film. Time seems to lose all meaning as the walls shift and mutate in the blink of an eye and all manner of frightening apparitions storm the scene, culminating in one sequence so vile and vicious, it will likely be too grotesque for many.

The technical skill on display here is impressive, with Aronofsky seamlessly mashing together a discordant collection of genres and influences. Yet, as his visual ambitions expand and become weirder, he loses sight of his story. Mother! works best as an intimate study of maternal anxiety, with Lawrence powerless to prevent the dangerous forces of the world from invading her perfect home and laying ruin to everything she holds dear.

IMG_0015

But as Aronofsky’s roller-coaster of bizarre despair shifts into overdrive, he over complicates matters by throwing even more ideas into the mix. Religion, family, sexuality and the crumbling of civilisation are all exposed and plastered across the screen. Still, Aronofsky saves his most scathing work for a self-loathing portrait of the creative process as Bardem’s blocked artist becomes increasingly frustrated by his inability to find inspiration.

It’s this theme that eventually overwhelms and derails the plot. As the focus shifts more and more towards Bardem’s creations, Lawrence’s angelic Mother gets lost in the maelstrom, losing her voice and agency until she is little more than a (at times literal) punchbag for Bardem’s creative ambitions.

IMG_0009

There’s no denying that Mother! is a bold and unforgettable visual masterpiece, but as soon as Lawrence’s compelling presence fades into the background, the film descends into a cold, hollow mess of vivid imagery that lacks purpose or meaning. It seems that, like his onscreen counterpart, Aronofsky is guilty of letting the embers of a good idea burn out before that’ve truly caught fire.

Runtime: 121 mins (approx.)
Director/Screenwriter: Darren Aronofsky
Stars: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer

 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets – Film Review

Clearly emboldened by the success of his most recent bonkers sci-fi extravaganza Lucy, which turned Scarlett Johansson into a crime-fighting super-brain fuelled by magic drugs, Luc Besson’s latest returns to the genre for what might be his most outrageously ambitious movie yet. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is not only based on a much vaunted comic strip (the Star Wars-Influencing Valérian and Laureline) and boasts enough eye-popping digital wizardry to rival Avatar, at $180million, it’s also the most expensively assembled independent movie ever released. In short, it’s a movie so colossally risky even James Cameron would need to think twice. The result is a surreal, neon candy-coated carnival of astounding imagination that’s irreparably marred by an almost complete absence of story or substance.

valerian1

Besson’s visual audacity must be applauded. Like a toddler who’s been handed a fresh pack of sharpies and unleashed on a newly painted wall, the writer/director doesn’t hold back from allowing every outlandish idea that pops into his brain to splurge onto the screen as he constructs a world so vividly extravagant it makes Jupiter Ascending’s gaudy opulence look shabby and understated by comparison. A fluorescent menagerie of wonderfully weird creatures, the planet of interlocking space stations that is Besson’s primary playground is host to memory eating jellyfish, gossiping platypus, a shape-shifting Rihanna performing a strip tease and much more besides. Every frame is overflowing with bizarre and bewildering inventions, it’s impossible to absorb it all in one screening.

valerian2

Not that repeated viewings are advised. For all the dazzling, ludicrously inventive visuals on show, everything else about this movie – the story, characters, pace and tone – thoroughly underwhelm to almost extraordinary levels. What little plot there is sees Valerian and Laureline (Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne), intergalactic space cops who protect humanity throughout the cosmos while engaging in clunky flirtatious banter, attempt to prevent unseen nefarious forces from destroying Alpha A, the bulging megalopolis that’s home to more than 8,000 alien species. It’s a story as thin and flimsy as it sounds, with barely enough action to pad out its two-and-a-quarter-hour runtime. And yet it still feels exhausting, largely because Besson can’t resist taking needless detours that stall rather than propel the narrative, just so he can justify unleashing yet another of his lurid creations onto the screen.

tQRG3qfNmVrVUyCgpdRwgH-650-80

As for the ersatz romance between Valerian and Laureline, it’s a stilted, overwhelmingly saccharine relationship that feels like it’s been ripped straight from the dog-eared pages of a Mills & Boon novel, including the creakingly cliched dialogue. It’s no wonder DeHaan and Delevingne struggle to muster enough chemistry to convince of their attraction. DeHaan is particularly out of his depth, woefully miscast as the swaggeringly suave action hero – a role so far removed from the pallid, peculiar misfits he usually excels at playing. Laureline, meanwhile, has been stripped of all her wit and intellect, leaving Delevingne with little more to do than scowl and make sarcastic comebacks while arching one of her impressive brows at Valerian’s cocksure antics.

There’s plenty of giddy delights to be enjoyed within Valerian and the Planet of a Thousand Cities. The only trouble is: as soon as the novelty of roaming around Besson’s phantasmagorical theme park has worn off, you desperately discover that there’s hardly anything of worth inside the enticingly psychedelic packaging.

Runtime: 137mins

Writer/Director: Luc Besson

Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna

Dunkirk – Film Review

Unfolding in a tight, heart-thumpingly tense 106 minutes, Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s shortest film since his micro-budget debut Following in 1998. It’s also his most absorbing, arresting and visually astounding film yet. Stripping away much of the sci-fi frills and mind-bending trickery that has defined the writer-director’s career this far, Dunkirk zeroes in on an emotionally devastating story of ordinary men trapped in an extraordinary bid for survival that will pin you to your seat and leave you breathless and paralysed by the sheer weight of its clockwork calculated tension.

The restrained filming style is by no means an indication of dimmed ambitions on Nolan’s part. Filmed on the sands and seas surrounding the real-life Dunkirk, this film is another technical triumph for the filmmaker. Every single detail of every frame has been exhaustively researched, with period-correct Spitfires and British naval destroyers painstakingly assembled to add to the movie’s verisimilitude. Even the taut, dizzying set-pieces have been executed with a metronomic precision.

landscape-1499166705-dunkirk-fionn-whitehead.jpg

Seemingly taking inspiration from Winston Churchill’s famous ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech made in the aftermath of the disastrous Operation Dynamo, Dunkirk splits the action between three individual storylines set on land, air and sea.

There’s Finn Whitehead’s petrified young private who, along with many thousands of British soldiers, finds himself stranded on Dunkirk’s beaches, hemmed in on all sides by the advancing Nazi forces, as he desperately searches for a way to get home. Mark Rylance plays an ageing mariner who bravely sets sail across the Channel to rescue our boys after the Royal Navy commandeers private boats to aid their efforts. And then there’s Tom Hardy’s ice cool Spitfire pilot, racing through the skies to protect the approaching British flotillas from ruthless air raids by German bombers.

3000

All three of these harrowing journeys unfold in their own timelines – Whitehead spends a week in Dunkirk waiting for rescue, Rylance’s voyage lasts a day, and Hardy’s flight takes place of the course of just one hour – with only fleeting intersections until they ultimately collide in an intensely incendiary finale.

The overall effect of this time-wimey trickery is strikingly immersive, deftly reflecting the frighteningly bewildering environment British troops found themselves trapped in 1940. Like them, we have hardly any idea of what’s happening around us, how much time has passed or even what time of day it is – our only focus is on how these men will make it out alive.

NECegsUsrmPpFL_2_b

What makes events feel so immediate and visceral is Nolan’s claustrophobic direction. With the action shot largely in unflinching close-ups, we’re dropped right into the heat of the battle as Luftwaffe planes scream down from the skies and enemy fire erupts from every direction. These sounds are raised to almost deafening levels, you can feel the rumble of missile strikes and the rattle of gunfire reverberate through your bones.

Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer’s ferociously evocative score, with it’s ticking pocket watch and endlessly ascending Shepherd’s tone, drags you to the edge of your seat unable to look away. It’s as close as you’d care to get to actually being on those beaches with the grey, restless ocean sloshing at your boots.

screen-shot-2017-07-13-at-163129

The bare bones filmmaking style extends to the main cast, too. With almost no dialogue for the entire duration, the characters are unburdened by intricate backstories or complex emotional arcs – they’re completely unnecessary. Rather, the story is told firmly in the present moment, with the character’s emotions – be it fear, desperation, selfishness or selflessness – relayed through their actions rather than their words.

This is perhaps Nolan’s biggest achievement with Dunkirk: eschewing the excessive sentimentality or chest-thumping heroics typical of war movies. Here it’s the tiny, seemingly insignificant moments that carry the most weight, whether its a boy telling a white lie to a shell-shocked soldier or a tommy gratefully grasping a bottle of beer from a cheering local. When the visuals are as devastating, exhilarating and powerfully moving as these, stories really don’t need anything else.

Runtime: 106 mins (approx.)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan

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