Tag Archives: Cillian Murphy

“Dunkirk”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The technical perfection of “Dunkirk” is astounding. The film will literally take your breath away. It’s handsomely shot and directed by Christopher Nolan, a bonafide auteur of the medium who has one of the greatest understandings of the cinematic language, period. This is an eye-popping WWII movie that effectively thrusts audiences right in the middle of a war, creating a shared experience of intense desperation, fear, determination, and heroism.

“Dunkirk” tells the true story of Allied troops and their planned evacuation from the French city. With Nazi forces quickly closing in, these brave men are quickly running out of time. The drama is told from the perspective of three different soldiers: a grunt on the ground (Fionn Whitehead), a steadfast pilot in the air (Tom Hardy), and a civilian villager sailing the seas (Mark Rylance) to help rescue some of the 400,000 trapped men.

The performances are moving and satisfying all around, including exceptional supporting turns from Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, and Jack Lowden. I’d like to tell you more about these characters and their motivations, but the visuals are crafted with such exactness that the story and character development take a backseat to Nolan’s showy IMAX cameras.

But maybe there’s a profound point to the stylish minimalism of both the visuals as well as the story (also written by Nolan). We never get the back story of the characters, and some we never even learn their names. These men are soldiers, just another number in just another war. There are long, elegant, and pensive shots of empty beaches, ocean foam, and the helmets of thousands of young men. Its quietly devastating beauty is as overwhelming as it is effective.

See this in 70mm if you can, because the richness of actual film is perfect partner to the cinematography and subject matter. The stunning aerial fight sequences really make you feel as if you are right there along with these British soldiers, and it’s sort of remarkable that Nolan is able to convey the horrors of war with a short run time and a PG-13 rating. “Dunkirk” somehow finds a balance between honoring the bravery of the military yet soundly condemning the act of war.

This is a smart historical WWII film, the antithesis of the big, dumb, loud, superhero summer blockbuster. But there’s a level of sophistication that effectively disguises what this movie really is: ambitious, manipulative Oscar bait.

This is the kind of movie that critics and awards voters love. Yes, the cinematography is stunning but overall, the film isn’t quite as epic as it wants you to believe. The ticking stopwatch in Hans Zimmer’s booming, overwrought score will beat you over the head even more so than Nolan’s overall desire to make an unconventional, almost experimental style war movie (even if you removed its sparse dialogue, I think this would’ve succeeded as a completely silent film). The ending is marred with a bit of hokey sentimentality which may succeed in eliciting tears from the audience, but it is also successful in lessening some of the emotional impact of what came before.

Overall, I highly recommend “Dunkirk” as it is one of the best and most memorable movies of the year. Was I simply mesmerized by the spectacle of it all? Maybe. But as a lover of the visual arts, this is one hell of a stunning war picture.

“Free Fire”

LOUISA: 2.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

The disappointing “Free Fire” feels like one of those movies that was conceptualized over a 3 a.m. cup of coffee in a booth at a late night diner. “Let’s make a 70s era throwback movie that ends in an hour-long bloody shootout set to a classic John Denver song!” It’s a five minute idea that’s stretched into a 90 minute “Reservoir Dogs” rip off. The overly simplistic screenplay and clunky direction from Ben Wheatley make this film quite the yawner.

The film is set in the 1970s for no reason whatsoever, and the period costumes and hairstyles are second rate at best. The loose story centers around a gun deal gone horribly wrong. The film begins with a fun introduction to the group of characters (including Brie Larson, Armie Hammer, Sam Riley, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, and Jack Reynor), but the background setups are all too brief and pointless, as the film quickly becomes nothing more than a loud, bloodstained, and overly long shootout in a decrepit warehouse. There are a few early glimmers of greatness from Hammer and Riley, but Larson and Reynor are completely wasted. There’s a lot of shooting and yelling and a lot of bloody injuries, but all of it lacks substance to the point where after a while, it’s not even enjoyable anymore.

The story starts off kind of great, but it quickly becomes clear that the film lacks any kind of depth. All of the action takes place in one warehouse, and if you’re going to have the balls to set a movie in a limited, confined setting, you’d better be ready to — pardon the pun — bring the big guns. Wheatley does bring some heavy ammunition, but his film fails to measure up as either an action tour de force, genre thriller, or a commentary on gun culture.