Saturday, July 22, 2017

Dunkirk (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 106 minutes
Writer/Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Fionn Whitehead, Cillian Murphy, James D'Arcy, Aneurin Barnard, Harry Styles, Jack Lowden, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan

Dunkirk will be released in Australia by Roadshow Films on July 20 and in the United States by Warner Bros Pictures on July 21. 

When it comes to his films, Christopher Nolan is no stranger to winning the approval of audience's and critics alike. Yet with Dunkirk, he takes this admiration to a whole new level.

Dunkirk is a major cinematic force with Nolan's masterful storytelling and phenomenal direction. The film is a stunning piece of art that retells a well known piece of history in an unique, intense and enthralling way. While Dunkirk is being hailed as Nolan's finest film to date, it does not need to be grouped together with his past films in order to be considered a stroke of genius.

The events which took place on the beach at Dunkirk are considered to be a miracle. The prospect of a mass evacuation of over 300000 British troops on the French beach during World War II initially seemed impossible due to the lack of resources needed for a rescue. This story has been taught in classrooms all over the world as part of WWII studies and there have been several retellings in popular culture. However, none quite like Dunkirk. 

The film is a tense and intriguing time lapse of three equally important facets of the most important day at Dunkirk- land, sea and air. Dunkirk is not a typical war narrative, as it represents just a snapshot in time and is driven entirely by the theme of survival. For the soldiers waiting on the beach, they were defenceless against the enemy. There was no way of fighting back against the bombers from the ground. The film shows the desperation of the soldiers as they fight for their life and how far people will go to stay alive. It also looks at how survival itself is heroic and is something that is to be celebrated, not scorned.

The inherent nature of films that deal with survival is that they must be suspenseful. Whether the viewer knows who will survive or not is irrelevant. Dunkirk is so intense that it often makes one forget to breathe. The film is just the perfect example of everything coming together to get the most out of it's screenplay. Nolan brings a trio of moments of warfare terror together all at once at regular intervals throughout the film to build tension to the highest level, with the help of Hans Zimmer's brilliant score and phenomenal sound editing. These scenes come with incredible sweeping shots of Dunkirk and astonishing cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema of land, sea and sky.

It is easy to look at the characterization in Dunkirk the way you would at other feature films, in which case it would be exceptionally weak. We come away knowing very little about each of the main characters.This would usually mean we feel no emotional connection towards anybody in the film and do not care whether they survive or not. However, the lack of identity of each of the characters serves a purpose here.

There were 400000 soldiers stranded on the beach at Dunkirk hoping for a miracle that would allow them survive and find their own way home. It didn't matter who these soldiers were at home, while they were at war they were all stripped of their identity and nameless and faceless in the eyes of the enemy. During those final days at Dunkirk, it was all about survival no matter who you were and where you were from. Most of the soldiers cast are physically alike to emphasise this point. Despite the lack of character in the film, there are some wonderful performances with Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh and Tom Hardy being stand-outs.

Dunkirk is stunning filmmaking. While it is confronting and incredibly intense, it is gratifyingly so thanks to Christopher Nolan's outstanding direction and creative vision.


Monday, July 17, 2017

#Top10....with Tracey Birdsall

#Top10 is a brand new feature to Movie Critical. Each week we will be chatting to a film lover or a member of the film community about their #Top10 favourite films and discussing what makes these films so special to them. We all have different tastes in film and watch movies differently depending on who we are. The object of #Top10 is to share the love of film and hopefully you the reader can find some new favourites.

This week we spoke to action sweetheart, Tracey Birdsall!

A native of Southern California, Tracey is an actress who had her beginnings in singing and modelling, but the past few year's has seen her find her niche in the action/sci-fi film genre. In 2014, she won the Maverick Award at the Action on Film Festival and recently won the Female Action Performer of the Year award at the same festival for her role in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter

In Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, she plays Sienna, a rebellious robot-fighting arms dealer who lives on a post-apocalyptic Earth. When the cities start to fall under the control of the A.I. Scourge, a hyper-weaponized robot army, Sienna decides to leave the Earth and journey to the centre of the galaxy, seeking a mythical weapon that can neutralize any form of A.I. Pursued by giant machines, Sienna loses everything she cares about in an effort to save the last vestiges of humanity in an A.I. controlled galaxy.

We thank Tracey for the time she took to chat to us about her #Top10 favourite films!

#1 The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2015)

Leo took us on his journey and we felt his every feeling. Acting genius. I’ve watched it over and over!

#2 Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope (George Lucas, 1977)

The beginning of the best movie series ever....

#3 One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest (Milos Forman, 1975)

I love the directing, the chaos, the characters, the masking in this film. The whole film is simply amazing and challenging to the mind.

#4 Logan's Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)

Simple sci-fi done right. I love the journey, the characters, the conflict due to their lack of knowledge of what surrounds them and the storyline. Not everyone loves this film, but I usually love the people who do!

#5 Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)

A true milestone… As a lover of the TV series of the same name, this film was the epitome for a ape-loving gal like me. Once Planet of the Apes went CGI, I still loved it, but not like the real-ness of the original. Brilliant.

#6 Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)

Simply a piece of art.

#7 Terminator 2: Judgement Day (James Cameron, 1991)

Liked a wee bit better than the first… the ultimate sequel. Linda Hamilton… need I say more?! 

#8 Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2010)

Visually monumental masterpiece....

#9 Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)

 I love the sci-fi study in terror that this is. Simply a magnificent movie.

#10 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Stanley Kubrick… need I say more?  Profound.

Tracey Birdsall can currently be seen in Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter, which is now available on Blu-ray in the United States. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Baby Driver (2017) film review

Year: 2017
Running Time: 112 minutes
Director/ Writer: Edgar Wright
Cast: Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, Jon Bernthal, Flea, Lanny Joon, CJ Jones

Baby Driver is now showing in cinemas everywhere and is distributed by Sony Pictures.

Edgar Wright's magnum opus, Baby Driver is the action packed cinematic dance that has shattered it's genre confines with it's creativity, originality and it's creator's obvious passion.

From the very beginning, Baby Driver is demanding of your full attention and there is nothing dissatisfying about this. The film opens with Ansel Elgort's Baby pulling his car up outside of an Atlanta bank, ready for his passengers to begin their heist. The heist soon turns into an high speed car chase as they speed away from the bank with "Bellbottoms" by The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion playing loudly. Not only is this the best opening scene you will see this year, but it sets the tone for the film perfectly and gives you a taste of what to expect.

Wright's film is the result of a long time passion project that has finally seen the light of day and is anything but self-indulgent in the way that filmmakers passion projects can often be. This action film with his unmistakable brand on comedy is by no means a traditional film. While most films have a soundtrack to accompany it, Baby Driver is a story told by means of it's soundtrack. Each scene is carefully choreographed to the song that it is accompanying and it is a joy to watch how Wright has directed these scenes, especially the "Hocus Pocus" chase scene, "Tequila" shoot-out and explosive "Brighton Rock" scene.

The visuals and cinematography are also particularly Wright-esque with close-ups on objects as they are utilised, which fits perfectly with the rhythmic feel of the film.  Baby Driver also uses these objects and the soundtrack as symbols to mix the modern with the nostalgic at various points throughout the film. As Baby listens to "Harlem Shuffle" by Bob & Earl as he gets coffee for his accomplices, the film has a particularly 1970's feel about it. Throughout the film, we see items such as a Polaroid camera and an iPod in the same scene which is a contradiction of time periods. We also see Baby listen to vinyls and tapes, but also listen to his iPod continuously. All of these images make Baby Driver into a film that will remain timeless, as it combines the old and the new rather than working with one specific time period.

While music is a major driving force (excuse the pun) behind the film, Baby Driver focuses a great deal more on character than any other of Wright's films before it. There is not one character in the film that the viewer feels they do not know at least a little about (the only exception here being Jon Bernthal's Griff). The lead character of Baby is exceptionally fleshed out, with not a doubt being left as to who he is, what his motives are and what lies behind the quiet exterior. We come to know him and experience his ordeal with him.

One of the most interesting things about the film is how unexpected character reversals take place. Baby Driver isn't completely unpredictable, but what is unpredictable is the direction certain characters take. The people you believe are going to be the villains turn out to be the good guys and the good guys turn into the bad guys. Jon Hamm's Buddy and Kevin Spacey's Doc are perfect examples of this.

Yet, perhaps the most interesting character is that of Darling, as portrayed by Eiza Gonzalez in her breakout performance. Although her exterior may be perceived by some people to be the opposite of feministic, she could well be the strongest person in the film. As well as being his wife, Darling is Buddy's femme fatale and the Bonnie to his Clyde. Not only that, but she is his strength and she keeps him grounded. There is no doubt that Buddy is a dangerous human being, but he is far less dangerous with Darling around. And if she asks him to do something, he will do it. Darling also refuses to be intimidated by anybody else, which at the end of the day has nothing to do with her husband. She's an incredibly strong character and more emotionally in control than any other character in the film. 

Baby Driver is highly entertaining and often confronting with it's insane car chase and action sequences, but it is definitely not a straight forward genre film by any means. It is an incredibly unique production that breaks down barriers and is a stunning cinematic work of art.