Tag: Dunkirk

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2) 4

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2)

As this tumultuous year winds down, it’s time once again to revisit the films that moved the industry forward. Yesterday, CGMagazine’s Phil Brown explored the best movies of 2017 in terms of Fantasy, Horror, and Comic Book adaptations (you can catch up here). Pop a bottle of bubbly and celebrate the new year with part two of CGMagazines Best Genre Films of 2017.

Best Blockbuster: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2)
Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Blockbuster of 2017.

Already divisive amongst the passionate Star Wars fanbase, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi truly is the Empire Strikes Back of our times. People tend to forget that Empire was the least financially and critically successful film of the initial trilogy. Why? Because as the second act of a larger narrative, the sequel made us question what came before, upset the established order, complicated heroes so they were no longer obviously heroic, and ended on a down note to set up future triumphs. Johnson’s ambitious feature does all of that for a new generation, gleefully ripping apart hallowed movie lore and forcing audiences to ask tough questions about beloved characters before leaving everyone in a dark place. It’s not a nostalgia-fueled crowd pleasure like The Force Awakens. It’s better, deeper, and more challenging than that. Johnson has finally given the next chapter in Star Wars history its own unique direction. It won’t be until we finally get the question-answering finale that everyone finally comes to recognize that. For now, The Last Jedi will be a divisive Star Wars movie and that’s as it should be. Great movies require time to sneak in, even when they take place in a familiar galaxy from far, far away.

Best Action Flick: John Wick: Chapter 2

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2) 1
Keanu Reeves in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Action Flick of 2017.

For viewers out there who love nothing more in cinema than watching a bad guy get punched in the face in the most creative way possible, the John Wick franchise was been a welcome addition to action movie lore. The Keanu Reeves headlined franchise has grown into an entire tongue-in-cheek universe of super assassins who spend half their time killing each other and the other half living in lavish secret hotels. It’s ridiculous, but everyone involved knows exactly what they are doing and have created a perfect delivery system for some of the finest physical action scenes of this or any age. John Wick officially grew from a surprising action movie underdog into a genuine genre icon this year. Bring on Chapter 3 as soon as possible; Keanu isn’t getting any younger and the genre isn’t quite as fun anywhere else.

Best War Movie: Dunkirk

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2) 2
Cillian Murphy in Dunkirk (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best War Movie of 2017.

Christopher Nolan’s IMAX blockbuster is somehow both a straight-ahead visceral action flick and a radically structured art film that doesn’t abide by cozy storytelling conventions. It shoves viewers into the middle of Second World War combat with a subjective intensity comparable only to the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan and somehow manages to do so for the entire running time. There was no moviegoing experience in 2017 as thrillingly cinematic as watching Dunkirk unfold on IMAX using all of the format’s specific tricks to create a war movie unlike any other. It says so much with so little and grabs viewers by the throat for a ride that doesn’t let up for a second (along with a handful of the director’s typical structural headgames). This movie will grow in reputation over time, even though watching it in any format other than IMAX ensures that viewers won’t get the full effect of Nolan’s remarkable accomplishment.

Best Biopic: The Disaster Artist

CGMagazine Best of 2017: Film (Part 2) 3
James Franco in The Disaster Artist (2017) – CGMagazine’s Best Biopic of 2017.

Finally, we come to a great movie about the making of—arguably—the worst movie ever made. When The Disaster Artist was announced, everyone who knew The Room could guess all of the hilarious backstage stories about Tommy Wisseau’s wild production that James Franco planned on sharing. What was impossible to predict was that Franco also had a unique take on the material and planned to use Wisseau as a stand in for all misunderstood outsider artists. That the flick is hilarious is no surprise. That director/star Franco also found a way to transform a walking punchline into an admirably tragic figure was one of the most pleasant movie-going surprises of the year. Oscar bait biopics are usually pandering nonsense. The Disaster Artist is a special and oddball effort destined for cult status that will stand alongside the so-bad-its-good camp/cult classic at its centre. That accomplishment ain’t easy and is worth celebrating.

Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out Phil’s take on Blade Runner 2049, Happy Death Day, and It! He also had a chance to sit down with Guillermo Del Toro. Check out his interview here!

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Why Dunkirk Needed To Be Rated PG 4

Why Dunkirk Needed To Be Rated PG

Summer movie season is a time for superheroes, space battles, and random stupid rom-coms. But this July, Dunkirk was released—a bonafide Oscar contender that opened amidst films like War for the Planet of the Apes, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. All these movies had massive marketing campaigns, obscene budgets, and were all based far away from reality. But Dunkirk is a war movie about the true events leading up to the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of British troops in May of 1940. In its opening weekend, Dunkirk topped the box office, raking just over 55 million in North America and crossing 100 million worldwide.

How could a war movie tucked in between some of the summer’s most hopeful blockbusters have out produced them all?

The answer—Christopher Nolan.

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Dunkirk (images via imdb.com)

Nolan is the director who brought us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, and Interstellar. And with The Dark Knight Trilogy, he produced a legion of fans that would follow him anywhere—this past weekend those same fans went along with his WWII tale. Those fans aren’t whole-heartedly superhero movie fans. These are fans of perhaps the greatest director of his generation.

With or without his audience in mind, Nolan did something rather bold with Dunkirk. He made his war film PG.

There was quite a buzz surrounding the announcement that Dunkirk would be PG. Could a World War II film worth its salt be made at this rating? Other World War II films like Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and most recently, Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, were fraught with violence and bloodshed. It’s the kind of bloodshed puts audiences right in the action—so close to the carnage that they would never want to be a part of any war.

How could Nolan’s Dunkirk compete?

Simple. He created a film that leans more on being a harrowing thriller than a blood and guts war film. Should the gore of war have been a significant part of Dunkirk, it could have taken away from the white-knuckling nature of this film. All anyone had to do was google the events of Dunkirk to find out the ending—there’s no surprise there. However, Nolan’s direction took audiences on a captivating, yet relatively bloodless, thrill ride.

Why Dunkirk Needed To Be Rated PG 2
Dunkirk (images via imdb.com)

Nolan’s plot choices, like choosing to lessen the bloodshed, allowed the focus of the film to be on the event itself and not the glory and carnage of war, but the events at Dunkirk take center stage in Nolan’s exquisite tale. Where most other war films delve deep into character, whether in Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Schindler’s List, or The Thin Red Line. Dunkirk follows a handful of characters, those men played by Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh never overshadow the events at Dunkirk.

This is where Nolan’s mastery of the film medium is clearly evident. Dunkirk plays out much like a silent film. The film has very little dialogue and it’s the imagery of the visual medium that tells the story. Much like what George Miller accomplished in 2015 with Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk utilizes the visual nature of film to its fullest—giving audiences a true work of art.

Why Dunkirk Needed To Be Rated PG
Dunkirk (images via imdb.com)

Finally, Nolan’s choice for creating such a riveting war film but rating it PG has widened the movie’s viewership considerably. Should the film have pushed closer to Hacksaw Ridge with exploding bodies and missing limbs, the only ones watching the film would be anyone over 18 or children of delinquent parents. Having Dunkirk rated PG, the film can be used as a teachable medium for young people. Nolan’s movie could easily be shown in high schools the world over, offering students not only a historical tale but also a compelling drama of heroism and the push for the communal good.

The thing is, Dunkirk never downplays the horrors of war. The sacrifices both the soldiers and the civilians made are never diminished—mostly because of Nolan’s superior filmmaking ability. The film is a teachable movie on many levels and Nolan has made a clear effort to allow as many audience members as he could to see his film with it still being a war movie.

And we are all the better for it. Dunkirk clocks in at just over 100 minutes—it’s a brisk war movie the whole family can enjoy.

Well, most of the family anyway.

Dunkirk (Movie) Review: The Dark Day and Night

Dunkirk (Movie) Review: The Dark Day and Night

In some ways, Dunkirk represents the culmination of the blockbuster craft that director Christopher Nolan has slowly folded into his chilly and cerebral filmmaking style. From The Dark Knight on, all of Nolan’s blockbusters peak with carefully edited sequences that weave together several climaxes unfolding on several timelines (and occasionally several planes of reality). The technique is intense, breathlessly jumping between climatic set pieces in ways that give viewers little time to breathe as his films operatically swell to a flourish. At a trim 106 minutes, Dunkirk is Nolan’s shortest movie, and that’s because it’s one of his multi-level criss-cross climaxes expanded to feature length. There’s no set up and even less resolution, just one epic war movie that pounds on viewers like a densely orchestrated ride. It’s a remarkable achievement of pure cinema and is sure to be remembered as one of Nolan’s finest directorial achievements.

Dunkirk (Movie) Review: 3

The film kicks off in the middle of the events of Dunkirk. An almost entirely unseen German army has pushed the Brits to the edge of the English Channel. 400,000 soldiers are now sitting ducks for an enemy that surrounds them on land, sea, and air. The Brits can see England yet can’t reach it, and the waters are too shallow for any of the biggest Brit navy vessels to cross. It’s a pickle. Nolan plays this madness out across three simultaneous storylines. There’s the group on the beach/in the boats—a vast collection of panicked soldiers led by Kenneth Branagh’s stiff upper lip commander unsure of how it’ll all end. There’s a civilian father (Mark Rylance) with two young boys who volunteers to take his boat across the channel in the hopes of saving as many soldiers as possible. Then there are two fighter pilots (Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden) in the air with a bird’s eye view of it all—while shooting down a few bombers and fighters. Nolan breathlessly cuts between the three storylines and dozens of characters. To complicate things, each story has its own timeline that overlaps with the others in unexpected ways to add further depth, perspective, and shocks.

Dunkirk (Movie) Review: 4
Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan

By Nolan standards, Dunkirk has a surprisingly straightforward script. The war epic is stripped down to bare bones to make viewers feel as though they’ve been thrust into the middle of the action to suffer and triumph alongside the characters. There’s no single protagonist and the movie star faces like Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy get equal screen time with unknowns. All the performances are strong, but none get conventional heroic journeys. Nolan casts famous faces only so that they’ll stick out when characters appear in unexpected spots across timelines. Otherwise, the film is more about the collective experience than anything resembling conventional narrative. It’s all about feeling the story rather than listening to it. Almost like the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan expanded to feature-length.

Dunkirk (Movie) Review: 1
Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan

Good lord is the film ever visceral and intense. The muted colours, deep focus, and massive scale of the imagery overwhelms and envelops the audience while Hans Zimmer’s never ending score of screeches and rumbles digs into your guts to provide an anxiety-inducing sense of panic. From the first scene to the last, you’re trapped with these men through vicious attacks and impossible moral quandaries. Sweat covers your back and bass rattles your teeth. Nolan shoves characters and viewers into impossibly cramped locations that quickly become death traps. Then he’ll cut to vast spaces just as imposing in their own way. It’s a complete sensory assault that demands to be viewed on the largest possible canvas for maximum impact. Dunkirk rattles the bones as a blockbuster and snaps together like perfectly constructed puzzle. At times it can feel abstract and overwhelming, but always with the purpose of thrusting viewers into the middle of a remarkable story, never merely to alienate.

There’s also mercifully little nationalistic rabble-rousing, just enough to suit the story and always laced with some sort of brutal irony. This film might be obsessively specific about the events on Dunkirk, but it also feels like a more general statement about war. One that plunges viewers headfirst into the terrifying panic of combat, criticizing the act of war as humanity’s deepest madness while also honouring those who triumph and survive. It’s not a conventional summer blockbuster, yet it’s also the most viscerally thrilling cinematic spectacle playing in theaters. After only one viewing, Dunkirk feels like something destined to be studied and remembered. It’s one of the greatest war films ever made, one of Christopher Nolan’s greatest achievements, and might just be the finest film of the year. This is a film that must be experienced to be believed and one that deserves to be seen in the biggest and best theatre possible. Don’t miss it.