Movie review- Dunkirk (2017)


Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance

Director Christopher Nolan 
Forty years ago, Richard Attenborough and a crew of thousands created A Bridge Too Far. The all-star war epic based on the historic Operation Market Garden campaign in Arnhem was a beautifully crafted drama which examined a key point in the Second World War. 

There’s a sense of continuity with the casting of Will Attenborough, grandson of the much missed Dickie, in Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s own beautifully crafted drama which also examines a key point in the same conflict. 

Chances are you may know the story, whether from Dickie and director Leslie Norman’s 1958 namesake movie or assorted documentaries and history lessons: Allied troops trapped in the eponymous country, their backs to the sea, enemy forces closing in, and they have no way home. 

So a fleet of pleasure craft and the like set off to rescue them. 

That’s it. Told as a linear narrative, it could have been another A Bridge Too Far, but inspired by Nolan’s own 19-hour crossing to Dunkirk, the experience which inspired him to make the movie, he applies Inception-style multiple timelines to his most ambitious film. 

The casting is superb. Tom Hardy has never given a bad performance in a Nolan film, and as Farrier, an heroic Spitfire pilot, he acts mostly with his eyes. None of those cliched scenes of ripping his oxygen mask off every time he talks so the audience can see his face. (Listen for a Nolan regular over the radio).

Kenneth Branagh adds necessary authority as Bolton, the Commander on the ground waiting for some sort of rescue, while at sea, the peerless Mark Rylance is Mr Dawson, one of the civilian sailors trying to rescue some of the stranded. 

And while the stunt casting of Harry Styles could have been as disastrous as sticking Ed Sheeran in Game of Thrones, the One Direction veteran does a fine job of convincing the viewer he’s just another British troop trying to stay alive. 

(I’m guessing the girl and her mum in front of me who talked through the film were more interested in Styles than the stunning story). 

Threading the three timelines together is Hans Zimmer’s tense score. No stranger to dealing with the complexities of erratic storytelling thanks to Memento and Inception, here he manages to ramp up the tension with a pulse pounding, nerve jangling score which complements the visuals rather than drowning them out. 

And while the photography could have gone down the Pearl Harbour-style path of slick visuals and backlit heroes emerging from smoke like rock stars, DoP Hoyte van Hoytema wisely lenses the movie like a documentary. 

For the most part Dunkirk could be a silent movie. As great as the script is, it’s the action that speaks louder than words. 

Nolan’s long been the latterday Stanley Kubrick, aka the smartest guy in the movie room, and while this could have been as glacial as Full Metal Jacket, there’s a warmth as well as intelligence to his work that bleeds through the screen. 

In 2016, Chris Pine’s excellent drama The Finest Hours told a similar story of rescue at sea against seemingly impossible odds. 

(Cue gag: “Do you want to be in Nolan’s new movie Pine?”

“No thanks. I’ve done Kirk.” Boom. Tish.)

While that moving picture seemed to vanish without a trace, Dunkirk is one of those films that deserves the five star reviews. 

It’s a shoo-in for the major movie awards, and if it doesn’t land a clutch of Baftas next spring I’ll be amazed. 

The fact many of the original craft from the Dunkirk campaign recreated moments for the movie is just one of many sucker punch moments. 

The scene following Branagh looking to the horizon is not only the most moving of 2017 but of any film over the past decade. 

Though I don’t see it in IMAX, the director’s preferred medium, there’s a strong chance I’ll amend that on a second viewing. 

It’s a film that deserves multiple viewings and will no doubt be doing the rounds at festivals for years to come. 

One of Dunkirk’s greatest achievements is not just that it treats the audience with respect but that in an age when many feel embarrassed to be British, here’s a film that makes me proud and at the same time is a glowing tribute to the countless souls who risked everything to save their comrades. 

An outstanding film about selflessness for the selfie generation. 



Baby Driver Review

Baby DriverDirector Edgar Wright

Certificate 15

Starring Anson Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James

In a summer dominated by sequels and comic book movies, Edgar Wright’s latest movie is a breath of fresh air. It’s also his best since Shaun of the Dead in 2004. 

To say I’m a Wright fan is an understatement. He’s up there with Danny Boyle as one of my favourite Brit directors, though some of Edgar’s movies do go off the boil toward the finale. 

I was there at the midnight screening of The World’s End and diverted miles out of my way during a 2012 road trip to ensure I could explore the key landmarks in Hot Fuzz. I also watched every episode of Spaced several times over. 

With ’Shaun’, he and co-writer Simon Pegg hit the comedy horror nail so squarely on the head, it proved to be up there with An American Werewolf in London and Young Frankenstein as a genre classic. 

And as much as I adore Hot Fuzz, that third act descended into an OTT shoot ’em up. 

Scott Pilgrim vs the World peaked half way through, as did The World’s End. 

Then it looked like Wright’s long cherished Ant-Man would finally see the light of day… but he dropped out. However, his directorial flourishes remained like echoes of what could have been. 

Which brings us to Baby Driver, the much acclaimed romantic comedy crime caper with a terrific soundtrack. 

Anson Elgort is the eponymous hero, a fresh faced kid with tinnitus who says little but his driving skills speak volumes. He’s ’Mozart with a go-kart’, as Kevin Spacey remarks at one point. 

That hybrid of Spaced and Spacey proves a terrific mix. He never gives a bad turn, but here the Old Vic legend gives one of his best performances, his rock solid delivery of a terrific script ensures every time he’s on screen, the movie comes alive. Not that it needs much help. The action scenes are often breathtaking. A street shootout cuts the excess flab from Michael Mann’s landmark Heat which no doubt inspired it. This is leaner, but thankfully not meaner than that 1995 bum-numbing classic, while the opening BD car chase left me with a huge grin for the duration. 

It feels like after years of shifting through gears, Wright has finally found the right one. While some movie vehicles can have a super car sheen but milk float-style story engines, puttering out long before the end, Baby Driver is a Bugatti Veyron powered by an F14 fighter plane engine. 

The stunts, pacing, editing and score are superb, while the chemistry between Elgort and Lily James is priceless. She has the screen presence of a genuine movie star, while solid support comes from Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal. 

The sucker punch is Baby’s relationship with his deaf foster father Joseph (the superb CJ Jones). A hugely touching moment in the third act proved more effective than the outstanding action scenes and brilliantly scored iPod-driven other moments (Baby’s opening title coffee run is terrific). 

One of many genius moves is Wright choosing the original songs of many tunes which later found fame as sampled smashes. So instead of yet another airing of Jump Around by House of Pain (see also War Dogs, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and Bridget Jones’s Baby), we get the original. Great movies are about giving the audience what they think they’re getting, then pulling the rug. 

Baby Driver is up there with La La Land as one of my films of the year, and like that riot of colour, action and music, I can’t wait to see the whole thing again.