It’s Christopher Nolan’s World War II movie. And I know that sounds a bit snarky and reductive, but considering that Dunkirk is pretty much exactly the movie I imagined it being when I heard the words, “It’s a Christopher Nolan World War II movie,” I really don’t think there’s any better way to describe it.
You have a problem with Christopher Nolan, don’t you?
Not at all, despite what colleagues of mine might have you believe. I think Nolan’s a legitimate auteur of extraordinary technical acumen, and one of painfully few contemporary filmmakers whose releases feel like cultural events. But unlike his legions of obsessed devotees – blimey, this guy’s fanbase is fucking insufferable – I’m perfectly willing to admit the faults and failings of his filmmaking; to say, for instance, that Interstellar’s entire third act is hippie hogwash, or that even his best films (The Dark Knight and Inception) are still overlong and irritatingly self-indulgent.
See, Nolan’s such a devout technician that for him, the click of a movie coming together isn’t the unity of its themes and ideas, but the gears of a giant mechanism locking into place. He has no sense of emotional proportionality. He believes he’s tackling important existential dilemmas, but he confuses what his movies are about (loss, love, revenge, family) with what they actually are, which is often deliriously gorgeous puzzle boxes that don’t contain much of anything. But when he’s working at his best, his intellectual and emotional shallowness hardly matters; he can claim that time and space are infinite and manipulable, and make you believe him.
Continue reading Review – Dunkirk
It’s hard to explain the appeal of the Sniper Elite series. It’s one of those gaming guilty pleasures that sounds faintly perverse written down, and utterly ludicrous spoken out loud. Not that there’s anything particularly unusual about sniping in games; almost all shooters have at least one rifle, and many have whole stretches of gameplay that are dedicated to nothing but long-range marksmanship. The sniping in and of itself, though, isn’t the appeal of Sniper Elite. Things would be so much easier if it were. But, no, there’s something else that differentiates this series from other sneaky-stabby-shooty third-person games, and it’s that psychotic slow-motion X-Ray view that lets you see all the catastrophic internal trauma you’re inflicting on your victims.
Seems an odd thing to be into, doesn’t it? Certainly wouldn’t sit well around the office water cooler or the in-law’s dinner table, and you get the sense that Rebellion, the game’s developers, probably recognise this. Which, I assume, is why they continue to set the series in World War II, despite having exhausted every major theatre of the conflict. You need Nazis for this kind of thing. These games have such a throbbing stiffy for lovingly-detailed exploding organs that it would be uncomfortable if your bullets were tunnelling through the brainpans of anyone else. But killing Nazis is always guilt-free. In the context of taking on a xenophobic imperialist war-machine, it’s actually pretty satisfying to watch precisely how much irreparable damage each bullet is inflicting on the Third Reich. That’s what I keep telling myself, anyway.
Continue reading Review – Sniper Elite 4
As soon as the film opened, I knew this was not going to be a glossy watch. World War Two films are not hard to come by, but one based on actual events from the perspective of Czechoslovakian operatives is a rarity in cinema.
You know you are in for an exhausting two hours, and that’s a compliment to how the film has been put together. It’s rough, snowy opening, as the parachutists land in the middle of woodland, is only the beginning of a slow, tentative, but intense drama that unfolds deliberately right until the very end. The story, which is based on actual events, follows two Czechoslovakian soldiers, Josef Gabčík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan), tasked with Anthropoid: the operational code name for the assassination of SS officer Reinhard Heydrich. Heydrich, the primary architect of the Final Solution, was the Reich’s third-in-command behind Hitler and Himmler, and the leader of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia.
Continue reading Review – Anthropoid
For a movie about very smart people, The Imitation Game isn’t a particularly smart movie. Not that it’s necessarily a bad one; it has an excellent cast, and they lend the material respect and enthusiasm. But it’s certainly flawed, and perhaps enough that what works and what doesn’t will cancel each other out based on what you’re personally into.
It’s also, it must be said, a decidedly British movie. Morten Tyldum, the director, is a Norwegian, but the cast are about as British as it’s possible to get without actually choking on all the plums. Alan Turing, the mathematician upon whose biography the movie is (loosely) based, was a Brit. Bletchley Park, where most of the proceedings take place, was the nerve-centre of British code-breaking during the Second World War. Characters huff exasperated declarations, like “I’m leaving,” before making an exit, or, “By Jove, I’ve got it!” whenever they stumble across the solution to a particularly taxing problem.
Continue reading Review – The Imitation Game
Unbroken, the second directorial feature from Angelina Jolie, is the life story of US Olympian Louis Zamperini; who has at various stages of his life been an Italian immigrant, a record-breaking long-distance runner, a bombardier in World War II, a man who spent 47 days stranded on a raft in the Pacific Ocean, a prisoner in a Japanese POW camp, an alcoholic, a born-again Christian and, latterly, an inspirational speaker with a penchant for forgiveness, who managed to meet almost all of his former captors in person and make his peace with them before he died at the ripe age of 97 in 2014.
Continue reading Review – Unbroken
The most interesting thing about Fury is, perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the very thing which makes it kind of challenging to properly judge and write about: I don’t really have any idea what it is.
I know it’s a movie about a tank. I know it’s the latest feature from David Ayer, who at this point is almost inarguably the go-to guy for what can loosely be termed “guy movies” – that is, movies about men and how they relate to one another in traditionally masculine contexts like war and law enforcement. And I know Fury is pretty good, all things considered. I enjoyed it. But I’m not sure if I enjoyed it on its own terms, or if I’m just a sucker for guy movies about tanks.
Continue reading Review – Fury