Dunkirk

Posted on July 20, 2017 at 1:16 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Wartime violence, guns, bombs, some disturbing and graphic images
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 21, 2017
Date Released to DVD: December 18, 2017
Copyright 2017 Warner Brothers

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” inspires the most unexpected adjectives for the true story of one of the defining moments of World War II, the rescue operation that saved more than 300,000 men and that defined the resolve of the Allied forces and, even more, of the civilians they were fighting for. You do not expect a war movie to be elegant, intimate, spare in story and dialogue, but this one is. There is almost no exposition or technical talk. It is also spectacularly, heartbreakingly beautiful, with breathtakingly gorgeous cinematography by “Intersteller’s” Hoyte Van Hoytema. And Hans Zimmer’s score is stunning, with a ticking clock (Nolan’s own pocketwatch), propulsive, elegiac, magisterial. You expect a big movie to be packed with stars. But Nolan cast unknown young actors in central roles and major stars in smaller parts.

This is not the usual historical epic.  It is more poem than prose, more experience than narrative.

As the movie briefly reminds us, the German army had pushed the French and British Allies to the coast. It looked like defeat. Through the eyes of one very young soldier who looks almost indistinguishable from the 400,000 others, we see the chaos and terror, shots coming from nowhere (the sound department deserves an award for the visceral noise of the guns), no one in charge. Nolan makes it clear without overdoing it that war is not just hell; it is the chum of sending millions of boys into a meat grinder.

He makes it to the beach where we see the scope and scale, thousands of soldiers standing in line for ships that are not coming.

Nolan has a masterful control of the story in three different strands, operating over different time periods. The great miracle of Dunkirk was the more than 800 small private boats that crossed the English Channel to bring the soldiers home. They are represented here by the invaluable Mark Rylance, representing the essence of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” He sets off with his teenage son and a young friend. That happens over a day. Taking place in just hours, pilots take off to provide support, warned to be mindful of their fuel and make sure they leave enough to get home. And then there are those on the beach, the Army and Navy officers (James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh), who know too well the endless triage of war strategy, and the soldiers trying to stay alive. The details are beautifully precise, a nurse handing exhausted soldiers tea, the look in the eye of a soldier trying to decide whether to doom one man to save the lives of dozens, or in the eye of another watching helplessly as a fellow soldier, in despair, walks into the water.

History is written by the victors, according to Winston Churchill, the then brand-new British Prime Minister whose famously inspiring words of determination are read aloud by a soldier at the end of the film. An historian himself, he was of course right. From some perspectives, this story was a loss, not a victory. But ultimately, history is written by the survivors, decades, even centuries later. Nolan’s film could only have been made by a cinema master with the perspective of time and all the history since, and we are fortunate to be here when he did.

NOTE: Nolan, director of the “Dark Knight” films, cast two of his Batman villains in this film, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy. Those who appreciate what he did with time here will also enjoy his films “Inception” and “Memento.”

Parents should know that this is a wartime story based on historic events with guns and bombs. Characters are injured and killed. A soldier commits suicide and another sacrifices himself to save others. There is some strong language.

Family discussion: Why were the soldiers surprised by the way their evacuation was seen by the British people? Who should decide who has to leave the ship?

If you like this, try: the 1958 film, also called “Dunkirk,” starring John Mills, Richard Attenborough, and Bernard Lee, 2017’s WWII drama “Their Finest,” which includes a depiction of a propaganda film about the Dunkirk rescue, and the upcoming “Churchill”

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Based on a true story DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week movie review War

Trailer: Dunkirk

Posted on April 4, 2017 at 8:00 am

Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance star in the WWII story “Dunkirk,” the story of one of the greatest rescue operations in military history, when the Allied forces were beat back to the coast by the Germans and 338,226 men escaped, including 139,997 French, Polish, and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers, aboard 861 vessels (of which 243 were sunk during the operation). Winston Churchill called it “the miracle of deliverance.” The rescue and its depiction as a morale-booster is also featured in the spring release, “Their Finest.”

Some background:

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Trailers, Previews, and Clips

One Direction: This is Us

Posted on August 29, 2013 at 6:00 pm

One-Direction-movie-poster-1840689“They don’t know me, but they love me,” says one dewy-eyed One Direction fan, and that says it all.

This 3D documentary and concert film gives us a peek at the moment in time when One Direction, a group of five British teenagers, reigned as the number one musical act in the world.  As inevitable a part of early adolescence as cliques and braces is the transitional object known as the teen idol.  Almost a hundred years ago, it was Rudolph Valentino.  Then there was Frank Sinatra, the Beatles, the Monkees, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, the Backstreet Boys. The girls move on, but those ties are strong.  Take a look at last Sunday’s Twitter feed when Justin Timberlake’s Video Vanguard performance included a reunion with N’Sync.  While there have been notable individual teen idols, the boy band has the advantage of giving fans a range of options.  All of them are always safely, well, let’s just say they don’t have to shave very often. There’s usually a cute one and a smart one and a (comparatively) rebellious one. So whole slumber parties can debate the merits of individual members but unite in their shared passion, and each girl can feel that she is expressing her sense of independence and still-evolving personal taste in her selection of a favorite.  (I’m a Paul girl, myself.)  Teen idols are a mostly harmless transition object for young girls as they rehearse some of their experience of attachment with someone who is safely far away.

After an “aw”-inducing introduction with some home movie footage of the five members of One Direction, as they tell us in voice overs about their early childhood (we’re talking seven to ten years ago in most cases) dreams of stardom.  And then we see the Cinderella story of how they got started.  They never met before they were contestants on the British talent competition show, “The X Factor.”  They all lost competing as individuals.  (Does anyone remember who beat them?)  But then star-maker Simon Cowell saw something in the long line of runners-up.  He pointed: you, you, you, you, you.  He told them to get together and come back as a group.  They laugh in recollecting that their first conversation was not about the music or the performance but about what they should wear.

What they had, in addition to nice, tuneful voices, was good attitudes and great chemistry.  Over and over, they tell us how much fun they have with each other and how what keeps them going through all the work and pressure of the tour is that they’re in it with their best mates.  They insist that they’re not like other boy bands because they’re “cooler.”  Also, they are not good dancers and they don’t dress alike.

Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me,” “Pom Presents the Greatest Movie Ever Sold”) directed, so you might expect some exploration of the merchandising behind this “pre-fab five,” who seem like nice, talented kids, but who are the avatars of a marketing machine.   When a fan says, “They say what we want to hear and no one says to us,” those of us outside of the fangirl demographic would like to know something about the genius who thought One Direction should sing about how it is not knowing she is beautiful is what makes a girl beautiful.  We’d like to know more about how the age of social media make these boys stars before they had put out a single record.  But this is not that movie.  And it is certainly not Alun Owen’s/Richard Lester’s “Hard Day’s Night,” a masterpiece completely separate from the charm and hooky tunes of the Beatles in its innovative structure and documentary-like intimacy.  This is just a love letter to the fans from five boys who know how lucky they are and like to show off for the camera.

Parents should know that the movie includes some strong language, some underwear shots, and brief potty humor, but is about as squeaky clean as any documentary about teenaged boys could be.

Family discussion: Which one do you like best and why?  What makes them get along so well?

If you like this, try: “Bye Bye Birdie,” an affectionate satire of the teen idol phenomenon

 

 

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