Christopher Nolan’s newest feature shouldn’t be called a film. It should be called an experience. Dunkirk is harrowing, heartbreaking and stunningly shot – and you won’t see a more affecting film this year (or perhaps even in the years to come).

Nolan tells the story of the World War ll Dunkirk evacuation in this, his directorial masterpiece. The director seamlessly weaves together three timelines, bringing together an ensemble cast who’s actions stir more than their words. In a genius creative decision, Nolan follows a set of characters in a week on the beach, an hour as a fighter pilot in the sky and a day on a civilian boat sent to bring home the stranded soldiers. Witnessing events from these three viewpoints allows for a layered look at the complexity of this rescue mission.

Dunkirk is fiercely told through body language, stark and stunning visuals and a pounding, relentless original score by Hans Zimmer. Nolan has united an ensemble cast that sees established talent alongside breakout stars – not one man lets this piece down.

It wouldn’t be enough to say that Dunkirk is a triumph of what cinema can achieve, and it’s unlikely it will be replicated in all of its cinematic genius anytime soon. From the intensity of fighter pilots in the sky to the heart-wrenching depiction of the deaths of young men at war, Nolan grabs his audience from the very first moment and refuses to let go. This is the re-telling of a tragic moment in history and one that is told here with aching intimacy.

Dunkirk is relentlessly paced, never allowing its viewer to take a rest from the stark reality of the situation; much like the men who were trapped there. Claustrophobic spaces are juxtaposed with expansive photography of the beach and the vast sea that separates France and Britain, and when Nolan allows you above water or into an open space you can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief. The word immersive is thrown around a lot, but this piece of cinema might just be the new definition for it.

The war epic, a relatively short 106 minutes in length, is free from the bloody spectacle of most war films and features only one swear word, while dialogue itself is generally scarce – there isn’t a sentimental monologue in-sight. Director and Writer Nolan defies genre expectations and showcases the true impact of carefully crafted cinema without the use of gratuitous violence or offensive language.

Part character study, part inimitable war epic, Dunkirk has reinvented the genre thanks to the bold storytelling and auteur eye of its director. Respectful in its portrayal of the unthinkable horrors of war, it deserves to stay in the cinema way beyond its allotted time and – rather simply – should be seen by all.

The Drop, review

Michael R. Roskam gives us a treat of a film with The Drop, a toned-down gangster flick that concentrates on family ties, issues of territory and the importance of street credibility in Brooklyn. Adapted from the short story Animal Rescue, Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini star, the latter in his last role before his tragic death in 2013. Gandolfini is at his best here as ‘CousinMarv, an ageing wannabe mobster who, unwilling to get his own hands dirty, sets of a chain of events that culminates in a revenge-esque narrative. The plot is straightforward; gangsters drop money at various bars around the neighbourhood, said money gets stolen, someone needs to take the blame. For what seems like an elementary storyline, there are a number of great components that help to make Roskam’s film a refreshing watch.

The attraction for most will be the cast – this ensemble, featuring Noomi Rapace and John Ortiz in supporting roles, work well together to build a solid, and realistic portrayal of working-class inner-city life. Roskam is careful not to overdo the urban grit that the film encompasses and even better, the violence is kept to a minimum and only present when truly necessary. This violence helps to turn Hardy’s Bob into a two-dimensional character and its in this role that the actor can be seen as the pensive, brooding male that he is now so recognised for (hell, if you’re good at it, why not?). Sure, Bob shares similar traits to other characters Hardy has taken on, but he does the whole masculine-protective role well and its always a pleasure to watch him take on said persona. Beyond this tough-guy act, Hardy’s Brooklyn accent is immensely impressive and if you were unaware of just how British the actor was you wouldn’t, for one second, believe it was just practice.

promotional poster for the drop

promotional poster for the drop

The heart of The Drop lies with a unexpected supporting character, and really its this character who steals the film – the little Pitball puppy found in a dumpster in the early minutes. Rocco, as Bob and Nadia decide to name him, is adorable beyond words and is actually the main factor that brings several of the group together. It all sounds a bit strange at this point, but honestly, its a rather lovely aside to a genre usually dominated by death and brutality. At times Dennis Lehane’s script feels a little stilted, and it moves along at a snails pace for the majority but having said that The Drop is simply a cool (yes, cool), surprisingly upbeat film that will leave you satisfied.

To finish off it is most definitely appropriate to pay respect to Mr James Gandolfini. The actors career spanned over twenty-five years and he became known for his work in a number of critically acclaimed television and film roles, from everybody’s favourite – The Sopranos – to Killing Them Softly and True Romance. Known to many as Tony Soprano, and possibly remembered for one of the best lead performances in a television drama for the past twenty years, Gandolfini will continue to be recognised for his wonderful contribution to the industry, both on the big and small screen. James, thank you for sharing your talent with us.


Lawless, review

I’ve seen John (The Road) Hillcoat’s Lawless two or three times now and if you are yet to see it make it one to watch. If you love a 1930’s setting and a  little bit of cool thrown in for good measure (fans of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire will adore this), then this is the one for you. Starring Tom Hardy (an actor now recognized as greatly talented and wholly diverse), Shia LaBeouf and (now leading man) Jason Clarke prohibition drama Lawless  focuses on the real-life story of the Bondurant brothers, who in 1931, set up a bootlegging business from their hometown of Franklin County.

The film runs at 115 minutes and in that time features an array of action-packed scenes as well as some masterful acting from the likes of LaBeouf and co-star Dane DeHaan (who, if you’ve read previous reviews you’ll know is a firm favourite). These two spark well off of each other and represent what feels like a true brotherhood. Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska add a feminine touch to a film dominated by strong males (Guy Pearce stars as the villain of the piece) and the latter personifies the trials of disobeying ones parents in the pursuit of finding your feet perfectly, with Chastain channeling the aura that actresses from the Golden Age of cinema encompassed.

the cast of lawless

the cast of lawless

Narrative-wise we join the Bondurant’s while in the midst of running their illegal liquor business – with LaBeouf’s Jack struggling under authority of his older, and extremely tough, brothers Forest (Hardy, rarely saying more then two or three lines of dialogue per scene. Envisage a 1930’s Bane of sorts) and Howard (Clarke). We find the trio under threat from Pearce’s malevolent and at times truly frightening Charlie Rakes (the whole Lawless theme is best understood when Rake is in the frame) and what ensues is a almost cat and dog chase. Together, this ensemble give viewers a hell of a lot of masculinity to deal with and a foreboding sense of whats to come in the finale. Hillcoat directs the cast with what feels like a lenient eye – allowing Hardy to brood about the place, lending to a naturalistic production (remember, however unbelievable events may feel this is a true story. Prepare for ‘What the hell?!’).

The whole piece is full of quite brutal violence and is most definitely not a watch for those with a nervous disposition when it comes to gore. An adult film, Lawless portrays a time in American history that had a higher crime rate despite authorities’ attempts to do the opposite and displays well the challenges of growing up in a family full of strong and disciplinary members. Clarke doesn’t have his moment in the sun here but the potential for a leading man can be seen, and to see him now take centre stage is a pleasure. Together, the entire cast help to create a sense of realism – after all these happenings are all true, with some perhaps exaggeration for good measure – and overall Lawless is an enjoyable ride with a dark undertone to it.

A family story which doesn’t hold black, Hillcoat’s film portrays well the difficulties of small-town 1930’s America in a time of repression and social rebellion.