Film Review: Dunkirk

A couple of weeks ago, after my 21st birthday, my cousin Ellie and I decided to get our asses out of our beds for once and go to the cinema. We’d both been dying to see Dunkirk because we’re both quite interested in history and I love going to see films. I had high expectations for this film which, to be honest, often leads to disappointment.

I am in awe of this film. From the moment Fionn Whitehead came onto the screen walking around the city of Dunkirk, looking in abandoned shop windows and drinking water from a hose pipe, I was on edge. There was a sense of foreboding. Next thing I know gun shots are going off, very very loud gunshots. I think one of my favourite things about the film was the level of noise. It was almost like they’d amped the volume up to increase the realism and shock factor.

Dunkirk

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When the planes flew overhead, about to drop bombs, and there was literally nothing the soldiers could do and nowhere to hide so they all just fell to the floor and hoped for the best. It really made me think about what is must’ve been like to be there. It must have been terrifying. I can’t imagine anything scarier than that moment when you hear the plane coming and realise your life could be over within a minute if you’re in an unlucky spot. The British and French were cornered into a tiny space by the German army and that area was being routinely bombed.

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Christopher Nolan’s direction was really the thing that made the film for me. His clever use of chronology in order to tell three stories within one 2 hour film was incredible (and slightly reminiscent of one of his other films Inception). He also managed to convey some of the difficulty the pilots faced, trying to tackle the enemy from the air, by filming from their perspective. It was clever, loud and apparently mostly filmed on location (and that means that poor Harry Styles probably really was suffering in the picture below). I don’t think anybody else could’ve done a better job.

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Speaking of Harry Styles, casting him was a massive risk for Nolan to take. It could’ve completely taken the focus away from the massive historical point of the film. Also, if done badly, it could’ve made a bit of a mockery of the whole film. I was VERY pleasantly surprised though. Styles seemed to take the role really seriously and actually pulled it off very well. He wasn’t a scene stealer, but I think for the first feature film role of his career post One Direction that’s the way it should’ve been. The only moment I found a little bit comical (for the wrong reasons) was when he was accusing Gibson of being a German spy and said something along the lines of “he’ll have an accent thicker than sauerkraut sauce”. To be fair to the guy though, that’s just not a very good line.

At points the plight of the characters felt entirely hopeless, as I’m sure things must have felt for the soldiers at the time. Despite minimal dialogue (another choice that worked brilliantly and built tension) I became very attached to most of the characters. When they boarded another boat hoping to finally get home only to be bombed again it was incredibly distressing. Sometimes, however, the film was heart warming. Mainly in Mark Rylance’s scenes where his character Dawson showed the real courage of civilians who headed straight into a war zone to try and save their men. At the end of the film, when Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead are on the train and begin to read Churchill’s famous “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech while locals run alongside the train passing them cider through the window to welcome them home, It was just so uplifting and I found it quite emotional.

When I came out of this film I was pretty much speechless and it’s been on my mind since. I’ve seen it once again and would probably go see it again given the chance (and if it didn’t cost like £9 at my local cinema). Although I think it’s a little early to say, I feel like this may be one of my all time favourite films.

I would give this film 5/5 stars. I hope you all get a chance to see it.

 

Until next time,

J x

 

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Film Review: The Shawshank Redemption

Spoilers ahead.

I struggle to know where to begin when trying to write a review of this film. The 1994 Frank Darabont film has gone down in history as a classic, despite initially not making as much money as some other films of the same year (Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump etc). This film is now wildly popular and I can COMPLETELY see why, it’s one of my favourites.

I love this film for so many reasons, one of which being my slightly strange morbid curiosity about prisons. It’s directed effectively, the narrative is strong and progresses the plot nicely, the casting is brilliant and, let’s not forget, the film is based on an incredible and gripping story by Stephen King.

I’ll start by saying if you have not seen this film and are interested in movies or the history of film at all GO WATCH THIS NOW (it’s on Netflix so you have no excuse). Seriously, I wish I’d seen it sooner. I feel like it’s the kind of film I could put right back to the start as soon as the credits start rolling and watch all over again.

Frank Darabont’s direction is excellent, he really captures what the microcosmic society of a prison is like and what day to day life can be like for inmates with different positions within the system. Not only this but Darabont forces viewers to empathise with protagonist Andy Dufresne in his most harrowing moments, whether they want to or not. An example of this is the tunnel scene towards the end of the film.

Andy Dufresne crawling through the sewers in The Shawshank Redemption

The camera is positioned inside of the tunnel opposite Dufresne. This really emphasizes the claustrophobia, desperation and panic of the situation and, personally, made me feel super on edge!

Another triumph of this film is the casting of Morgan Freeman as ‘Red’. Red narrates the film allowing the plot to progress just at the right speed. The fact that the story is told from a perspective other than Dufresne himself is effective in many ways but most of all because it protects the climax of the film which is, consequently, pretty shocking and exhilarating to watch as a viewer. Obviously, a large portion of credit for this goes to Stephen King, but Morgan Freeman’s performance achieves, in my opinion, a very difficult thing. It manages to be down to earth yet poignant and affecting at the same time. I can’t imagine anybody else being able to strike this balance so well.

I’ve heard people argue over whether the final scene of the film needed to be included or not. Whether is was effective or unnecessary. For me personally I found that final scene incredibly gratifying, and if it wasn’t shown I would definitely feel like I was missing out. So it’s just another positive really!

For me what elevates this film above the norm is its nuance. It hits the mark for me emotionally at every turn. It’s heart warming and devastating and awe inspiring all at once and isn’t that really what films are all about? Plus there’s just nothing like a great story of friendship 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this little review!

Until next time,

J x