Christopher Nolan Outwitted Again in Dunkirk [u]

Christopher Nolan is highly overrated.  Let’s review:

Following: Caught some of it via VOD.  Don’t remember it well enough, but it started sucking quickly enough that I did not finish.

Memento: A stupid, implausible film.

Insomnia: An utter waste of the talents of Al Pacino and Robin Williams, and a tremendous missed opportunity given the powerful latent elements.  Look at The Machinist for an example of how to use insomnia effectively.

Batman trilogy: Not great; I’ll take Tim Burton over Christopher Nolan any day of the week.

Inception: I saw this before writing my blog, so I don’t remember why I didn’t like it.  But I do remember it wasn’t good.

Interstellar: OK; maybe his best film other than Batman Begins.  But Nolan’s best only reaches a marginal thumbs-up.

And Dunkirk.  I liked the opening sequences, about the first 20-30 minutes, very much.  Nolan very effectively demonstrates the utter futility of the situation.  For that I give him credit.  But then he enters into Balkanized, choppy storytelling that has no flow.  The only thing more futile than the armies’ dire circumstance is the hope that Nolan can convey the powerful story at hand in a way it deserves.

Ultimately, add Dunkirk to the long list of films that show what a hack filmmaker Christopher Nolan is.  This is a great story that I wish Steven Spielberg had made.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Captain Phillips — for how dramatic, edge-of-your-seat true naval adventures should be told.

UPDATE: I just read about the Dunkirk evacuation on Wikipedia.  It was a dire situation, and many lives were lost — but not near so many as Nolan would have you believe: most of the British troops were saved.  Watching Dunkirk, you’d think that only a slim percentage of the army survived.  This looseness with the facts is about enough to drop my rating down another peg.  What a hack.

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Interstellar: Up and Down

Interstellar - poster

Interstellar has been compared to 2001: A Space Odyssey, so let’s get one thing out of the way: I know 2001.  I love 2001.  And Interstellar is no 2001, any more than Dan Quayle is Jack Kennedy.  Nor even is it Gravity, and reaching under the sea nor is it The Abyss.

Interstellar - text block 1I mostly agree with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus, except for the part about expectations from Nolan, which I’ll get to in a moment:

Interstellar represents more of the thrilling, thought-provoking, and visually resplendent filmmaking moviegoers have come to expect from writer-director Christopher Nolan, even if its intellectual reach somewhat exceeds its grasp.

Critics are sharply divided over this movie.  Some are calling it a must-see masterpiece, which it certainly is not, while others have panned it.  Joe Morgenstern for the WSJ:

Christopher Nolan’s 168-minute odyssey through the space-time continuum is stuffed with stuff of bewildering wrongness.

That had me laughing!  I’m in the middle.  Lots of holes share space with entertaining, well acted sequences and moments of true wonder to fill this overlong movie.  But there’s a lack of clear, penetrating vision here, and we can blame only one person.

Interstellar - still

Interstellar - text block 2

 

 

Christopher Nolan does not have the ability to construct a cohesive narrative.  I thought Memento completely implausible; Insomnia let the raw power of its concept and acting talent slip from its grasp; I remember little about Inception other than not liking it.  And when it comes to Batman, although I appreciate the darker, more authentic shading of the Dark Knight tales, I’ll take Tim Burton over Christopher Nolan any day of the week.

After all that you might think I’m saying thumbs down to Interstellar.  But the good parts outweigh the bad, if barely; so I give it a marginal recommendation.  To all the normal caveats add a theater with a very good sound system, good enough to shake the walls and your seat during those extra-loud moments.  6/10

ALTERNATIVES: If you’re in the mood for some truly outstanding science fiction, check out my post Sci-Fi Do or Die.