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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Will we be among The Beguiled?

Lots of pros in The Beguiled.  I dug the lush homestead and the tight story.

Cons: Colin Farrell is a fine actor, and did a fine job here.  But there could be a more enigmatic, a more beguiling, if you will, character there.  His character was easy to read early on, which made the direction of the plot, i.e. its gradient, too easily discernible at any moment.

I look forward to Sofia Coppola’s films.  She may not always knock it out of the park, but she has an idea what she’s doing, and her films have a unique feel to them — if this one less than others.

* * *

A small movie like this must open up more dimensions, unless the one it chooses forges an exceptionally strong vector.  Still, compelling and entertaining.  7/10

Comparison Notes: the considerably more potent films Dead Calm and Misery

Film Brief: Hidden Figures

hidden-figures-text-blockHidden Figures is quite formulaic, but nonetheless entertaining, and, as it depicts real lives and history, somewhat edifying.  My own experience causes me to question the accuracy of events within the NASA centers.  The math and operations often seemed more Hollywood than scientific.  A scant few viewers will notice this glitch.

To put it another way, the Rotten Tomatoes (yes, still useful) summary:

In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked — and crucial — contributions from a pivotal moment in American history.

The timing on this movie is good too, given the politics of the clown administration.  7/10

Film Brief: Jackie

jackie-poster

I am hardly a Jackie Kennedy scholar, but there seemed something a bit odd in Natalie Portman’s performance, something where I wasn’t sure if it was dead-on or off in a bizarre direction — one of my initial thoughts was, of all people, Marilyn Monroe.  And there was a certain detachment.  However, a brief look at Mrs. Kennedy’s White House tour (highlighted in the film) makes me think Natalie Portman might well have nailed it.

Jackie raises the obvious comparison to Sofia Coppola’s much superior Marie Antoinette.  Tragedy, we know, is in the offing.  I was severely disappointed by Jackie, but I admit the film held me, and that goes a long way.  I kept waiting for the film to reveal itself, to show me a door I had not previously known.  By the end of the film, that door was yet to be found.  6/10

Comparison Notes (Recommended): Frost/Nixon

Film Brief: Hacksaw Ridge

hacksaw-ridge-poster

Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson, whose last two features were the remarkable milestones The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.  By comparison, this latest work ten years later falls short.  It is overlong and a little sappy, but also does a decent job telling a compelling true WWII story with a bonus romantic set-up.  An extra serving of caveats to go with my marginal recommendation; 6/10hacksaw-ridge-text-block

Comparison Note: Saving Private Ryan

Film Brief: Embrace of the Serpent

I was reluctant to see Embrace of the Serpent because it didn’t make sense to me that a lush jungle setting would be depicted entirely in black & white.  But it turns out that’s not the problem — monochrome allows one to focus on the textures, and only adds to the film’s richness.  Too bad the story doesn’t.  For most of the film the plot is compelling, but, like so many movies, it doesn’t know how to close the deal.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Apocalypto, Dead Man, Apocalypse Now, The Emerald Forest, 2001, The Mission