21 July 2017.
It’s May 1940 and the British troops are cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk in France. The Germans are fast advancing so the men need to be evacuated back to England.
From the first moments of this latest Christopher Nolan epic you are with the soldiers, shaking in their boots and feeling their disarray at the relentless bombings by the German planes. There are not enough ships to take them back home and not enough air power to shield them from the German onslaught. And when the boats come in, they are sunk by the German bombers.
Nolan has taken a three-pronged look at that fateful moment in history: the soldiers stranded on the beach; a three-plane squadron of British flyers; and a father and son in their small boat who have been recruited to go and save the soldiers at Dunkirk. With these three facets of the story he builds up tensions and emotions that feel incredibly real and powerful.
The brilliant editing, cinematography and moving background score of Hans Zimmer all add to Nolan’s sure writing and direction, with actors such as Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. He never falls into pathos or cliches in this homage to the stalwart British spirit, and it is his finest film, after such memorable ones as “Memento”, “The Dark Knight” and “Inception”.
This is a gruelling, stirring account of a crucial moment in WWII that could have gone the other way if Hitler had pushed harder to trap those more than three hundred thousand British soldiers at Dunkirk. But he didn’t, and it didn’t.
Watch out, Oscars.
BABY DRIVER ***1/2
In the middle of the summer doldrums, here is fun entertainment – innovative, smart, tough. This is a classy popcorn flick, with almost instant cult status.
The kid looks like nothing much until he begins to move. Then he’s in his element and his groove. It’s the music in his earphones that energizes him. The mean driver for a gang of bank robbers, he’s maybe in his early 20s, baby-faced, a sort of innocent landed by accident in the wrong crowd. When the job is done he moves like a dancer, floating around the city, with music in his ear. He looks a bit like a young Val Kilmer, but sweeter.
This film has the energy of “The Italian Job”, the gumption of a Tarantino, and the fierceness mixed with tenderness of “Drive”. A delightful surprise, here is a thrilling tale of a kid who’s in the crime business because he needs to pay back a debt. Once that’s done, he wants out.
When he meets a sweet girl who works in a diner his world expands to dreams of a free future, he sees himself driving off with her on an endless journey. But life is not that simple.
If you want excitement leavened with tenderness, a satisfying heist yarn, and the discovery of a fresh talent/heartthrob like Ansel Elgort (of the “Divergent” series and “The Fault in our Stars”) who plays Baby, plus some sure winners like Kevin Spacey, John Hamm and Jamie Foxx, run to this film.
The kid stays with you, as do all the other characters – that is good writing and strong direction. All by the young English writer/director Edgar Wright, of such funky films as “Shaun of the Dead” or “The Fuzz”.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.