Dir. Christopher Nolan (Warner Brothers)
In today’s age of digital content, fewer people are finding reason to go to the movie theater. For many, the question is, “Why would I want to travel to the theater to see a movie now when I can stream it from the comfort of my own home just a few months later?” In many cases, this is a very compelling argument. However, there are some films that just cannot be seen on the small screen, and there is no better example of this than “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s boldly experimental blockbuster war epic released earlier this summer.
What makes “Dunkirk” so special is that it relies on immersion to tell its story. “Dunkirk” is more an experience than it is a traditional film. The movie doesn’t have a complex plot with twists and turns. In fact, most people already know the story of the film—after all, it is a seminal part of modern history, and there’s no surprise in how the film ends. The movie doesn’t really have any characters either. The name of the protagonist, Tommy, is never even mentioned in the film, and he is given no backstory and basically no development. Nolan specifically chose this name for the character because it is a slang term for the typical British soldier in World War II.
“Dunkirk” hooks audiences, however, by placing them right into the terror of war. The film never tells the audience why they should be scared. Instead, it forces them to witness the terrifying pop of a gunshot or the painful screeching of a German bomber plane. The characters function as vessels through which the audience can experience the war. When you project yourself onto the blank canvases of the characters, you feel as if you are there, and suddenly the film is not about whether or not the army will survive the retreat, but rather about whether you will survive the retreat.
Because “Dunkirk” drops the audience right into World War II instead of telling a story about World War II, it is wholly unique among the hundreds of war films that have come before it. Add that to the fact that the film is nail-bitingly suspenseful, thematically complex, and masterfully crafted, and the product is undoubtedly one of Nolan’s greatest films to date.
—Staff writer Jeffrey Liu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dir. Joel Hopkins (Scope Pictures)
“Hampstead” is the most amiable summer romance that you probably have never heard of. Starring legendary actors Diane Keaton and Brendan Gleeson as a most unlikely couple, this romantic comedy is both exceedingly pleasant and harmless. Keaton plays a slightly eccentric widowed American woman named Emily, who is living in the London suburb of Hampstead and doing her best to ignore her increasingly dire financial situation. Her dreary life changes as she befriends the misanthropic Irishman Donald (Gleeson), a tramp
who has squatted for 17 years on the grounds of a rundown hospital that faces Emily’s apartment building.
Because the characters are so distinctive, it takes much time to convince the audience of the unlikely pairing of Emily and Donald, with much credit due to the actors rather than the script. Keaton’s Emily bears a strong resemblance to her famous Annie Hall, not only in her idiosyncratic behavior but also in her menswear-inspired wardrobe. While it is charming and well done, it can sometimes feel a bit too rehashed. Regardless, she charms both Donald and the audience with her wit and quirkiness. Gleeson is equally funny, imbuing his character with a reticence that in other actors might be heavy-handed, but is here perfectly balanced with vulnerability. Other comedic standouts include Lesley Manville, who plays one of Emily’s nosy neighbors. Her dry pestering and cutting comments do much to jazz up the script when it can feel a little bit too warm.
Though writer Robert Festinger does a wonderful job of keeping the movie light with spicy dialogue between the two leads, the rest of the film can at times feel too mellow and trite. Nevertheless, this film is the kind that you can’t help smiling about after it’s finished, even though you might not remember it a week after viewing.
—Staff writer Aline G. Damas can be reached at email@example.com.