A Relentless Battle in Dunkirk

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Dunkirk is one of the rare war movies that spends the entirety of it’s running time in conflict zones. This may sound normal in a war movie but normally there is some sort of an aside like scenes on the homefront, flashbacks from the lead or even a life before a war. Dunkirk is deliberately made to show the war from beginning to end and leaves us with wondrous visuals, a uniquely executed story but a lack of character development.

There is little story in Dunkirk in terms of a large sequence of events. The battle of Dunkirk is the entire movie.

According to the man himself, Nolan intentionally made Dunkirk have a lack of character development and one could easily speculate why. I believe that he wanted Dunkirk to have a ring of authenticity in which characters are not explored as they are focused every minute on survival. Is this a mistake? Who knows? Dunkirk was an excellent movie either way. I believe it is more emotionally resonating in a war film if there were characters you get to know and therefore care more. I am reminded of Hacksaw Ridge in which Andrew Garfield fleshed our a memorable war hero called Desmond Doss who fought on and off the battlefield for his faith and everyone around him. Dunkirk has very few discernible characters let alone well-developed characters that I saw in Hacksaw Ridge.

Despite that one main complaint, I still recommend seeing Dunkirk because aside from little character development, Nolen does everything you could possibly do for a movie of this nature. He does achieve setting the realism being under attack. Instead on focusing on the casualties he focuses on survival. I would argue that Dunkirk is more sensory than anything else.  The visuals are something that you need to see on the big screen. Every location from land, air, and sea is something that is breathtaking. For most war movies you will see shades of green, in Dunkirk, you will see it in shades of blue. There are many wide shots of the planes hovering above the sea which was the best visual in my opinion. The sound of the planes swooping in the land are piercingly loud and music literally sounds like ticking time bomb. The visuals and sound mixes beauty and tension together to create a unique war movie.

I also like the cohesiveness of Dunkirk despite the multiple perspectives. Generally, when I see movies that decide to this I normally dread it. That is because the movie comes off like an unfocused mess. In Dunkirk, all of the transitions from the multiple story threads feel like they together to make one overarching story. I don’t have to think “what was that subplot about 40 minutes ago?” and I actually know when the transitions occur unlike in Manchester by the Sea. The smooth transitions in Dunkirk reminded me of the smooth transitions of the movie Nocturnal Animals in that it feels like one movie and they were all coherent.

This is one of the rare times I will say this but don’t watch Dunkirk with a critically open mind. Don’t expect to know people’s names let alone their personality. I am not saying that Dunkirk is a dumb movie but I believe it’s more of a movie best left experienced than watched. It is not a film with a message on war like Apocalypse Now, nor is a film that involves developed characters and emotional swings like Hacksaw Ridge. Dunkirk is a movie more set on realism than anything else. So get swept up by that realism and even though I thought it was great, you might like it more than me. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Eye in the Sky Review

Written by Nelson Cumming

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Eye in the Sky does what great films do. They get a concept that gets you thinking while turning the idea on its head. More specifically, Eye in the Sky is centered on war ethics. Movies that focus on terrorism normally internalize the fear and build suspense on the threat (like The Hurt Locker). Other movies focus on the hunt for terrorists themselves. Eye in the Sky looks at a situation from multiple perspectives that helps answer the question “Do I pull the trigger”.

Helen Mirren is an army official who is overseeing a terrorist operation with intent to capture terrorists in a house. She later learns that the terrorists in the house intend to record a suicide bombing that aims to kill many people.

After learning this, she believes a missile strike should be appropriate but she is not in the position to make the decision. She gets Alan Rickman to represent the army and tries to encourage the prime minister for an approval but with intense political opposition makes the strike all the more difficult to execute.

Not only that but it becomes even more difficult when a young girl sells bread right beside the bomb radius. It does because the milirary was stuck between several rocks and a hard places. The question I was asking myself constantly throughout was “does the army win or do the terrorists win”

The ethical dilemmas and the scriptwriting

Alan Rickman’s final live action film. What a way to go out. 

This is a great premise that deals with war ethics, human ethics, legalities, public perception and political prowess. Those themes dominate this film in such an easy digestible way. It’s rare that I have ever heard 30 minutes of legalities of such a unique situation be so interesting. This comes from great written dialogue from the script.

It is undeniable in my opinion that Eye in the Sky is a great film. You start to think how much a life is worth as the main characters do. Many of the characters have different political agendas but it’s never confusing as you watch it. You have people who want the strike, others that don’t, people that do, but they don’t want to be the person who pulls the trigger etc. You get caught in the cobwebs as much as the characters. It’s how they made Eye in the Sky immersive

All the actors play their roles really well. I hope there is a nomination for this movie for the best cast. Alan Rickman in his final role in a live action film is terrific as the military man in the board room. Aaron Paul won’t get enough credit but I thought he was very important in establishing a humanity in the film. Paul’s character is a soldier who has to decide to pull the trigger and it’s his first time doing it. You feel the moral struggle with his performance.

I think anyone who has an open mind will go into Eye of the Sky and leave discussing it with yourself or with someone. This is a movie that is unique, simple, moving and makes you question the decisions that are made by the characters in the story. This is a candidate for my top 10 list of the year ****3/4