War and Heroism in Three Parts – Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”

In Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan tells three inter-twined stories of differing lengths and at different speeds, showing how the terrors of war and heroic acts associated with it can exist on various time scales. There are instantaneous acts of heroism, the bread and butter of war films, but also more considered, lengthy heroics on day or week-long scales. Nolan ties them all together by interweaving all three timelines into three separate but related stories of the Battle of Dunkirk. This structure is the overwhelming brilliance of Dunkirk, but Nolan also manages to pack each story line with startling action film-making on land, sea, and air. The result is a masterwork of structure, pacing and storytelling, replete with themes of warfare, heroism, and the true meaning of victory.

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Branagh’s “Murder on the Orient Express” is a Rote Dumbing-Down of the Classic Whodunit

Based on the Agatha Christie mystery novel of the same name, Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express disappoints by relegating the key elements of the mystery genre to mere mundane repetition.  All of the hard-boiled fun of Christie’s source material ends up feeling like a bland paint-by-numbers.   The movie contains a star-studded cast, with practically every character involved in the whodunit represented through an admirable performance.  But for a film that is ostensibly subtle, intriguing, and mysterious, too little respect is paid to the details.  The result is a lukewarm mystery where each blasé piece of detection by the legendary Hercule Poirot only makes the ultimate reveal more tired and disappointing.

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