Sunday, July 30, 2017

There's no hiding from this, son.

You're reading a movie blog, so I know you know.

You're sitting there in the theater, waiting, eager. Yeah, this is fun, but it's not a game. You've arrived on time (missing the previews means missing the movie), set your phone on vibrate, dimmed the screen, Hell, maybe you've even taken your shoes off. You might even have your notepad out. Nerd. 

I mean, fellow nerd.

Anyway, you're sitting there, and you hear them coming. Could be loud kids, a family, an old couple - whatever, but you hear them coming and you think, what the f--k is wrong with people? Is this not a civilized world we live in? And you watch them loudly look for their seats and you cross your fingers so tightly, they just about snap off at the knuckle. The tension mounts.

Lord, just let me make it through this. This will be the last time I ask, I swear.
I just want to do what I came here to do...and get the Hell home. 

Take this tension, this momentary flutter of the (geeky) heart, and multiply it by say, infinity, and you have your average ten-second span of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Sitting in the theater last Tuesday night, I'm not sure if I was breathing too fast or not at all, but as a cinematic experience, few have had the emotional impact of Nolan's latest.

However, like I imagine it to be for a soldier, the impact of what I have seen...keeps evolving and frankly, getting more intense as the days go by. So much so, I don't think I want to revisit it.


Many of the films I've seen this summer struggle with keeping one story straight (or consistently interesting), but with Dunkirk, howeverNolan deftly weaves together three. Each is a rather intimate tale of strength and survival, shockingly free of any of the hallmarks previous war films have hung their hat on. While the stories are indeed small, they eventually come together to create something that borders on spectacle. It's so smart, so technically stunning, you almost don't feel your heart being ripped out of your chest. Almost. 

As Britain is retreating from its battle with German forces in northern France, nearly 400,000 troops are waiting on the beach at Dunkirk, trying to stay alive long enough to get the Hell home. Their ride back is slow coming, as not only are the recuse ships few and far between, but those being sent are routinely bombed from German fighter planes. It gets to the point where you're either gonna die on the beach, or die on the ride back. Rightfully so, these poor kids begin to unravel.

Word gets out to civilian boats back home that British soldiers are stranded across the sea. Everyday people heed the call, and risk life and limb to bring these boys home. It's initially that kind of movie-bravery thing that we've seen a million times over, except here, it's handled with so little flare and so much class it's nothing short of astonishing.

Perhaps even more incredible, amazingly enough, are the dogfights taking place in the skies above the aforementioned clusterf--k. As anonymous German pilots are bombing both the coast and the sea, an alarmingly small group of pilots are burning what little fuel remains in an effort to clear the path to evacuation. Overwhelmingly, this appears to be a lost cause, but every downed enemy plane affords the boats below a chance to bring home some more troops. So, like everybody else involved, what choice did they have?

Speaking of choices, I have decided to give the Yays and Boos some time off for a little R&R. I don't think a visceral film like Dunkirk necessarily lend itself to cheering and jeering, so let's just look at the two ways it killed me, The Head and the Heart.

The Headdddddd
(this is where I nodded to myself)
  • A film about something so ugly...has never looked so beautiful.
  • And while my eyes were taking it all in, my ears were ducking for cover. 
  • Technically speaking, my favorite moment in the whole film (okay, one of them), was this incredible shot of a soldier laying on the beach as bombs, exploding in the sand to his left, keep getting closer and closer. It's harrowing to say the least.
  • Practical effects, everybody. Real stuff...blowing up. Incredible.
  • Speaking of, extras. Lots and lots of extras.
  • Holy shit, the camera is sooo close (to, uh, everything). From the explosions to the dogfights, the plane crashes to the water-landings, or simply the worried look on someone's face, it's all so damn intimate (and quiet), and I know this sounds stupid as Hell, but it's like being there. 
  • Even though it ripped the heart out of my f--king chest (more on that in a bit), there's a shot near the end, of what is basically nothing more than a plane flying (well, gliding) through the air, that is nothing short of magic. In a few brief seconds, we're presented with an image that not only sums up everything about the events of Dunkirk to a tee, but also the director's vision. Here's what happened, here's a good f--king look at it. Deal with it however you see fit. 
The Hearttttttttttttttttt
(this is what almost killed me)
  • Okay, who runs into a theater shrieking, sits, then runs to the back row? A-holes. The good news? Who walks out less than thirty-minutes in? Yep, you guessed it: a-holes.
  • What was with that incessant ticking clock sound? Things are intense enough, right? Holy shit, Nolan. I'm about to hastily craft a window in this IMAX theater, so I can f--king jump out of it.
  • You'd think pooping on the beach could actually grant you a moment of peace. You'd think.
  • Things are so bad, some of our boys just grab a wounded dude they find and try to get him on a boat (in an effort to leave this f--king place). That's awful enough. Just that. But here? That ain't even the half of it. On the way? Bombs will go off. A plank will be walked. But worse? It won't matter. Not in the least. 
  • And that wounded guy we feel sorry for? We're told that his positioning on a gurney takes the place of seven standing men. My brain approves of this logic. My heart? My heart's thinking so now I have to root against the wounded? Is this for real?
  • Please. Please. Please, can we get some subtitles for Tom Hardy (when he works with Nolan)? Honestly. I don't think I understood two-thirds of what he was saying to his wingman. Like, I thought Bane was tough...
  • You finally get to a rescue ship...and you can't even crawl up the net to get aboard. Oh, f--k all of this.
  • But when you do finally get aboard, whoever you are, you patently refuse to go below deck. F--k, man. These soldiers are all kids, you know? And you quickly get the sense that even if they make it back, against all odds, their lives are essentially over regardless.
  • The torpedo.
  • What killed me more than anything, were all these tiny acts of kindness sprinkled throughout the madness. It's so heartbreaking to think that what we're seeing on screen, was likely a small detail that some older gentlemen has carried with him for years. For example, the soldiers gently pushing aside the bodies floating next to them? Destroyed me. 
  • As did everything that was happening in the sky. It's just so damn selfless, so oddly inspirational, I couldn't exactly deal with it.
  • But it's not all kindness and the best of humanity, as we get a few glimpses of the other side, too. People backed into a corner, turning their backs on everything. The scene in the boat run aground would be an example of this.
  • Oh, and what the Hell was with those soldiers probably taking target practice? Those guys were dicks.
  • I think burning to death in the ocean is probably the worst way you could die.
  • He couldn't just walk off on an empty beach, could he? 
  • And finally, while all the bravery and determination from the soldiers was inspirational and admirable, I look at what happened with the father and son on the boat as something to truly behold. It wasn't necessarily that they helped (which is amazing in its own right), but the unflinching grace and compassion as they helped. If ever there was a moment I was going to give in and cry during Dunkirk, it was going to be below deck with Mr. Dawson and his son.
War is Hell, clearly, but sometimes going to see a movie about war can be, too. Relatively speaking, of course. And just like war, I saw both the best and worst of humanity at the cinema that night.

As the trailers were starting, a group of college-aged dudes clambered into the auditorium, and I instantly thought, f--k this. They loitered there, drinking their sodas and spilling their popcorn, and I swear to you, they were looking right at me. Yep. These rowdy f--kers were coming to ruin my good time, I could feel it.

But then I see that one of them is in a wheelchair. And instead of them all sitting in the handicapped section in front of me, one guy picks up his friend, and carries him to my row (which is clearly the better row). No spectacle, no nothing. Dude just dead-lifted his friend and carried his ass up the stairs, and gently placed him in his seat. And they never said another word.

Oh, but the guy behind me, the guy who during each preview had some blogger-esque/film-school tidbit to add every twenty-seconds? He never shut the f--k up. Not during the trailers. Not during the film. I'm stoked that you've now said Nolan for the nine-hundredth time, but like the Germans in this film, even though I haven't seen you face?

I f--king hate you, right now.

Even if evacuation is my only option, I'm wasn't going anywhere. 


  1. *looks around* *Vincent Vega is confused gif* No mention of Branagh? He was such a good guy, practically all of them were. Farrier is obviously the one who just had to go and break everyone's hearts but really most of the characters there did something that was astonishing either with the kindnesses or the amount of honor these people had.

    You didn't miss much not understanding Hardy-boo - all of his lines other than "Good luck, Collins' had to do with the course, airplane or fuel. It's amazing that Hardy and Nolan managed to create such an admirable character with no words. That ending fucking killed me.

    1. Damn, girl. I was trying to leave Branagh out of it...but I sneaked in some love with my 'File This Under' tag. But of course I loved that dude.

      Yes! Honor, kindness, grace. All of it. They were all so f--king noble it made me proud to be the same species as they are, just a much shittier variation.

      Farrier was the heartbreaker? Shit. I'd take the kid on the boat all day, everyday. The amount of kindness Peter shows Murhpy's character still kills me days later. Not to take away from the guy in the sky, but Farrier was doing his job, albeit heroically. Peter and his dad were just two dudes with a boat.

      Ah, I loved the ending. Not...loved-loved...but it was such a punch in the gut. So poignant.

  2. I like how you mixed up your yay's and boo's.

    Tom Hardy needs subtitles for more than just Nolan films. The Revenant and Taboo were pretty suspect too lol.

    1. Dude watch him in Peaky Blinders and get back to me. That's the peak Hardy mumbling. Completed with old school slang and the drunkenness of his character.

    2. WHAT? There is a Hardy role that's more mumbly than this one? I don't believe it.

      Okay, I do. But I can't fathom how that's really possible. I mean icantfkingbleeevthatshtcldhpppn.


  3. Love this! I don't think your camera placement comment was stupid at all. That thing was so damn close to the action, it was remarkable. I can't wait to see this flick again. More head nodding for me, I'm sure.

    1. Man, I wish I could truly detail the fight I got into with my dad about this...but it was remarkable. He absolutely HATED it, and I went to bat for it with full no avail.

      I take solace that you dug it, though. Head nod away, my friend.