21st July 2008

I was 15 and I was sitting in my chair waiting for it to start. Watching the logos go past with so much trepidation and excitement I want sure I’d be able to last the whole film without leaving to pee. Once the film started, I barely remembered to breath for the next 2 hours and 32 minutes, let alone leave the cinema.

Ten years and countless viewings later, I can replay every key scene in my head as if its playing in front of me. The bank heist, the magic trick, the parade, the interrogation, the chase, the boats, the final confrontation.

I had never experienced anything like this in a cinema. A film that redefined an entire genre and made it cool to be a geek. I already was of course, throughout my childhood I was fascinated by the two characters I was watching on-screen.

Heath Ledger, initially shunned and mocked for being too much of a pretty boy and not fit for the role. He was playing a character that many thought had been done to perfection in the late 80’s. Somehow he defied the doubters and gave a performance that is the gold standard for an antagonist in modern films.

Leaving the cinema I couldn’t really get my head round enjoying a movie so much I wanted to see it again straight away. I’ve been going nearly every week for four years now and very few films have quite captured my imagination like this film did. It’s why I started following movie news and one of the films that made me want to write about the industry.

The Dark Knight was released 10 years ago. Right as the MCU was beginning, and before the Avengers had ever been considered a real possibility. Created by one of the best directors around, given the licence to do what he wanted with a DC character. There was no need for world building or setting up another film in the same cinematic universe. I don’t even think the term cinematic universe was coined at the time.

I know some people don’t have any interest in superhero films. I am a geek so I naturally love all this type of stuff. The Dark Knight is not just another superhero movie. It’s a story about two people with wildly different beliefs, presented as an action film with costumes and make up. It is, in my opinion, the best superhero film ever made. It is also my favourite movie of all time. So 10 years on, I thought now would be a good time to write something about The Dark Knight.

Today, as DC continue to stumble about in the dark chasing the Marvel Cinematic Universe, maybe they should look at their past for the template to succeed with their characters. To be clear, I don’t mean dark and realistic, I mean getting a super talented story-teller like Nolan and giving them the creative freedom to do what they think is best. Aquamans trailer should drop this weekend and perhaps that will hint at a good film, here’s hoping DC can find the winning formula again.

Dunkirk Review

Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s last effort released last year that I finally saw last weekend. Considering the film is lauded for its visuals and sound design over its story, it was interesting to see how this film hit for me as someone who really appreciates the art of filmmaking but feel story should always come first.

The first thing to notice about Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan goes for an original way to tell the story. Whilst the actual plot isn’t particularly engaging on its own, the way its shot is the main reason you’re engaged as you try to put everything together ahead of the film revealing it to you. It could be considered a bit of a spoiler, but the film essentially has three situations happening at different times that all come together towards the end of the film. This method of storytelling is certainly different, but I’m not entirely sure its effective.

Unlike in Nolan’s film Memento, a film which also tells a story using multiple timelines, I felt in Dunkirk it was more of a gimmick for gimmicks sake. Christopher Nolan is an innovator, and every time he makes a movie he has to do something out of the ordinary. Normally the twists or quirks of his movies are compelling but in this one it just didn’t seem to add anything.

Once you figure out what’s happening with the plot, Dunkirk tells part of the story of the historical event which saw thousands of soldiers rescued in the second world war. It’s a pivotal event and the film does do a good job of looking and sounding very realistic. Gunshots, explosives and crashes sound incredible, and I can imagine in a cinema it would be mind-blowing. The dogfighting Spitfire’s are pretty spectacular, but in a more real way. Things don’t explode into a thousand pieces like in some films, but more realistically engines are shot apart, and that failure causes the planes to head towards earth.

The films unusual structure means its hard to really pin down who is the lead character, but id say the 3 most obvious leads are Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot, along with Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles as two soldiers awaiting their rescue at Dunkirk. Mark Rylance leads the story on the boat, but I found the ship based elements the least engaging. Nobody is bad in the film, as you would expect from a Nolan film, every actor gives a good performance, including One Direction star Harry Styles. He genuinely surprised me in the film and I’m interested to see what is next in his acting career. He shows in this film a good range of acting, and its intriguing to see an actor transition from another entertainment industry and go for a more dramatic serious role to start with.

Dunkirk is an incredibly well made, beautifully shot movie, with some spectacular visuals. However the novelty of its story telling technique wore off pretty quickly, and I think seeing this film cut into a more standard edit would possibly make the film a little more interesting. Nolan doesn’t necessarily stumble with this movie, but considering how he normally amazes with his movies, this one was a little bit disappointing. When it comes to Christopher Nolan’s catalogue of films, Dunkirk is not quite as awe-inspiring as his other attempts. Compare it to any other filmmakers however, and it is still a very good film, but it’s hard to lose that feeling of wanting more from one of the most talents guys in the business.

Good: The pre filmmaking skill on show is astounding, from Cinematography, to sound mixing, to the wardrobe, it’s all executed brilliantly.

Bad: The time jumping nature of the film feels unnecessary, and only served to hinder my enjoyment, as you could see what was coming before it happened hence losing some of the mystery behind the film.

7/10 – Nolan makes just a good film for once, rather than an excellent one.