Michael Caine

Dunkirk (2017)

War is hell. Absolute hell.

And that is exactly what Christopher Nolan has chosen to portray in his latest venture, Dunkirk. However, unlike Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge with their glorious actions sequences, Dunkirk rather takes on a subdued approach to the war.

Christopher Nolan is an absolute visionary of a director, with his back catalogue including Interstellar, The Prestige and the Batman trilogy. It’s an absolute change of pace from showing the quest to leave the planet, to the evacuation of Dunkirk, a key point during the Second World War for the British forces.

What’s always been interesting in Nolan’s filmmaking is that he shows a diverse range of how to tell a story from Momento to The Prestige. He chooses to have Dunkirk shown in a linear method with three intersecting stories from the air, the sea and the ground. And that is where we find Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) running the streets of Dunkirk eluding German fire as ‘We Surround You’ flyers cascade around him in one tense sequence.

And the tension doesn’t stop there. For the entirety of the film, the tension never takes it foot off the pedal. The constant changing of the tempo between the land, the sea and the air was crucial to keep the tension at boiling point throughout Dunkirk.

Christopher Nolan also manages to convincingly display glimpses into the hellishness of war, channelled mostly through Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked soldier and his apprehension to continue heading into battle. But also the recognition from the civilian perspective, as Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his father, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), share a nuanced nod to not disclose information to the shell-shocked soldier aboard.

The narrative choice is possibly one of the most interesting choices, but it is key for the tension to be kept at a high level. But what is more interesting there is a certain absence of a traditional protagonist held within the film, but rather having The Mole, The Sea and The Air being characters within their own right and having characters placed throughout.

Normally Christopher Nolan allows the screen to be drenched in the characters, giving them time to be invested in, but the narrative method doesn’t allow this as time became a key factor in each of the segments. But there comes in the brilliance of the cast behind Nolan’s Dunkirk. Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh managing to exhibit the perfect amount of emotion that is needed regardless of how bleak the situation is and regardless of the screen time, especially when Home arrives.

Long-standing music collaborator Hans Zimmer chose to intertwine his score with occasional ticking, giving that reminder time is incredibly precious in these situations. This motif is carried throughout the three segments, as Farrier (Tom Hardy) keeps a close eye on the time to gauge his fuel.

Dunkirk is an incredible piece of filmmaking and Christopher Nolan showed a wonderful skill of narrative structure as the film progressed through it’s 100+ minute runtime and the motif use of time. The cast gave unbelievable performances, especially for the screen time each member received. It is potentially the tensest I’ve been in a cinema when watching a film and it was incredible.

Without the need to show the explicit war sequences, Christopher Nolan managed to give Dunkirk an incredible feel for the war by the incredibly loud action sequences from the get-go. By having the air sequences shot incredibly close to the nose was great and incredibly effective for what was needed on the screen. Overall, there’s little to dislike with Dunkirk. Christopher Nolan continues his incredible visionary filmmaking and remains one of the best directors in the business today.

Now You See Me 2 (2016)

One year after the Four Horseman jumped off a roof in New York, Now You See Me 2 have the famed ‘Horseman’ with a new bag of tricks. ( Apart from the exception of Isla Fisher’s Henley) With the change of direction with Jon M. Chu and Lizzy Caplan taking over the role of the woman in the Four Horsemen, can the film live up to the hype the excellent Now You See Me.

After the big reveal of FBI Agent Dylan being a double-agent, he is leading the Four Horseman into their next big trick. However, John M. Cho expands on Dylan’s backstory and his relationship with magic. Even so far as to start Now You See Me 2 with Lionel Shrike attempting to break out of a safe whilst it plummets to the bottom of a river.

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Amongst this intriguing backstory, The Four Horseman, including new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan), are manhunted by the FBI and captured by a villainous entity showing themselves at the Horseman’s first show in a year. Now You See Me 2 embarks on a journey around the globe, as the Four Horseman try to elude the authorities and the captor in the US, then Macau and with the finale finishing in London during New Years Eve.

Much like Now You See Me, the main bulk of the film features a heist. The Four Horseman are told to steal a computer chip capable of controlling the stock markets and altering information for the aforementioned villainous entity who is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). The best way to describe him is he is a self-entitled, pompous spoilt rotten rich kid, but his character is played fantastically by Daniel Radcliffe.

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Radcliffe was probably the standout performer in this film due to how well he encapsulated the role. His energetic pace on screen was really enjoyable to watch and his command of the screen as he draws up his masterpiece was pure enjoyment. This is matched by Lizzy Caplan, but on the good side of the fence. She provided the comic relief side of things perfectly and looked like she had real chemistry with the rest of the Horseman on screen.

One of the biggest selling points of Now You See Me was how the heists and the ‘magic’ was played out, Jon M. Chu managed to capture this essence and bring it forth to the second instalment. The playing card/computer chip scene was fantastic watching the Horseman working in tandem in an excellently tense scene.

Walter continually refers to science as ‘real magic’ and with Morgan Freeman reprising his role of the magic debunker Thaddeus, there is an abundance of talk about seeing is believe and what the truth really is when it comes to magic. The way this all plays out, even spilling into the finale, is fantastic and works excellently for the story. However, ‘The Eye’ remains ever elusive and now with Now You See Me 3 on the horizon, it seems as though we’ll have to wait for another instalment for answers about ‘The Eye’.

Due to how the first one played out, I felt a little bit apprehensive going into the final act, as I had an inkling at what was going to happen. This is probably due to how the Four Horseman played their final magic bonanza in Now You See Me, however, this isn’t necessarily all that bad, due to the enjoyment of the build and the anticipation. Especially Jack’s (Dave Franco) and Atlas’ (Jesse Eisenberg) builds up to the finale.

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The music was queued up perfectly for Atlas’ build up and this is in keepingthroughout the film. The soundtrack worked perfectly, included a blast of Lil’ Kim as the Horseman drove through Macau and Pharrell’s Freedom as we they build toward the finale. It all slotted together in a neat little package.

Although Now You See Me was a touch under two hours, it felt fresh and not too foreboding when watching, unfortunately this cannot said for the sequel. (which they should’ve stuck with calling it Now You See Me: The Second Act) It carries the weight of the first film on its shoulders and unfortunately falters in parts. The story drags through some scenes, but the fast-paced enjoyment from other scenes more than makes up for it.

It’s an enjoyable film and although it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations (it probably wasn’t going to anyway – let’s be honest) it does make a bold statement. Bringing new members on board and featuring fresh faces as the villains make it an excellent all round watch. Coupled with the soundtrack the film is near complete, unfortunately some of the effects make it lose it’s magic.