Extremely loud & incredibly close
After a number of striking World War II titles, you would think Hollywood would have exhausted the material at this point, but time and time again the industry has proven there are more stories to tell.
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD and Digital HD.
3.5 out of 5 stars
Filmmaker Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy) brings this heroic story to the big screen in a manner that will be studied in schools, not only for his unique storytelling abilities but how he captures the totality of war like never before.
Dunkirk is told through three vantage points: the beach, through the eyes of a young British soldier (Fionn Whitehead); the sea, from the perspective of a small boat mariner (a great Mark Rylance); and lastly, and most grippingly, the air, by way of Tom Hardy's MVP performance as a spitfire fighter pilot who emotes every feeling through his eyes.
When the badly outgunned British Army was cut off from their allies by Nazi Germany's relentless forces, leading them to a trap at the edge of the French commune, Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed not many would survive. He initially thought that only one-tenth of the 400,000 men would make it home. However, through acts of heroism and courage, nearly 340,000 lives were saved. (See Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman, if you’re curious to see Churchill’s perspective to this story.)
Dunkirk aims high and it mostly hits. The sound effects and Hans Zimmer's pounding musical score are a bit deafening and the story may be difficult to follow at times weaving in and out of the three different storylines, but Nolan still manages to assemble a powerful story about standing up and achieving victory during a time of seeming defeat. It's a whirlwind of spectacle triumphs.
Extras: The Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release includes a slew of featurettes - 16 to be exact - that breakdown the technical mechanics and Dunkirk story from the sea, land and air perspectives.
mother! (2 stars) - Darren Aronofsky, director of Black Swan and Requiem for a Dream, hits the motherlode of misery with mother!, a devastating film that throws you into the middle of its curious situation and sends chills down your spine, all before you reach the point of break with its unhinged, highly metaphorical finale.
Mother! is about a couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) whose lives are upended when they invite guests into their remote house. What starts as a friendly visit from a man out of town (Ed Harris), soon becomes complete and utter chaos when more and more guests show up to destroy the world that Lawrence’s character has created for her and her husband.
While I found myself intrigued by the web its story spins and the fear Lawrence projects, it’s a film I don’t think I will ever be able to shake when I dream at night, or when I look at my son when he cries out for me. Mother! is intriguing until it pushes its ideas too far. It’s an admirable original work, but too depressing to say it’s worth buying.
Rated R, 121 minutes.
Extras: The Paramount Home Media Distribution release includes two featurettes -- a making-of and a behind-the-scenes look at the makeup process.
Stronger (3.5 stars) - Filmmaker David Gordon Green’s emotionally-riveting Stronger is the second film this year to come out about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. While Patriots Day, starring Mark Wahlberg, proved to be an effective procedural drama about a community coming together, Stronger narrows its focus and delves into the emotions leading up to, during and after that tragic day four years ago.
In the film, Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Jeff Bauman, a survivor of the bombing who lost both of his legs. Green undoubtedly paints how vital the bombing is to the story, especially in showing the brutality of the event toward the latter half of the movie. But to much surprise, Stronger puts the attacks to the side to tell a rather human tale of struggle and finding hope within. As anyone could imagine, the effects of such a horrifying happening are scarring, not just physically but emotionally
This is where Stronger excels most in its story. Gyllenhaal doesn’t force a feeling on its audience or push his performance over the line. It’s clear that he and Green want to honor Bauman’s story and the Boston community. Bauman became a beacon of hope for the city, and when a movie tackles such an inspirational story as this, it’s a common thing for filmmakers to slip into Hallmark Channel territory.
Stronger doesn’t stitch all its well-set-up story elements together by the end, but the film shares a profound message of personal growth in the face of adversity. And that’s admirable.
Rated R, 116 minutes.
Extras: The Lionsgate Home Entertainment release includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, titled Faith, Hope and Love: Becoming Stronger.
Also available this week: The Apartment (1960): Arrow Video release, Blood Money, Christopher Nolan Collection on 4K, Leatherface, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Stressed to Kill and Victoria & Abdul.
PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter @PrestonBarta.
FEATURED IMAGE: FIONN WHITEHEAD in a scene from Christopher Nolan's new epic action thriller "DUNKIRK," a Warner Bros. Pictures release.