After thinking on it for twelve hours, I feel confident enough to say Dunkirk bored the bejesus out of me. It is also filmmaking at its finest, one of the extremely rare motion pictures that can, from the opening to closing frame, be called art.
There was a piece on The Guardian earlier this week, calling Dunkirk the first film in Christopher Nolan’s career to merit comparison to the filmography of Stanley Kubrick. While there were some making the same assessment three years ago when Insterstellar came out, pitting it against 2001: A Space Odyssey, I found it a premature judgement. I love Insterstellar, but it is far too emotional and weepy to be Kubrickian.
With Dunkirk, I was emotionally invested in none of the characters whatsoever; I admired the picture more than anything else. I recognize the great care and detail that went into every aspect of its making, and I applaud it. Was it a good time at the movies? Absolutely not. I even checked my clock once. Is this one of the best films I’ve seen this year? Absolutely yes.
A lady on the seat in front of mine was not watching this movie, as much as she was experiencing it. She would laugh out loud at every joke, regardless of its vulgarity or silliness; she would clap her hands whenever one of the girls pronounced a quasi inspirational speech; she would go “Oh yeah”, every now and again.
Being in the proximity was almost better than the movie itself.
There have been 2 films in 2017 that have brought to mind Spartacus: Blood and Sand, my favorite television series: Logan, the elegiac superhero swan song, and War for the Planet of the Apes, a stellar capping off to mainstream cinema’s most thoughtful and moving trilogies.
The show’s exploration of vengeance and forgiveness is truly fascinating, putting on display the “enormous darkness of the heart” that one of the apes mentions to Caesar (Andy Serkis) during the final installment. It is also an unforgiving look into the lives of slaves, and the horrors they are forced to commit for the sake of their masters. However, instead of being preachy it becomes insightful. In its final season, the slaves, now holding all of the power, start committing atrocities against innocents. They have excuses for it, of course, but should bloodshed ever be rationalized?
War for the Planet of the Apes seems like a fluke in the Hollywood blockbuster churning machine. For a movie with conflict in the title, there are only two battles: one at the beginning and one at the end, tremendous set pieces that brim with suspense and emotion from start to finish.
The film is more concerned with the struggle waged in men’s souls, that constant struggle between turning the other cheek and raining fire from the sky, between tolerance and dictatorship.
The human race did not lose the planet because of a few battles against monkeys, but because in the vital, deciding moment in which the trigger had to be pulled or not, the apes gave us another chance, but we did not return the favor.
And of what good is Earth if our spirit has turned dark? Nature has a way of correcting course, so the worthy ones will inherit the planet.
I mean it as no insult when I say that Indignation made me feel as if I was watching a picture produced in 1950s America. There are the costumes of course, with men wearing ties and tweed jackets all the time, and the girls with their long and colorful skirts. There is also the general mood of the settings, hinting at a time in which maybe things were a bit simpler than today, i.e: getting your pick of a campus job if you just fill out a form before they run out.
But what really convinced me of it was the acting. You know how characters in old timey movies sound different than today, as if they are aware there’s a camera on them and they have to recite their lines just like if they were on the theater? That’s what the acting in Indignation is like.
Even though I still fondly recall Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, I never had any intention of watching this until earlier this week, when the new, and presumably final entry in the trilogy was released.
The first act feels a bit rushed, the script piling up all the coincidences that had to occur for us to eventually lose our planet to monkeys. As a result, there is no solid connection to any of the human characters.
However, the thrilling and epic climax at the Golden Gate Bridge more than makes up for any and all flaws. It is not as brilliant as the one shot scene set inside a tank in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but damn if it’s not masterfully executed.
It has been a while since I encountered a haunting a final shot as the one featured in The Blackcoat’s Daughter, a film with an atmosphere so eerie that you can almost sense a demon breathing behind your hair raised back.
We are nearing the day when every major movie will be part of an extended universe, when their narratives will function both as entertaining yarns and trailers for the upcoming sequels, when easter eggs and post-credits sequences replace all that makes cinema meaningful.
Five minutes into Baby Driver, and tears were welling up in my eyes. The great craft and detail they put into the car chases, the score, the reaction shots, was evident, but what got me was something else.
It was not the sense of fun, either, present from first to last frame.
I think that what made me emotional was recognizing a dying breed of cinema. Being face to face with a movie that proudly waves the flag of “there’s more to film than superheroes and sequels, look I promise!”.
You made me look Baby Driver, you sure did make me look. I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
My recent streak of poetry in films continues with Neruda, which looks so haunting and gorgeous.
How difficult this must have been.