8/10 This was my 5th most anticipated film of 2017 and for many film fans I know, their most anticipated. Director Christopher Nolan continues to prove why he is easily one of the best directors working today. Like superhero movies (another genre he successfully tackled), war movies are a dime a dozen. There are so many war films that you could almost say each war has its own genre of film. The most common war genre is WWII, in which this film takes place. So Nolan really needed to set his war film apart from others and set his film apart he certainly does. Not only does he not make this film about the years long over all war, he doesn’t even make the film about a particular battle. He instead decides to make it about an evacuation. There is little dialogue but the story is told through the unfolding chaos as well as the expression on each actor’s face as they try to navigate each new challenge to survive. Nolan also splits the film into three sections; one on land, one on sea and one in the air. He gives each section a different time frame for how long they last. One hour in the air, one day in the sea and one week on land. By jumping around in time, Nolan adds another element for the audience to chew on, which causes the audience to think and ultimately rewards them. If you thought you could just turn your brain off because this is a simple war movie, you are mistaken. On one hand, not knowing any character’s full backstory and not developing them much makes you have less sympathy for them and not care what happens to them as much as if you deeply knew them, which is negative. On the flip side though, this film isn’t about their backstories, pasts, friendships and bonds. It is about throwing men into one of the most dangerous situations possible and seeing how they react and at what length they will go to survive. The audience is meant to feel the stomach dropping horrors and fear the soldiers feel when they are being shot at or their ship sinks. Nolan definitely achieves putting the audience into their combat boots. The cast also brings their A game and I like that Nolan went with a lot of unknown actors, as having a bunch of A listers play 19 and 20-year-old soldiers would be far more of a distraction. The score by Hanz Zimmer isn’t his best work with Nolan but it is still very well done and really ups the tension. The cinematography is probably the best I have seen this year so far. Now onto the negatives before I close. The sound provides both a negative and a positive. On the positive side, the sound editing is Oscar worthy stuff (sound editing is the sounds created specifically for the film). On the negative side, the sound mixing (when the sound editor mixes the volumes of the sound effects, dialogue, score and any other audible sounds) continues to be one of Nolan’s biggest weaknesses. This is Nolan’s third film in a row with sound mixing issues where it is hard to hear dialogue because the score and sound effects overpower the dialogue. This is a film to watch with the subtitles on. Upon first viewing, I thought it might just be because their British accents were thick but when I saw the film a second time, I paid more attention and it really was the sound mixing. Another minor complaint was the fact that one character near the end of the film decides to land his vehicle into enemy territory for absolutely no reason, when he easily could have landed in friendly territory. Finally, Nolan is known for his non-linear storytelling and twists that really get the audience to engage their minds and think. When a director does this, it makes their film great for multiple viewings as your brain tries to wrap itself around each twist and turn and you uncover something new every time you watch the film. Upon watching this film twice in theaters, it really doesn’t have half the replayability as the vast majority of Nolan’s other films. This is a really well made movie that everyone should see that has some of the most intense moments in cinema so far this year. But when you have a director as amazing as Nolan, this film falls short in comparison to his other works and doesn’t even make his top five best films (which is not necessarily a bad thing at all). Go see it and you will enjoy it, just don’t expect it to be your typical Nolan experience, in many ways.
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