Tag Archives: Mark Rylance

DUNKIRK

“Nolan’s vision is rich in both feel and flow. A most visceral and enthralling effort…”

Wayward Wolf.

Hans Zimmer has a film soundtrack CV as long as your arm. For many years now he has been one of the go-to Hollywood composers – very much a Jerry Goldsmith of his time in that respect. Revered, and rightly so, for both the impact and the prolificacy of his work.

His soundtrack for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, is arguably his crowning achievement to date.

It’s a quite astonishing effort, in fact. Admirable for its simplicity, yet breathtakingly tense and evocative in its impact. An unremitting soundscape that compliments perfectly a film that is essentially one elongated action scene.

All too rare is it that a soundtrack forms the most prominent, pivotal aspect of a film, but Hans Zimmer’s repetitive score is absolutely integral here, forming an almost symbiotic relationship with Director, Christopher Nolan’s epic war film.

The sound of a ticking timepiece and the insistent chugging of outboard motors on a plethora of fishing boats, form something of a sonic metronomic device – the very crux of Zimmer’s score. These are then mimicked instrumentally through accelerating and decelerating orchestral tremolos and staccato passages of varying intensity. Eerie chromatic glissando string lines are then weaved in and out on top of this, morphing at times into the unsettling sound of German dive bombers and the like.

It’s breathtaking, sensational stuff.

But whilst Zimmer’s score no doubt enhances the entire cinematic experience greatly, it’s not to take away from the nuts and bolts of the film itself. Nolan’s vision is rich in both feel and flow. A most visceral and enthralling effort charting the progress (or rather lack of), of a desperate band of thousands of men and boys, stranded on the beaches of Northern France, embroiled in a desperate game of survival – sitting ducks to wave upon wave of enemy fire.

Whilst we can rightly point to the on-screen presence and qualities of Kenneth Brannagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and not to forget a particularly measured, yet heroic performance from spitfire pilot, Tom Hardy, Dunkirk is not a film of star names or star turns. There is little by way of character development here, and in this instance, that’s not a bad thing, almost as though to emphasise the point that all of these allied soldiers, no matter their rank or background, were mere numbers here facing the same grim uncertainty.

Nolan’s direction is both strong and purposeful but never overly-indulgent, and never distracts from the film’s core theme and message.

Once again though it’s Zimmer’s score which takes centre stage, having the last, glorious word when the tide of events finally turns in the Allies’ favour, with a stripped down, minimalistic interpretation of Elgar’s Nimrod.

It’ll have the hairs raised on the backs of even the most peace-loving of non-patriotic pacifists.

Dunkirk is a very fine war film indeed. A brilliant, big screen contemporary re-imagining of one of the most significant episodes of World War II, conveying, without the need for overly-gratuitous violence, a most harrowing vision of war.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: The BFG

Roald Dahl’s childrens’ (and adults’ for that matter) favourite, The BFG, has made it to the big screen, and Disney have certainly pulled out the big guns. Not only do we have the magic of Roald Dahl’s imagination to work with, but Steven Spielberg is in the director’s chair, with his trusty sidekick and master of the soundtrack, John Williams, on board once again to provide that crucial sonic sparkle.

It’s not the first time that The BFG has been turned into a film. Brian Cosgrove’s 1989 TV movie / animation, complete with David Jason’s voiceover, paved the way, but 2016’s big budget extravaganza is an altogether different beast.

A big fan of Roald Dahl’s darkly devious stories, myself, and being from that generation when Anglia Television – they of the rotating knight on a horse – adapted many of Dahl’s short stories for television in the unforgettable series, Tales of the unexpected, my own experience of Dahl’s childrens’ stories, whilst relatively comprehensive, somehow didn’t include The BFG.

Nevertheless, as with any film, a prior lack of knowledge of the storyline can so often be beneficial, dispensing with the need to constantly compare and contrast with the inevitably much better book.

Not having read it, I went in fresh for Spielberg’s vision of the Roald Dahl classic.

For those of you in a similar boat, The BFG tells the tale of a little orphaned girl, Sophie (the excellent Ruby Barnhill). Strong of mind and with a wise old head on rather young shoulders, she’s a proper vivacious little madam, living at an orphanage in her own little world of make believe.

One night, on hearing a commotion outside her window, she gingerly peeks out and spots a giant ‘going about his business’ in the shadows of the street; the only problem being that he spots her too. Taking no chances, he whisks her away with him, for fear that she might speak about what she’s seen.

Deaf to her protestations and promises of silence, he carries Sophie off, and trekking through wild and rugged terrain, they finally find themselves in the giant’s rather rustic cave-like dwelling where The BFG insists Sophie must remain for the rest of her days.

For a feisty little thing like Sophie, this is no proposition whatsoever, and so she sets about plotting her escape.

It’s only once she realises who The BFG really is, that he is in fact nothing like the ogre she had imagined him to be, and that he is actually the victim of systematic bullying by a group of other much taller and stronger giants that inhabit the same valley, that Sophie decides to remain with The BFG and give him the help that he clearly needs.

Spielberg has opted to use motion capture animation to bring The BFG to life. It’s an inspired move and Mark Rylance’s softly spoken, cuddly portrayal of the big fella with the West Country accent is nothing short of the perfect fit for the part.

A special mention too for young Ruby Barnhill, that rarest of rarities, a British child actress that is not only wholly believable in her role, but absolutely excels within it. A big future awaits there, no doubt.

Whether The BFG is a faithful rendition of Dahl’s book or not, there is no denying that it certainly works very well as a film in its own right.

It’s a film that, much like so many of Dahl’s marvellous, imaginative and magical books, champions the child, giving them the power and belief that they really can be Kings and Queens of the world, whilst cleverly teaching them the value of love, respect, tolerance and friendship at the same time.

Awash with genuinely funny jokes to bring out the giggling child in you, and just the right level of sentimentality so as not to overdo things, you’ll come away from The BFG with the very warmest of warm glows. If you don’t, let’s face it, you probably have a twitch-tickling problem understanding words, babblements and such.

Don’t worry – it happens.

Far and away the best children’s film I’ve seen in quite some time.

Hats off to one and all for The BFG. A hugely charming piece.

 

FILM REVIEW: Bridge of Spies

Whilst it’s a film with serious overtones and occasional moderate violence, Bridge of Spies is quintessentially Spielberg; that is to say that no matter the gravity of the subject in hand, his tendency is and always has been to focus more upon human character, spirit and emotion than any type of warts and all harsh sense of realism.

In many ways, that’s what makes Spielberg a director that can appeal right across the board to every generation.

In Tom Hanks, there is no better actor to convey Spielberg’s vision. Hanks, here cast as Jim Donovan, an attorney assigned the frankly thankless task of providing legal representation for captured Russian spy, Rudolf Abel (a low-key but fine turn from Mark Rylance).
Abel’s ‘defence’ in a 1950s America, gripped by the cold war, is of course purely lip service; a token nod to the constitution, but nothing more than a charade to appease the collective ‘conscience’ of the American public.
It seems however that Donovan hasn’t read the memo and is clearly a man that upholds the constitution’s words and sentiment; it being the one and only thing, he feels, that truly defines what it is to be an American.
Predictably Donovan’s attempt to overturn Abel’s three espionage convictions fails, but he does succeed in convincing the judge not to send Abel to ‘the chair’ – pointing out that in these days of the Cold War, Abel may well be a key bargaining tool should the U.S. authorities require some leverage at a later date.
Down-grading a capital sentence of course, does not go down well with a fearful American public.
Almost inevitably, with a U.S. pilot shot down and captured behind ‘enemy’ lines, not to mention a young American economics student wrongly imprisoned in East Berlin; very much at the behest of the CIA, Donovan begins his initially reluctant transformation from attorney of law into key U.S. negotiator, in a bid to have released, now, not just one, but two U.S hostages.
In another director’s hands Bridge of Spies I’m sure would have been a very different beast. Spielberg’s gentle handling of the Coen brothers’ and Matt Charman’s script leans heavily on character and dialogue and one genuinely white knuckle aircraft sequence aside, there are few thrills and spills to speak of. Any opportunity to confront the gratuitous head-on, tends to be neatly side-stepped, to the film’s benefit it should be said.
Hanks is excellent. The supporting cast are top notch, and it’s all beautifully shot and put together as you’d expect from a Spielberg offering, re-imagining well the harsh realities of a mid-twentieth century, winter-stricken Berlin and the glaring contrasts thrown up between its East and West regions.
Everything is knitted together well by a pleasant enough, clearly John Williams-inspired orchestral score, supplied on this occasion by veteran Hollywood composer, Thomas Newman.
Does this now mean that Newman is Spielberg’s ‘go to’ music man?
Time will tell…
I suppose any criticisms levelled at Bridge of Spies might revolve around whether the whole story is perhaps a little sugar coated, with Spielberg, as mentioned earlier, choosing to focus more upon one man’s emotional journey than the ugliness of cold war, but that would be harsh to say the least.
It’s possibly not one of Spielberg’s finest, but it’s fine nonetheless, and yet another Spielberg piece that will doubtless last the test of time.
Recommended.