Review of reviews: Film & Art
Directed by Christopher Nolan (PG-13)
Troops under fire mount a historic escape.
“Hollywood is soon going to run out of genres for Christopher Nolan to redefine,” said Brian Truitt in USA Today. The ambitious director of Inception, Interstellar, and the Dark Knight trilogy has outdone himself again with his first war movie, an immersive, “excellently crafted” combat thriller that dramatizes the decisive moment in World War II when a frantic salvage operation rescued 338,000 British and Allied troops trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France. As Nolan cuts from land to air to sea, “you feel every bolt rattle in the cockpit of a dogfighting Spitfire” and every thought of doom consuming infantrymen as bombs fall from the sky. The movie runs only 106 minutes, and it’s “a nesting doll of increasingly breathless ticking-clock narratives,” said Bilge Ebiri in The Village Voice. Fionn Whitehead plays a soldier stranded on the beach, Tom Hardy is a British fighter pilot running low on fuel, and Mark Rylance is one of the hundreds of British civilians who boarded boats and crossed the channel to carry back survivors. “It hurts to say it,” but the choice to use different time frames to tell the three stories feels gimmicky, said Michael Phillips in the Chicago Tribune. Still, Dunkirk is “powerful and exciting,” a near masterwork “buoyed by some genuine mastery.”
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Directed by Luc Besson (PG-13)
Two space cops race to head off a war.
“Imagine if someone projected an entire decade’s worth of sci-fi space epics on the same screen, at the same time,” said David Ehrlich in IndieWire.com. That’s roughly what it’s like watching Luc Besson’s nearly hallucinogenic new intergalactic adventure based on a French graphicnovel series. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne co-star as Valerian and Laureline— 28th-century police agents charged with maintaining order in a floating space metropolis occupied by thousands of colorful alien species. Unfortunately, the two stars are “immensely bland,” and the vividness of the setting “only underscores the lifelessness of the people leading us through it.” Fortunately, the world they inhabit proves “unrelentingly stunning,” said Josephine Livingstone in NewRepublic.com. In one scene, Valerian races through the city by running directly through walls, and each new environment he encounters— a fruit orchard, a techno rave, a sea’s life-packed depths—is awe-inspiring: “I couldn’t take the smile off my face.” Twenty years ago, Besson took a break from more mainstream fare to create The Fifth Element, another whimsical sci-fi adventure that audiences seemed unready for, said Chris Nashawaty in Entertainment Weekly. But that earlier helping of “cosmic cotton candy” gradually became a cult favorite. “I’d guess that Valerian will suffer a similar fate.”