Archives for posts with tag: cillian murphy

MV5BN2YyZjQ0NTEtNzU5MS00NGZkLTg0MTEtYzJmMWY3MWRhZjM2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDA4NzMyOA@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_There were a lot of deeply irritating things about this movie, so I’ll just get them out of the way at the start. First, it suffered from having the sound mixing set to “human voices are irrelevant,” like all Christopher Nolan films. Second, it had stupid intertitles and explanatory text. If you can’t figure out that the BEF is trapped on the beach in Dunkirk trying to evacuate, from 106 minutes of a film called “Dunkirk,” either the film is very bad or you are very dense. Third, the chronological fiddling was misguided. The film follows the men on the beach for a week, a boat from England for a day, and three Spitfires for an hour–concurrently. This means that time moves at different rates for the various characters and you watch various events from different points of view at different times. It’s confusing and pretentious. At least once it destroys suspense.

Admirably, the film doesn’t do the thing where it has old men in cigars in a panelled room in London arranging things blithely while young men die. It has only the bored tired disgust of the officers on the ground actually trying to fix the situation: an army colonel (James D’Arcy) and a naval commander (Kenneth Branagh). Also admirably it does not indulge in the modern taste for gore, which largely allows it to avoid a certain kind of cynical emotionalism (Saving Private Ryan, I am looking at you). Instead, Branagh flatly informs D’Arcy that a wounded man on a stretcher takes the space of seven standing men. Bleak.

On the beach too it is miserable, and we see the vicissitudes of a soldier’s life there by following Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) as he flees German guns and then keeps getting not entirely evacuated. On the way he runs into Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Harry Styles, for some reason. It’s wet.

In the air we have Collins (Jack Lowden) and Farrier (Tom Hardy) in Spitfires, trying to provide air cover for the evacuation. This consists of the best film air combat I have ever seen: it makes you try to crane your neck to see the enemy planes better. They’re both charming and Tom Hardy’s weird mouth is hidden for most of it, which is a plus.

At sea is the Moonstone, a yacht out of Weymouth, crewed by Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and another young man, George (Barry Keoghan). They have joined other small vessels from the south coast to help bring their men off. On the way they pull Cillian Murphy out of the water; he is, as usual, dangerously intense. Mr. Dawson is perhaps a bit too unflappable and good, but it’s earned, and Mark Rylance is a superb actor, so you buy it.

The film’s main and significant virtue is its roundedness. Awful things happen–there is an apparent randomness to death that rings and is true–and men do awful things, which is also true. But amazing things happen, and men and women do amazing things, which, thank God, is true as well.

Stray observations:

  • Very few of the characters in the film have names, and the star is the synecdochic “Tommy.” I can’t decide if I love this or hate this.
  • I have a personal antipathy towards Aneurin Barnard’s face, so I didn’t care a jot about his character; I suspect you are supposed to.
  • This gives the impression that the RAF was composed of literally three Spitfires. That’s a little bit true, of course, but not quite.
  • It is a shockingly dark-haired and brown-eyed BEF. And I know we assume that blonds in films are Nazis, but couldn’t we have had a ginger or two? There were some Scottish accents flying around. (Literally: Collins, one of the pilots, is Scottish. And blond, in fairness. As is Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Glynn-Carney. But that’s RAF, Royal Navy, and civilian respectively. No blonds in the army at all.)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: PG-13, which is a relief
Length: 106 minutes
Score: 4/5

This is basically Anthony Trollope’s attempt at Little Dorrit, only it’s worse. By this I mean it has to deal with a swindler in the City, wastrel sons, young men who are honest but overseas, and virtuous daughters who are completely out of place in their surroundings. (And that it has neither Dickens’s flair for writing sympathetic characters nor his sense of humor.) In its favor it has what I assume was the vaguely fashionable pro-Jewish streak, like Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (their publication dates differ by a year).

Full disclosure: I find myself completely incapable of reading Trollope. I have tried multiple books on multiple occasions and I just can’t do it. So I cannot comment on fidelity to the original.

Like all other novels in the 1870s, this has multiple stories going on. Most importantly, Mr. Melmotte (David Suchet) is a financier of somewhat shadowy background; he has a marriageable daughter, Marie (Shirley Henderson). She is chased by a penniless and useless young baronet, Sir Felix Carbury (Matthew MacFadyen), whose sister Hetta (Paloma Baeza) is a thoroughly nice girl and has no patience for him, but whose mother (Cheryl Campbell) is at least as unscrupulous as he. Rounding out this little tail-chasing circle are two more men: a middle-aged squire, Roger Carbury (Douglas Hodge), cousin to and in love with Hetta, and Paul Montague (Cillian Murphy), an ambitious engineer whose project is funded by Mr. Melmotte, who is protégé to Roger Carbury…and in love with Hetta, too.

There are political intrigues, sexual intrigues (concerning the oft-jilted Miranda Otto), press intrigues (which get the always-welcome Rob Brydon involved), and prejudice is punished in the form of a rather unlucky and ill-supported young lady. So that’s all to the good.

All in all, it’s capable. It’s more or less clear what is going on at any given time. It’s absurdly nice to see Cillian Murphy in a rôle in which he does not begin or become visibly insane. Fenella Woolgar appears as a clueless, disaffectedly cruel aristocrat, at which she excels. The costumes are good, the houses are gorgeous, and you very much want to kick Sir Felix in the seat of the pants the whole time. And you’re supposed to.

Director: David Yates
Rating: NA
Length: 300 min.
Score: 3/5.