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Movie review: ‘Dunkirk’

Hear Tim’s review of “Dunkirk” on KQ92 with Tom Barnard.

“Dunkirk” (PG-13)

Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan continues to amaze with “Dunkirk,” a World War II epic that is spectacular from filmmaking standpoint yet strains itself with the way the narrative unfolds.

A story most certainly unknown to most American audiences, “Dunkirk” isn’t so much a war film than it is a harrowing tale of survival. Set in May 1940, the film recounts the miracle evacuation of more than 300,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, where German forces have the soldiers trapped. With Allied ground forces unable to penetrate the enemy’s stronghold, fighter planes attempt to ward off the enemy while every naval and civilian vessel available attempt to cross the English channel to reach the soldiers before they meet a most certain cruel demise.

“Dunkirk” is told from three points of view — by land, by sea and by air, in three different time frames in a non-linear manner. And while it’s fascinating in the way the film eventually comes together, “Dunkirk” will no doubt confuse audiences if they’re not paying rapt attention.

While the film features stellar performances by Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance, there’s no real star in “Dunkirk” – in fact the attention is more focused on the plight of the ground soldiers, including newcomers Fionn Whitehead and One Direction singer Harry Styles (a great move by Nolan that will surely get younger audiences interested who would have ignored the film otherwise).

An ensemble film with far less dialogue than Nolan’s previous efforts, “Dunkirk” feels more like a docudrama than a narrative feature; so despite the extraordinary story that inspired it, the film ultimately doesn’t have nearly as much emotion as last year’s true-life World War II drama “Hacksaw Ridge.” Faults aside, you still have to applaud a filmmaker with as much clout as Nolan to inform audiences of important stories like “Dunkirk” that have been buried in history, especially smack-dab in the middle of the summer movie-going season that’s generally packed with mindless drivel.

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Movie review: ‘The Revenant’

Leonardo DiCaprio in 'The Revenant' (photo: 20th Century Fox)

href="https://twitter.com/TimLammersFilms" target="_blank">By Tim Lammers

“The Revenant” (R) 3 stars (out of four)

Leonardo DiCaprio gives one of the gutsiest performances of his career in “The Revenant,” a compelling survival-turned-revenge tale based on the harrowing, true-life travails of legendary frontiersman Hugh Glass nearly 200 years ago.

On a fur-trading expedition in the 1820s led by Capt. Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), Glass in a fateful moment finds himself alone in the wilderness, when he’s confronted by a vicious grizzly bear. And while he is brutally attacked (in one of the most ghastly scenes on the big screen in recent memory), it’s only the beginning of Glass’ troubles. Shredded and left in shock by the attack, Glass isn’t expected to survive as infection sets in.

His near lifeless body too burdensome for his hunting party to carry through the unforgiving wooded landscape, Glass is left in the care of his son, Hawk (Forrest Goodluck), the young and impressionable Jim Bridger (Will Pouter), and John Fitzgerald (a frightening Tom Hardy). A crazed mercenary who is determined to leave the severely wounded hunter for dead, Fitzgerald resorts to extreme measures to destroy Glass and the last remaining member of his family, and attempts to bury the hunter alive. Glass, however, somehow miraculously survives, and once he regains his strength, sets out on a path of revenge. Running parallel to Glass’ story is the trek of a Native American tribe searching for a lost member, and eventually their paths intertwine.

Fresh off a trio of Oscar wins for “Birdman,” director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s constructs a riveting tale with “The Revenant,” using his trademark long tracking shots (unlike “Birdman,” there’s more than one here) to give the film a fresh, point-of-view feel. However, with the Oscar success of “Birdman” comes clout, and Inarritu clearly used his trio of statuettes as leverage in getting the film’s extensive final cut. Clocking in at 2 hours and 36 minutes, “The Revenant” is too long for its own good, even though it moves along much quicker than the plodding 2 hours and 49 minutes of “The Hateful Eight.”

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While the film is engaging, the whole idea of Glass surviving such of a horrific attack is suspect, even though his tale is true. There are several moments in the film that seem far-fetched, almost making you wonder just how much the filmmakers embellished the tale for the sake of entertainment. That’s not to take away from the film’s stellar performances by DiCaprio (who speaks less than a dozen lines in English and a few more in a Native American dialect) and the barely-recognizable Hardy, who each go to great lengths to give their characters some stark realism. DiCaprio, a vegetarian, even went so far in one survival scene to eat the raw liver out of a buffalo carcass. Now that’s commitment.

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