Long take: Nolan/Zimmer’s Dunkirk, consummate suspense flawed by red herrings

Hans Zimmer’s ominous Shepard tones come fully packaged with an hour’s worth of 70mm film stock and era-authentic props in Nolan’s long-awaited epic Dunkirk. Ticking in synchrony with the viewers’ pulse, Zimmer imposes quick and resonant orchestration that reverberates through the action in the cockpit and on the beachhead. Hitchcock would be proud.

The opening scene is set by overlaid typescript. They are stranded, and hoping for deliverance, reads the text. They are looking for a miracle, looking for home. “Home”. Like that, we have a central motif—but is Home really what we’re waiting for? Swap out a consonant and you’ve got an answer: hope is the most elusive, and desired, element involved. Hope and hopelessness weigh on the minds of each character in spades, while they’re connection to home seems distant, unassuming, or trivial.

That the lack of exposition gave us protagonists-as-blank-slates was fine. Major historical events shouldn’t squander valuable $400/minute film stock just to do us the favour of explaining Harry Styles’ backstory or bother bringing us up to speed on the development of the European theatre. The only point worth making is made effortlessly: invasion is imminent.

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Long take: Nolan/Zimmer’s Dunkirk, consummate suspense flawed by red herrings

Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’, a failure of biblical proportions

Darren Aronofsky’s latest feature, mother!, stays true to its vision as a retelling of the stories of the Bible, although not with half the intelligibility of his previous effort, Noah (14). Despite compelling performances from Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Ed Harris, mother! suffers from a sloppily executed and overly ambitious narrative that treats its audience to an obscure reading of Sunday School curricula. It’s not that the film is held back by its aspirations, but rather that it struggles to depict a clear-headed and lucid progression of those Biblical events that needlessly occupy its subtext.

After its screening on Monday morning at the Toronto International Film Festival, the 48 year old filmmaker took to the stage to fumble out a justification for the film’s grandiose and sometimes incoherent direction. On first viewing, it appears more as a generic commentary on pregnancy, ostensibly as a metaphor for the impunity with which we treat our mother(!) Earth. Aronofsky’s explanation affirmed this suspicion, but managed to render the entire film yet even more inarticulate by revealing his directorial intentions: to depict the fall of man and the advent of Jesus Christ. In retrospect, this revelation adds nothing to the movie’s impact except further convince the viewer of its banality. What results is a punishing rehash of a universally familiar story made superficial.

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Aronofsky’s ‘mother!’, a failure of biblical proportions