Producer’s Film Picks for August 2017
The theme for this month – The Sea and the Sky Beyond

Theatrical Release


Dunkirk (2017)
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Memento, Inception.) Edited by Lee Smith (The Dark Knight, Inception.) Starring Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh.

“A fleet of naval vessels were sent to rescue the soldiers but were under constant attack by the enemy’s determined airplanes. And they did plenty of damage. According to, “The German army had split the Allied lines, pinning the British Expeditionary Force and the French and Belgian troops to the sea. Without the rescue, Britain would have likely fallen to fascism with the rest of Europe. And until the shell-shocked troops began arriving in British ports, the public was largely unaware of what was happening.

“ (they haven’t seen DUNKIRK yet) summarizes The Battle of Dunkirk with this: “The actual outcome of Dunkirk, May 26 to June 4, 1940, was a disaster. Most of the British Army’s equipment fell into the hands of Nazi Germany.” Victoria Alexander, Films in Review

“The military disaster that was Dunkirk has been mythologized, rightly so, as a triumph: The shallow waters made it impossible for British destroyers to land on the beach, so hundreds of private small boat owners across the English Channel came to the rescue, in constant danger from Luftwaffe bombardments. The military was hoping to evacuate around 40,000 troops. The final total was more than 338,000. The fact that the Dunkirk saga, momentous as it is, remains relatively unknown to movie audiences outside England gives the film a cachet. But Nolan isn’t interested in the dynamics of the battle itself. There are few scenes with officers plotting strategy, no discussion of Hitler’s decision, still debated among historians, to purposely withhold the final blow to the Allied forces.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“Okay, so maybe that last one doesn’t count as ‘great’ and it’s pretty much a 50/50 split between war and sci-fi, but I still hold it in extremely high esteem. War is hell no matter what time portal you cruise through, I suppose.

“Nolan, who can seemingly do no wrong when it comes to large-scale mayhem paired with smaller scenes and subplots rife with storm-cloud emotions, tackles one of World War II’s legendary retreats. In late May of 1940 – before the U.S. entered the war – Hitler’s army and Luftwaffe blitzkrieged their way across Belgium and France in a matter of days with the end result being some 350,000 British, French, Belgian, and Canadian troops trapped on the beach at Dunkirk, France, just miles and a stormy English Channel away from home and salvation. Churchill, rightly foreseeing the upcoming Battle of Britain, held much of the Royal Navy and Air Force in check, severely limiting the chances of rescue for the allies stuck on the beach.” Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle

“Nolan films the Dunkirk evacuation from three primary vantages: soldiers on the beach, civilian boatmen who were recruited by the rescue effort, and English fighter pilots. The Germans are never seen, except in dramatic shadow. The film is an assault of gunfire, explosions, and death. The score by frequent Nolan collaborator Hans Zimmer only adds to the heightened sense of fear: A recurring theme sounds like a ticking clock, and the instruments sometimes sound like the whine of a jet engine. Nolan’s script only adds to the feeling of sensory overload. Dunkirk has little dialogue, and virtually no character development whatsoever.” Alan Zilberman, Washington City Paper

“The outline of Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ is a clever twist on a familiar trilogy: land, sea, and air. Nolan parses a week of combat during the Second World War, from May 26 through June 4, 1940, and the effort to rescue British and French troops into those three components, and gives each a time frame (a week, a day, an hour, respectively) that corresponds to its speed. The movie thus leaps about in time, with each thread of action moving ahead fitfully, until the three threads unite in the movie’s evident conclusion, the successful retreat of more than three hundred thousand soldiers (about two-thirds of them British, one-third French) across the English Channel from Dunkirk, France, to Great Britain. (The movie is centered on British soldiers; the French are a brief but melodramatic afterthought.) The preservation of this fighting force was, of course, crucial for the preservation of Great Britain and the eventual outcome of the war; the retreat was the defeat that helped to secure victory.

“Nolan’s construction turns a forward tread into a mosaic and breaks the sense of a unified dramatic arc into a series of observational anecdotes, of isolated deeds and lonely confrontations. He highlights individual acts of courage and heroism, dependent on infinitesimal details of choice and chance, on which the overall historic event depends.” Richard Brody, New Yorker

“They can all also see that there is but one paltry small ship there to pick up this literal army of men awaiting rescue. They are stranded, and none of them have any idea what is going to happen to them. Their desperation is conveyed by little more than the haunted glare in their eyes, and in their actions — such as in the unspoken agreement between Tommy and Gibson (Barnard: Legend, Trap for Cinderella), whom he has just met on the beach, to pretend to be medics in order to get on that one ship (which doesn’t work quite the way they hope). Their desperation, including when their duo becomes a trio with the arrival of Alex (pop star Harry Styles, making an impressive acting debut), is almost wordless. The beach section of Dunkirk is practically a silent movie. Because what is there to say? These men have been defeated in every way possible short of actually being killed.

“Nolan brilliantly amps up the free-floating confusion and anxiety of the soldiers on the beach for us, the viewers, in a way that is downright exhilarating, by playing with cinematic time in the other “chapters”: We have joined Tommy’s story a week before the evacuation of these troops, but we join pleasure-craft sailor Dawson (Rylance: The BFG, Bridge of Spies) only a day before the evacuation begins, as his small yacht is about to be commandeered by the Royal Navy to sail to France and collect soldiers, and we join RAF fighter pilots Farrier (Hardy: The Revenant, London Road) and Collins (Jack Lowden: Denial, A United Kingdom) a mere hour before, as they take to the air to protect the flotilla of small boats (such as Dawson’s) heading for Dunkirk. The days of waiting for Tommy, the hours on Dawson’s yacht, and the minutes in the air for the pilots gradually converge in time as events reach their climax… and this ingenious narrative structure spreads the dread and tension throughout the film in a way that a more straightforward narrative could not.” MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher

“Branagh, playing a resolute stay-the-course Navy officer, gets, perhaps, the best moment in a movie packed with great moments. When he first spots the unexpected civilian armada on the horizon, he says, almost reverentially, ‘Home.’ As he’s proved in everything from ‘Memento’ to the ‘Dark Knight’ trilogy to ‘Inception,’ Nolan knows how to make movies. In a sense, ‘Dunkirk’ celebrates the art of grand-scale moviemaking as much as it does what happened on that long-ago day in 1940. Everything works, but special mention must be made of Hans Zimmer’s thrilling score, which is like the maddening beat of a pounding heart.” Eleanor Ringel, Saporta Report

Archival Films


The Return (2003)
Written by Vladimir Moiseenko and Aleksandr Novototskiy. Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leviathan, Loveless). Starring Vladimir Garin, Ivan Dobronravov, Konstantin Lavronenko and Nataliya Vdovina.

“‘The Return’ also comes from a new filmmaker: Andrei Zvyagintsev, a former actor. The dramatic story focuses on two young brothers who discover to their amazement that their father – who’s not been seen for the past 12 years – has abruptly returned to the household.

“He seems more interested in exercising control than bestowing affection, and this doesn’t change when he takes the boys on a fishing trip that turns out to be a lot less fun than they expected, since their father keeps leaving them on their own, skulking around in ominous ways, and browbeating them if they complain. The younger one starts wondering if he’s their real father at all, and it’s easy to share his doubts.

“‘The Return’ is enriched by allusions to biblical stories of fathers, sons, and sacrifices, subtly woven into the movie’s moodily photographed fabric.” David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor


Children of Men (2006)
Adapted from a P.D. James novel and written by Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby and Alfonso Cuaron. Directed by Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.) Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clare-Hope Ashitey and Peter Mullan.

“This is essential: Faron is terrified. He crouches and fear freezes his face. This will not be like action pictures where the hero never seems to fear death.

“Britain, as the last functioning nation, has closed its borders, and is engaged in a war between the establishment and a band of rebels who support immigrant rights. Faron is kidnapped by this group, headed by Julian Taylor (Moore), who was once his lover; they lost a child. Her associate, Luke (Ejiofor, in another unexpected character), backs her up with muscle and wisdom.” Roger Ebert


Dunkirk is currently at The Grand Cinema.
The Return will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, August 4 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
Children of Men will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, August 11 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, August 16 in the CSL.

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