Their Finest is now available to buy / rent and I’d solidly recommend it. It tells the story of a young woman (Gemma Arterton) who is employed to write realistic women’s dialogue (‘slop’ as it’s called in the film) in WWII propaganda reels and starts writing a feature film, based on the experience of two young women, about the evacuation of Dunkirk.
What I liked about the film was that, and this is no claim of documentary realism, it feels like the behind the scenes view of a Powell and Pressburger film… or at least as one would dream it to be. And that’s the key, the heart and the message are in the right place. It’s a film that knows the importance of myth and hope. It’s funny and heartbreaking, there’s love, a bit with a dog and Bill Nighy is on top form doing his best Bill Nighy impression.
Whilst not entirely successful, Bushwick is an interesting, scrappy little movie that suddenly finds itself relevant… I’ll say ‘spoilers’ at this point because, although the relevance is now the selling point, I enjoyed watching this with no knowledge of what was happening and, given the form the film takes, I imagine this was the intention.
The set-up is simple, a young couple arrive in Bushwick by train to find the platform deserted. After a couple of minutes someone comes down the stairs, they are on fire. As the couple near the exit the boyfriend goes ahead and says he’ll be right back… We follow the girl (Brittany Snow) as she makes her way through a city under attack by secessionist forces and becomes paired up with an ex-marine played by Dave Bautista. All the while the film rolls forward in a series of protracted hand held takes (the first intended visible edit being 28 minutes in) designed to place us in the action and only give us the information that the main characters are privy to. For the most part the film makes a decent fist of this but you can see the patches of the low budget (some bad performances, muddled and muffled dialogue, cgi explosions), and the verite shooting isn’t a friend to Bautista who seems cramped and caged by the frame.
But it’s got heart and that counts. One of the co-writers is Nick Damici (writer / star of Stake Land (2010), who possibly should have taken the Bautista role here) which is a plus and it gives a simple but hopeful take on the weakness that the purveyors of divisive politics project on those they would oppress.
Dunkirk is, so far, the best of this Summer’s big hitters. Engineered to within an inch of it’s life by Nolan, the film tells three separate stories (land, sea and air, spanning one week, one day and one hour respectively) that intersect during the evacuation.
The film succeeds because it tells a visual story that would remain intact without the dialogue and has characters that show us, rather than tell us, who they are. It also has the confidence to remain under two hours, telling a story that casts time as the enemy and chooses visceral experience over sweep. When Nolan does sneak in a moment of beauty, a gliding aircraft, a shipwrecked soldier shrouded in a blanket like the sea was a desert, it’s always shared with the characters and never exclusive to the viewer.
This is what it feels like when we don’t treat the past with dead-eyed biscuit tin reverence. You never get the feeling that Nolan thinks his characters are better than us and he isn’t in the business of mythologising war. The past feels alive in Dunkirk and, although we experience about 1% of what it must have been like, we get it.
90 – 100 mins of Spider–Man: Homecoming (2017) are one of the best movies that Marvel has made, the remainder of the 133 min runtime is filler, most of it featuring Robert Downey Jr. It doesn’t kill the film but it does make it drag and serves as a reminder that Marvel’s worst tendencies are not going anywhere.
To be honest, it would take a lot to kill this movie. Tom Holland is good in the central role and the film plays as a solid adventure comedy. It helps that the events are more grounded with the main antagonists being a gang of robbers, led by the fantastic Michael Keaton, who are trading in weapons made from the debris left in the wake of the Avengers’ work. This world has more in common with Jessica Jones (2015 – ) than Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and that is a major plus, as is the move away from the dead eyed ‘classic banter’ of the Avengers towards a more situational, personal and slightly odd style of humour.
But there is a bad taste here. As the movie is essentially the view from the cheap seats in relation to the events of the previous films it also has interesting political ideas. The real disappointment is that although the world logically suggests push back against these billionaire wizards and new gods, the industrial model in which the film is made can’t abide this. In another context the suggested Icarus tale (escaping a rigged game through determination and technology only to be brought down by hubris) would be a tragedy, in the Marvel Cinematic Content Delivery System its labelled villainy and must be stamped out.
After all, what would happen if we didn’t love Tony?!