Dunkirk entertains with the tensions of war, Valerian visually stuns without much plot

Dunkirk and Valerian thrill at the theaters

Dunkirk is the story of the rescue of the British soldiers told from the point of view of the men on the ground. There are no generals or commanders meeting in a room planning a mission. There’s no brave leader who inspires the men. It’s a story of survival and a story of heroism in its purest form. There’s no main character and there’s not a lot of dialogue.

Director Christopher Nolan does a couple of interesting thing with Dunkirk. He creates an exhausting tension (more on that in a bit) and he also manipulates time to tell a full story from different points of view of the Dunkirk rescue operation.

One point of view is told from land or “The Mole” as he calls it. That story takes place primarily on the beach of Dunkirk as the British soldiers are in formation awaiting rescue. Rescue is slow because there’s only one place to dock a large vessel. The Germans have surrounded them and the German Air Force makes frequent dive bombing runs. It’s told over the course of a week.

The second point is told from the Sea and is told over a day in the characters’ lives. It centers on a man who goes to sea in his luxury cruiser to reach Dunkirk and help in the rescue. The third is told from the Air over an hour and centers on 2 British pilots on patrol in the Dunkirk area. The stories are told at the same time which creates a little confusion at first until you get into the flow of the film and these three storylines begin to merge. It’s an interesting way to tell a story and that’s one of Nolan’s greatest gifts, finding an interesting way to tell a story.

Dunkirk is not Christopher Nolan’s most entertaining film, but it will drive you mad with anxiety from the tension he creates knowing that something is about to happen or through Hans Zimmer’s score. Christopher Nolan’s other greatest gift as a filmmaker is creating tension across multiple scenes. He puts you in the seat and nails you into it. That’s why his films like Inception, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar stick with you for so long. They exhaust you mentally and physically to the point where you need almost need therapy to move past the experience of the film. Dunkirk is the same. It’s exhausting because of that tension. It’s a good kind of exhaustion.

Whether you realize it or not, Christopher Nolan makes the you work to watch his films you must put in some mental effort to understand the story he’s trying to tell.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets also opens this weekend from Luc Besson, director of The Professional and The Fifth Element and based on the comic book series Valerian and Lorelai.

It tells the story of Valerian and Lorelai, a team of special operatives who help maintain order throughout the human territories of space. They’re given a special mission on the city of Alpha, city where creatures from all over the universe have converged to share knowledge and cultures with each other. When a mysterious force in the heart of Alpha threatens its’ peaceful existence, Valerian and Lorelai are on a race of discovery to save the universe.

I’m going to skip over dwelling on the plot of Valerian because it’s honestly not worth it. The story is interesting enough to be entertaining but it takes too many detours from the main heading to make the film stand out.

What Valerian lacks in plot, it makes up for in the visual experience of watching it. 3D films have been around for a long time now but it was James Cameron’s Avatar that brought it back into the forefront of the movie-going experience. I still maintain that it’s the best 3D film ever made and that’s because it was specifically created in that format. Now there’s a lot of post-conversion that doesn’t look as good. Even films shot in 3D and converted to a standard format looks better than the 3D version. 

I also hate 3D because I don’t like wearing the glasses on top of my glasses. They do make clip on 3D glasses now but I don’t know that I want to spend $8 bucks on something to watch a film format that I don’t particularly enjoy t begin with…but I digress. 3D films have a lot of things that point out at the audience, they bring out the flying object and add depth to some scenes but good 3D should take the audience into the film, not the other way around.

That’s what Avatar did well, it used a beautiful color palette and 3D technology to give the audience the experience of being drawn into the film. For all its’ plot failings, Ridley Scott’s Prometheus did the same thing. It was beautiful looking Sci-Fi film because it used 3D to draw you into a scene. That’s exactly what Luc Besson does with Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. He brings you into the film and creates a visual experience. It’s the best 3D since Avatar and maybe better.

If you see Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, it’s going to be worth the extra cost to see it in 3D.

Also, new in theaters this weekend, the R-rated comedy Girls Trip.  When four lifelong friends - Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish - travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there's enough dancing, drinking, brawling and romancing to make the Big Easy blush.


New on DVD & Blu-Ray:
Kong: Skull Island
Free Fire
Buster’s Mal Heart

Now Streaming on Netflix:
Chasing Coral
My Scientology Movie
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
To the Bone

Now Streaming on Amazon Prime:
Ju Dou
If…
Folk Hero & Funny Girl

Now Streaming on FandangoNow:
Colossal
Sleight
Phoenix Forgotten

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