The Breadwinner, review

A girl in Afghanistan pretends to be a boy in order to provide for her family after her father is wrongly imprisoned.

For girls to go outside without a male member of their family in certain parts of the world is unthinkable. They are still considered second class citizens and treated as such. Even when they are with a member of their own family, it is still looked down upon. This is the premise of The Breadwinner, an animated film by Nora Twomey who is directing her first solo feature. Taking place in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, it shows the harsh conditions people have to endure in order to live.

Creating the initially atmosphere, The Breadwinner is a beautiful looking film, with stunning landscapes and scenes along with sounds to accompany them. The oppressing environment girls are living in is also established quickly with the girl, Parvana (Saara Chaudry) who is selling items with her father at the local market. During an altercation with three men, her father is told she should not have left the house and both are almost beaten for doing so. As things escalate, her father is hauled off to prison, leaving the family with little money and food. Shortly after she is being chased away from attempting to go shopping on her own, which forces Parvana to disguise herself as a boy to provide for her family. Living with her sick mother, older sister and younger brother, there are a lot of mouths to feed, Parvana puts pressure on herself to be the breadwinner. 

Parvana is a strong willed girl who uses her method of storytelling as her own form of escapism and dealing with harrowing events from her past. The flashes into her story about a boy trying to defeat an evil spirit are as equally gorgeous as the rest of the film, looking as if it’s been cut out from paper. These dream like images pushes it’s plot forward by becoming more erratic as does their situation at home. 

During the course of the movie, we are constantly reminded of the place women have in this particular society. They are beaten for no reason, told not to work, that men are always in charge, that they should be staying at home and look after the men in their family and do nothing else. It’s with this that the director shows what our protagonist is made of, defying what the social convention is whilst hiding who she is. 

The beauty of the animation is matched by the emotional weight within it’s characters. The torture and torment they all suffer on different levels hits the perfect mark in each scene. 

4 out of 5.

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Dunkirk, review

Telling the story from a broader view of land, sea and air, Dunkirk shows the lives and rescue of the allied men from Belgium, the British Empire and France stuck on the beach during World War II.

Christopher Nolan has told countless stories from the point of view of his characters, creating their backstory, giving them a history and supporting figures in their lives in order to make their anguish and struggle seem more personal so that you can connect with those you wouldn’t normally. It’s in Dunkirk which he has subverted his own story telling technique. Here you have several events taking place with a range of soldiers going through a number of situations. Without knowing very much about them at all, some whose names are never said, you find yourself caring greatly for them and their safety. Knowing full well that you would never want to be in such a situation, Nolan immerses you as much as he can within the fighter planes, in the water, in the boats, on the beach, running from gunfire. It’s his unique way of making a war film (despite the director stating that this isn’t a war film).

It starts with a few soldiers walking along quiet deserted streets, picking up leaflets strewn across the ground which say “We Surround You. Surrender + Survive”. It’s a stark reminder to the men and the audience of the dire situation that they are in. Shortly after, the gun fire begins and they are running for their lives. From here on in, it’s a heart thumping race to survive in any way possible.

It’s narrative is spread not only across land, sea and air but also through three different timelines, intertwining with each other, getting a wide spread sense of the fear and danger each and every soldier is in. There’s one week for Tommy (Fionn Whithead) initially running from gunfire, it’s a day for civilian Mark Rylance who takes his boat, son and friend out to sea to help those trapped on the beach and it’s an hour for Tom Hardy’s fighter pilot, yet again having his face covered up but working wonders with his eyebrows. The intricate non-linear plots are stitched together seamlessly and minus the brief indications on screen, it’s not a detail which you notice too much.

Each performance feels more like a supporting character as there is no one person’s story which is told through out. Rylance and his boat, Hardy and his plane, plus Kenneth Branagh all appear on screen plenty of times, whilst giving gut wrenchingly intense performances while Whithead and Harry Styles who primarily remain on the beach together create a perilous atmosphere as they run and hide to survive.

These characters do not have a back story that we know about, the only part of their lives that we are aware of is what we see in front of us. Yet with it’s incredibly clever use of sound (the bullets piercing boats and planes, boots on the ground, heavy breathing) and sparing dialogue, you find yourself deeply concerned for all of those involved. The initial gun shots are deafening and echo off the houses and around the streets, showing how alone they are. The fear created primarily by rounds firing is hammered home when Rylance picks up Cillian Murphy, who’s terrified to the point of anger. Across his face and in all of his actions, you can feel it. Rylance feels it’s necessary to remind him “There’s no hiding from this son”.

Despite the 400,000 men who have no way of getting home, it’s Nolan’s use of each bullet that goes to show how isolated they are. It also becomes a way of pushing in the sense peril, the rattling of the war planes as they are hit several times by bullets, the explosions on the beach getting louder and louder as they approach you. It’s all encompassed by Han Zimmer’s stunning score, which is his best with Nolan yet. The use of sounds within the film being played along to Zimmer’s music, the thudding, the bangs, the piercing bullets as well as the sound of a ticking clock as if time is about to run out puts an intense and intimate atmosphere throughout the film.

Each and every moment has been designed to bring you as close to the edge of your seat as possible, it immerses you into the action without the use of 3D. If there was ever an argument for getting rid of 3D for good, this is it. A consistent visceral feeling which will remain with you for a long time. This will give you a hint of what it was really like on that beach, just without the danger.

5 out of 5.

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Dunkirk teaser trailer released

It feels like Christopher Nolan has been away from the directors chair for quite some time now. It’s been around two years since the mind-blowing visually-stunning Interstellar hit cinemas around the world and since completing his own Dark Knight trilogy and now, he’s been a producer on DC’s Extended Universe. Well, he’s back and he’s back with a (almost) bang.

Dunkirk

Last night a teaser trailer for the upcoming World War II drama, Dunkirk was released to eager Nolan fans, all very excited to see his latest piece of work. As expected we don’t really see much but from what is shown, it looks as if it will be an epic. What else would you expect from a director whose last film in the chair was almost 3 hours long? What we do see is an army who, one by one, look up at the sky. As they all turn and see what’s above them, it’s clear they may be under attack via air strike. What happens next remains to be seen.

Take a look at the trailer below and see what you think. With a high-end cast which includes Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance, this is going to be one to watch. There is one person missing from Nolan’s crew however, Wally Pfister, who has been his Cinematographer up until The Dark Knight Rises. I hope they collaborate again soon. The film is due for release July 21, 2017.

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