An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


Have you discovered, as I have, that most young people have never heard of Dunkirk? Writer/director/producer Christopher Nolan has recreated it in an inspired movie that runs just one hour, forty-six minutes, exactly the right length for a required high school history class. Nolan’s film is a tribute to the men who died and to those who rallied to rescue the allied forces trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940. It couldn’t be a better lesson that war can no longer be a solution for settling disagreements.

Christopher Nolan filmed Dunkirk in three alternating sections on the beach, on the water, and in the air, all of it set against a relentless score of pure tension by Hans Zimmer. They have turned the volume high on the explosions, plane crashes, and bombs blowing ships and men to bits. Far louder than a normal soundtrack, it stuns the audience with the sounds of war. This is not the background noise of an ordinary war movie. It is the relentless noise of brutal death, and Nolan leaves us caught in tension through the whole battle. That’s the way it was.

This is history brought to gruesome life at a time when the outcome of the war was thoroughly in doubt after the fall of France. Western Europe was broken. The allied forces went into full retreat ending in unimaginable death and injury as they came to the beach and the water where there was no safety. The few naval ships became targets for Nazi planes that were being shot down by British Spitfires. Soldiers on foot were trapped and dying in the open, no place to hide.

The reason it is hard to salute specific actors is that there is very little dialogue here. Every young man is enveloped in noise and fear and all of them are surrounded by dying, broken soldiers. Suddenly the theater, rocked by an hour of noise, sees the screen fill with the small boats that came from everywhere to save 330,000 men. The audible gratitude throughout the audience is a tribute to the reality of the battle created by Christopher Nolan.

A special salute is due Mark Rylance who, as a rescuer with a small boat, creates a character driven to stay in the danger by a deep set of personal values, a stand in, as it were, for all the civilians who rallied in their small boats. There are no false notes among others in the cast, just silent men knowing many of them will die. The beach behind them will soon be full of Nazi soldiers. The water ahead, the sky above, all full of German soldiers, sailors, and pilots determined to slaughter them as they wade into the open sea.

War movies have never conveyed the reality of the sound of war and death. That is what Christopher Nolan has done to audiences with this movie. No one who sees it will forget the terrible sounds of inevitability.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title Dunkirk
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:46
Rating : PG-13
Date : July 23, 2017


Wonder Woman

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Wonder Woman

The timing of the release of Wonder Woman is rare and perfect. Could anyone have foreseen that its arrival in theaters would coincide with both women’s frustration at their lack of power and their anger at war as a tool for settling arguments? A woman director and a fine actor have crafted some grand symbolism just when the world needs it most. A comic book hero speaking to the troubles of today? Let’s look.

Director Patty Jenkins has said that she wanted to tell a story “about a hero who believes in love, who is filled with love, who believes in change and the betterment of mankind.” She has done just that. By allowing only women on the set, she created an atmosphere that reflected the innocent essence of the Amazon nation. There would be no room for cynical thinking in this movie.

Gal Gadot, a former combat instructor in the Israeli Defense Force, creates Diana, daughter of Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), queen of the women on the Amazon Island. Diana rescues Steve (Chris Pine) when his plane crashes off-island, the first man anyone on the island has ever seen. With a craving to see the outside world, Diana leaves with him and steps into the tricky role of sticking to her principles during the carnage of World War I. This woman who has never seen war steps into the savage slaughter as young men erase an entire generation of their peers on both sides by orders of their elders.

Armed with golden bracelets, knives, and a terrific “lasso of truth,” Diana attacks brutality wherever she sees it on her way to eliminate Aries, the God of War. Like her fellow Amazons, Diana is innocent in all the ways of the prevailing world and brings to that a firm determination to end war. When, in that innocence, she makes it clear that she can’t understand why men would do this to each other in 1918, she hits the nerve that is rattling us with the same question nearly 100 years later. Same men, same thinking, worse weaponry.

Why does this projection work so well? Gal Gadot, with her dignity, her quietness, and her smile, is thoroughly credible as she makes choices from her heart. Her physical beauty is rooted in the expression of her feelings. When she dances with Steve, she asks, “Is this what people do when there are no wars?”

How often does a comic book hero trigger the contemporary emotions that are spreading through theaters now? And through me. I bought the first Superman comic book in 1938 for ten cents and love him still. How often does a peace message reach more than 150 million people in one weekend? If director Patty Jenkins hadn’t fallen in love with Superman when she was a little girl, this super hero movie wouldn’t resonate the way it does. But she did, and it does. Ask your kids to take you along.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Wonder Woman
Word Count : 497
Running time: 2:21
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 11, 2017