FilmSpace: Dunkirk; Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie; 47 Metres Down – reviews


CommonSpace film critic Scott Wilson takes a look at the big movies of the moment

A MASTERPIECE from Christopher Nolan, belly laughs with Captain Underpants, and a deep sea disaster – something for everyone in this week’s FilmSpace.

Dunkirk – ★★★★☆

Christopher Nolan’s films are like clockwork. The Prestige is an intricately woven tale of one-upmanship. Inception is a dream within a dream within a dream. And Memento is Memento. They are so precise and balletic that they weave these non-linear narratives masterfully like there’s no other, more standard way to tell a story.

With Dunkirk, that clockwork is integral to the omnipresent panic. Following three different timescales – one hour, one day, one week – time is of the essence as the Axis forces close in on the Allies stranded at Dunkirk. Like shooting trapped fish in a barrel, the German forces hardly appear on screen but their bullets ricochet off ships, helmets, and flesh. The British need time, which is exactly what they don’t have.

A frequent collaborator of Nolan’s, Hans Zimmer is just as important as everything happening on screen. Interstellar’s score is majestic and grand, but here it’s a demented metronome – tick tick tick – that heightens as death looms in the sky. It mirrors the involuntary physical reactions to the horror on screen: a nervous tap of the finger, a quickening of the heart.

It’s no surprise that people cry at the end – it’s from relief.

There hasn’t been a cinematic event like this since Avatar. Watching films at home makes it easy to check Twitter, browse Facebook, text a friend, but in the cinema it’s an intimate relationship between what’s on screen and the audience. Dunkirk is so utterly stressful that being trapped in that setting adds to the thrill. It’s no surprise that people cry at the end – it’s from relief.

Nolan has orchestrated madness. It’s a hell for the senses; the lack of dialogue makes the visual terror and aural paranoia become the new nature of the beach. A lull is scarier than bullets and bombs because the anticipation is unbearable.

This is immersive and intense cinema. During one brief respite I could almost hear my heartbeat. When it pounded along with Zimmer’s rhythmic score, it all came together like clockwork. No one brings together chaos like Christopher Nolan. One of his finest.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie – ★★★☆☆

Deep into the summer holidays, kids are restless and need entertaining. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a perfect cure, not only because its kinetic pace will keep little ones hooked, but because it’s genuinely hilarious. Not just funny-for-a-kids-film, but funnier than most films released so far this year.

For those completely new to the Captain Underpants series, this serves as a welcoming origin story. Next door neighbours and best friends Harold and George are inseparable. At school they’re the pranksters who keep the rest of the class smiling, and in their spare time their imaginations run riot. The crowning jewel in their artistic endeavours is Captain Underpants, a comic book superhero modelled after the attire of the superheroes we know and love.

After a seemingly futile attempt at hypnosis actually works, Harold and George transform their head teacher into Captain Underpants. Unfortunately, his eternally optimistic nature leads him to hiring new teacher Professor Poopypants, who seeks to rid the world of laughter.

What it highlights, along with The Lego Movie and the Despicable Me series, is that the best comedy is happening in films accessible for all ages.

Like The Lego Batman Movie, the jokes are relentless. It has no ulterior motive than to make you smile. At the heart of the story is this wonderful friendship of two boys who want to enjoy life by laughing and imagining without restriction.

That imagination leads the film down tangential paths, the animation shifting from computer-generated to flip-book comic style, or sock puppets acting out a wild fantasy. When it breaks the fourth wall it’s an invitation to be complicit in Harold and George’s scheming, which young ones will get a real kick from.

What it highlights, along with The Lego Movie and the Despicable Me series, is that the best comedy is happening in films accessible for all ages. Stripping writers of the ability to resort to swearing, offensive jokes, and faux-edginess means they step up and create universal humour. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is a genuine delight with more than a few Captain Underpants-sized belly laughs.

47 Metres Down – ★★★☆☆

Sisters Lisa and Kate are on holiday in Mexico. Kate’s always up for anything, while Lisa’s reserved and cautious. Lisa’s just been dumped, suspecting the reason was boredom. Having met some guys who can take them cage diving with sharks, Kate convinces Lisa that her ex can’t possibly find that boring, and so she reluctantly agrees to it. Lying about being experienced divers and ignoring the warning signs that the diving experience isn’t completely legit, they give it a go anyway.

Moments later, a boat malfunction leaves them 47 metres below sea level with an hour left in their air tanks. Sharks are circling above, and if they swim too fast they risk getting the bends.

There’s something darkly comic about a filmmaker deciding being stuck at the bottom of the sea isn’t scary enough, so let’s add sharks. It’s as if the thought of running out of air while submerged in a cage with next to no natural light and no way out isn’t deathly terrifying without some pointy teeth for good measure.

Unlike Dunkirk which expects you to keep up, 47 Metres Down really spells it out for you.

47 Metres Down is full of these worst case scenarios. Hope appears on the horizon only for some terrible mistake to set everyone back a few steps, and consume a few more of those precious minutes of air. Each time hope appears it comes with a caveat, and it’s a wonder these stipulations don’t appear on screen in flashing neon lights. Unlike Dunkirk which expects you to keep up, 47 Metres Down really spells it out for you.

But, for survival horror fans, it’s a compact treat. With each setback it manages to strengthen the determination that they will somehow make it out alive, even when it appears futile.

Like a lot of horror films, loads of ridiculous and unrealistic choices are made to end up at this point. Plus, it doesn’t do much for public opinion of sharks which has real life consequences. In the canon of shark films, The Shallows is still fresh in the memories of audiences and has way more bite. Even still, 47 Metres Down is a fun little pulse-quickener, if not quite on the scale of Dunkirk.

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