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Dunkirk

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, James D’Arcy

Released: 21st July 2017 (UK)

Reviewer: Ren Zelen

Possibly the film event of the summer, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has been long anticipated by fans and critics alike. Dunkirk marks Nolan’s first film since 2014’s Interstellar and is a departure from his previous excursions. It is the first Nolan movie to be based on historical events as all of his other movies have either been original scripts, remakes, or literary or comic book adaptations.

Dunkirk is instead a portrayal of a particularly poignant historical event of WWII – the ‘miracle’ of Dunkirk – and concerns the battle between German soldiers and Allied troops that lasted for ten days in 1940, and which ultimately led to the evacuation of more than 330,000 Allied troops. This history is recent enough to have some survivors of the actual evacuation present at the premiere of the film.

Dunkirk opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they are sitting ducks facing a massacre when the enemy inevitably breaks through the fragile Allied defences.

The action (the film has surprisingly little dialogue) is seen from the land, from the sea, and from the air, and concentrates what would be thousands of personal stories into a handful of characters and their heart-stopping efforts to reach the safety of British shores, faintly visible on the horizon, yet frustratingly out of reach. The title Dunkirk itself is divided into three segmented colours, sky blue, dark blue and orange, referring to the triptych plot of Air, Sea and Land.

Nolan departs from the conventional narrative framework of a war movie – the boot-camp training, family life disrupted, comrades supporting each other in battle and so on, and plunges us immediately into the middle of the action. But here again Nolan plays with time, using 3 intercutting stories on 3 different time frames to tell his story: the beach with the infantry (including Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles), the evacuation by the navy requisitioning civilian vessels (featuring Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance) and then in the air (with Tom Hardy engaging in aerial dogfights).

Speaking about the narrative structure in Premiere magazine, Christopher Nolan stated: “For the soldiers who embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; and if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry only an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; even if the story is very simple.”

With regard to the Battle of Dunkirk’s importance, he added: “This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate, and the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the US would not have returned to war. It is a true point of rupture in the war and in the history of the world. A decisive moment. …The success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory…Militarily it is a defeat; on the human plane, it is a colossal victory.”

After hearing first-hand accounts from the survivors of the Dunkirk evacuation, Nolan realized how young and inexperienced many of the soldiers had been, and so decided to cast mostly young and little-known actors for the beach setting, bringing home the idea of young men cut down at the beginning of their lives, and the terrifying waste and indifference of war.

This is balanced out by the experience and skill of the more seasoned members of the cast. Long-time Nolan collaborators such as Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, but also some of the most celebrated British thespian talent, including Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance. Rylance’s performance again astounds by its naturalness. Without a spare gesture or sentence, Rylance can communicate a range of quiet and subtle emotions – unlike other actors, even some of the best, one is never conscious of his ‘acting’.

Because the film has minimal dialogue, Nolan also found it useful to investigate silent films to see how they handled crowd scenes and what kind of techniques were used to maximize the feeling of awe and suspense. He decided to use the real naval destroyers for the sea battle sequences (there were 62 ships in use during filming), cardboard cut-out props of soldiers and military vehicles placed in the far background of shots, to create the illusion of a huge army.

What is unique about Dunkirk, is not just that Nolan can assemble a stellar cast, but also that he has the clout to choose the methods he wishes to employ to get the effects he wants, and he can also insist that he shoots on film, an increasing rarity. Rarer still is that he can get 70mm film prints to play in theatres, requiring them to find a real live projectionist.

The film is also Christopher Nolan’s sixth collaboration with composer Hans Zimmer who delivers an unusually restrained score. (They previously worked together on The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Zimmer received an Oscar Nomination for both Inception and Interstellar).

Dunkirk clocks in at 107 minutes (the director’s second shortest film to date) but it is edge-of-your-seat filmmaking, focusing on the deeply moving efforts of soldiers to survive the onslaught. The tension never lets up. The film has been described as, “one unending big moment” and the decision to shoot on 70mm “delivers a completely immersive and intense experience that you can’t get on a traditional digital print”. Dunkirk is the type of story that exploits the scope of the format. Warner Bros is busy proclaiming that Nolan’s WWII epic will be the most widely released 70mm film in 25 years.

Dunkirk will also show in IMAX auditoriums, but unlike typical studio fare that is ‘up-converted’, much of the film was actually shot using the IMAX process, usually reserved for high-quality nature documentaries. IMAX cameras not being the nimblest to use, film buffs will know this is unusual territory, especially within today’s ‘download- to-your-phone’ conditions.

On 70mm the film was impressive, the IMAX screenings are bound to be utterly immersive. Unsurprisingly, Dunkirk’s cinematography has been highly admired, the aerial photography being especially thrilling. New collaborator Hoyte van Hoytema (who replaced long-time DP Wally Pfister on Interstellar) may be singled out for praise for some inventive camerawork.

But where might his newest venture fit within Nolan’s body of work? Christopher Nolan has become known for his innovative approach to storytelling and the originality of his ideas. He uses methodically structured timelines in keeping with the ambiguous nature of his films, which often require repeated viewings to become ultimately satisfying.

Nolan possesses a marked interest in the interaction between narrative and characterization. Literary theorists have long studied narrative form and Nolan admits that his time as a student of literature in the department of English at University College London has informed his film-making and led him to “…Start thinking about the narrative freedoms that authors have enjoyed for centuries.”

His debut Following (1998) was made on a budget of around £6,000, but along with his subsequent critically-acclaimed films, Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006) and Inception (2010) the movie was seeking to explore and extend the limits of film structure and technique. In all of these works, Nolan refused to provide his audience with definitive conclusions, preferring instead to encourage them to extract their own meaning from endings which remain ambiguous.

In Dunkirk, however, Nolan is dealing with a story whose ending is famously known, so instead he arranges the time frame in a way that highlights the plight of the individual’s need to survive, and the trauma and consequence of being caught up in violent, life-changing experiences.

What are the ramifications of making life and death decisions? How does the individual deal with scenes which may cause indelible mental scarring, or may put others or one’s own person at risk? In Dunkirk Nolan may again be seen to examine his central themes and preoccupations of memory, time, trauma and identity.

To make it clear how battle can appear different from the air than it does on land or on the sea, the audiences’ perspective is shifted from one to the other, informing our understanding of how one’s proximity to violent or harrowing scenes may affect the choices we make.

Dunkirk reinforces Nolan’s commitment to celluloid and increasingly to IMAX, one which offers the audience an enhanced experience of film – ‘something special, something extraordinary’ as Nolan insists.

Nolan also has a canny awareness of the advancements in technology for the dissemination of his films as well as for offering opportunities for interacting with an audience. At the same time, he is striving to advance the traditional craft of filmmaking. A consummate filmmaker, he eschews CGI and a second unit, overseeing all aspects of production, preferring to shoot the entirety of the film himself to maintain full control of his artistic vision.

He is also concerned about the experience of cinema for the audience – “There’s a very real danger in watering down the theatrical experience… and with the confusing proliferation of digital technology, there isn’t any stable digital archiving medium.” Cinemas must ‘drastically improve’ or lose audiences, he warned when discussing the potential ‘death of film’. Not an event likely to occur too soon while he and a handful of other directors continue to work within the medium.

In Dunkirk Nolan again brings his assured and very distinctive vision, this time to a real-life story, creating an epic and gut-wrenching cinematic spectacle, yet also at times manging to remain affectingly intimate.

Editor-in-Chief of Movie Marker. Likes: Scorsese, Spielberg and Tarantino Dislikes: The film 'Open Water' I mean, what was that all about?

Movie Reviews

Tessa Thompson In Talks To Lead Disney’s Lady and the Tramp Remake

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British actress Tessa Thompson, who rose to prominence in HBO’s Westworld and Marvel Studios’ Thor: Ragnarok, is in final talks to join Disney’s ‘live-action’ Lady and the Tramp remake.

Thompson is in the running to portray the titular Lady, a pampered cocker spaniel who meets and falls in love with a street mongrel named Tramp (Justin Theroux). They journey across the city together, spaghetti is eaten, you know the drill.

The film will be a CG / live-action hybrid, incorporating real locations, sets, and humans, but digitally inserting the dogs themselves. The Lego Ninjago Movie director Charlie Bean is set to helm the project, which is expected to debut on Disney’s forthcoming (and presently-untitled) streaming service.

Tessa Thompson can next be seen reteaming with her Ragnarok co-star Chris Hemsworth in Sony’s Men in Black reboot.

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The Equalizer 2

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Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Stars: Abigail Marlowe, Ashton Sanders, Bill Pullman, Denzel Washington, Jonathan Scarfe,Melissa Leo, Orson Bean, Pedro Pascal, Sakina Jaffrey

Released: August 17th, 2018 (UK)

Denzel Washington is sixty-three years-old and will be sixty-four this coming December. I can recall taking note of this fact when writing about the first Equalizer film when Washington was about to turn sixty and how impressive it seemed that the guy had no intentions of slowing down. In the interim between that 2014 film and what is the first sequel one of the world’s most charismatic actors has agreed to be a part of, Mr. Washington has still shown no signs of slowing down. Since The EqualizerWashington has already paired with director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) again prior to this latest entry with their remake of The Magnificent Sevenwhich I found to be immensely entertaining as well as having adapted, starred in, and directed August Wilson’s seminal piece of work in Fencesfor which he was shrouded in awards love. And again last year, the actor earned another Best Actor nomination for his work in Dan Gilroy’s quirky, but largely effective Roman J. Israel, Esq. (which I probably liked more than you). The point being, each of these gave Washington the chance to continue to do what he loves as he flexed a different muscle in regard to each respective project, but the choice to return to the character of Robert McCall among every character Washington has played is a curious one. I enjoyed The Equalizer upon initial release and was happy to find it wasn’t simply another case of an aging star attempting to cash in on the Liam Neeson-proven method of combining a once valuable name on the poster above a newfangled action-centric conflict. Of course, Washington was never relegated to being a star whose name ever lost any value. Denzel is Denzel and no matter what he does people typically turn out in fair enough numbers to justify his mid-range action projects and awards contenders. In fact, since 2009 (which accounts for Washington’s last ten films), the star has never seen less than a $50 million lifetime gross with the exception of Israellast year with seven of those ten releases doing over $70 million worth of business during their theatrical runs. Denzel, the man, is typically all the brand recognition that is required and so it feels weird that Washington has been brought into this fold of sequels and franchises. Maybe it’s just the first time someone has offered the actor a follow-up to one of his projects or maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Whatever the case may be, The Equalizer 2 isn’t exactly what one might hope for in a “first” from Denzel Washington, but more it plays into what the first did more to subvert in not being your by-the-numbers action flick as this sequel, with nowhere else to go, had no choice but to surrender to the trend.

The Equalizer 2 begins by luring the unknowing audience into what will turn out to be the most interesting mission Washington’s Robert McCall goes on in the film. This deals with some Turkish thugs on a train who have kidnapped their ringleader’s daughter from the U.S. for no other reason than to be vindictive against the mother who was left with little else when this guy up and left. It’s some pretty odd circumstances, granted, but Fuqua shoots the action in a way that Washington never shows his age and better-we completely believe McCall via Washington’s physicality, is able to accomplish what the script lays out for him to accomplish. In short, if The Equalizer 2 is good for anything it is to say that, for Denzel Washington, age is indeed nothing but a number. From here, the film takes us back to Boston where Fuqua and his editor cobble together a mirage of what seem to be shots of the cityscape as if taken from any one of the many nineties procedurals that no doubt featured these exact same shots as if to make us aware of the exact type of movie we’re in for. One might think that after the opening action sequence taking place abroad and then the film returning to Boston to catch us up on the day to day of McCall the film would eventually come to be about the murder of an undercover operative in Belgium as this is what we’re given next in the movies sequence of events. It never does. In fact, McCall never again leaves the country despite the aforementioned opening sequence seeming to imply the type of work the character is now taking on. Rather, McCall resigns to his day job as a Lyft driver (yes, you read that right) only picking his cases from the conflicts of those he comes into contact with during these shifts. How does our man in Belgium come back into the picture then, you ask? Well, that would be when McCall’s former supervisor and the only other person in the world who knows who he was in his former life, Susan Plummer (Melissa Leo), comes back into the picture and begins investigating the Belgium incident with the help of McCall’s former partner of seven years, Dave York (Pedro Pascal). When Susan and Dave travel to Belgium to investigate the murder of one of their own, but only one of them returns McCall takes it upon himself to get to the bottom of what happened and exact revenge on those who are behind it. There’s also several extraneous subplots dealing with an elderly man (Orson Bean) who is searching for his long-lost sister, and a paternal relationship McCall strikes up with a young resident who lives in his building as played by Moonlight‘s Ashton Sanders.

All of this mixed bag of events comes to feel like nothing short of an odd combination by the time we reach the conclusion of this two hour actioner that is twenty minutes too long. The movie, from a screenplay by Richard Wenk (Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, The Expendables 2), is all over the place, but ultimately turns out to be a rather small story. This is one of the reasons it can’t help but to feel as if The Equalizer 2 never takes off. There is this precedent set for something of a globe-trotting adventure and the audience is led to believe that Washington’s McCall will be pulled into the Belgium investigation alongside Leo’s Plummer as this will somehow undoubtedly connect to one or both of their pasts, but in the single surprise the film is able to offer it also seals its downfall by having to then revert to a generic revenge thriller. If you’re curious as to just how generic the movie is then take into consideration the fact that when McCall’s living complex is vandalized the tag on the wall literally says, “gang” rather than what could be interpreted as an actual gang name. That’s how broad this movie likes to play things. That’s how familiar all of this feels. It is also in this standard execution of the revenge thriller that Washington and Fuqua run into an inherent issue with their franchise and its central character. The Equalizer films, and I don’t know if this is true of the television series off which they are based, face a difficult contradiction of tone and moral code. When McCall takes action he is ruthless in as much and yet at the same time he is the most gentleman-like of assassins when not in direct conflict with whoever is in front of him. This type of nature may be more effectively explored in David Lowery’s The Old Man & the Gun (though I doubt Robert Redford will be decapitating people and throwing them onto rocks), but in Fuqua’s follow-up these mentalities clash in a more disagreeable way that didn’t rear its head in the first film. The difference in The Equalizer and something like Non-Stop or 3 Days to Kill was the fact Washington and Fuqua’s film was able to go there; it was allowed to play up the vulgar aspects of the job McCall was doing. It was allowed to bathe in the gore and the grim perpetuated by all those that existed within this world because that was McCall’s world in the wake of his wife’s death. He lived and existed in the shadows and thus his actions to bring some balance to the community made sense and were in line with where the character was at mentally. In this sequel though, the mentality with which McCall approaches Sanders’ Miles in an effort to pull the young man from a life of crime and push him more towards a brighter future that Miles doesn’t think is possible just doesn’t line up when that same guy says something like, “…then I’m going to kill you all, and my only regret is that I only get to do it once.”

Both Fuqua and his movies are well-oiled machines in that they’re relentless, sturdily storied, and well put-together, but more often than not neither to offer the depth they seem so capable of producing. The Equalizer 2 feels like the epitome of this as Fuqua’s films tend to at least have some redeeming entertainment value most of the time. Largely an exercise in going through the motions though, The Equalizer 2 leaves the audience to wonder what half of the subplots might have to do with the main narrative in which half of those that seemingly have nothing to do with the main story in fact do not while your standard themes of redemption, virtue, and the promise of exploration into good versus evil being too simple an idea to blanket the society of today abound with no real substance. There was a moment in the film where it seemed Wenk might take the opportunity to say something really interesting or at least begin to navigate his way through tricky terrain that dealt in the difficulties of trying to leave a gang without any lasting repercussions, but while this moment in the movie where McCall rescues Miles from what is essentially preparation for his initiation into a gang hints at as much it seems McCall’s actions were enough to convince the gang that Miles wasn’t worth the trouble. Fair enough given how much McCall roughed up a couple of the guys, but rather than utilizing this strand as a way to say something more profound Wenk instead only utilizes Miles as a plot device the antagonist can use against McCall in the final act. Speaking of that antagonist, I suppose it’s a spoiler to say who it is exactly despite the fact it’s terribly telegraphed fairly early on. I’ll just say that if you’ve seen Kingsman: The Golden Circle you might get a sense of where this is going before it does. As for the supporting players Leo is fine, Bill Pullman is wasted as is Sakina Jaffrey, while it seems uncertain at this point what it is Pascal can bring to the table that a handful of other aspiring actors couldn’t. His interpretation of the co-lead here is bland and completely deprived of any humanity as it shows him in a picturesque setting with his family in one scene and then passively gunning down a seemingly innocent individual in another. And if you were at least hoping for a climactic action sequence that matched if not exceeded the warehouse set piece in the first film you’ll be sorely disappointed to find out The Equalizer 2 spends intermittent moments of its running time telling us a storm is brewing for no other reason than to set its climax in an evacuated town where McCall and those who oppose him run amok and the main antagonist remains perched atop a building. Of note is the fact this is one of the uglier looking Fuqua films I think I’ve ever seen, but there is one shot of Washington, wearing all black, as he runs in between buildings and through the rain and wind in that climactic action set piece where for a brief moment he almost looks like the caped crusader. It lends a fleeting sense of what could have been. I understand Washington wanting to have his own super hero alter ego and God knows he deserves it at this point in his career, but early on in the film his McCall talks about there being two types of pain in this world: the pain that hurts and the pain that alters. The Equalizer 2 is largely painful to watch and most of the time it just hurts.

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Christopher Robin

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Reviewer: Philip Price

Director: Marc Forster

Stars: Brad Garrett, Bronte Carmichael, Ewan McGregor, Hayley Atwell, Jim Cummings, Mark Gatiss, Nick Mohammed, Orton O’Brien, Peter Capaldi, Sara Sheen, Sophie Okonedo, Toby Jones

Released: August 17th, 2018 (UK)

There is a moment within the opening credits of Disney’s latest attempt to turn one of their classic animated properties into a live action ATM that hints at the devastating nature of our lives. It is fleeting and it, if only for a moment, says all it needs to say about what this movie aspires to be. As it passes though and as it becomes more and more apparent the film doesn’t really know how to accomplish what its initial ambitions intended the film instead becomes all the more broad and all the more safe. This moment is one in which a young Christopher Robin (Orton O’Brien) comes to the Hundred Acre Wood for the last time. He is going off to boarding school, you see, and won’t be able to visit his friends as often anymore. His friends being his stuffed toys, which include that silly ol’ bear named Pooh (voice of Jim Cummings), the perpetually petrified Piglet (voice of Nick Mohammed), the ever-exuberant Tigger (also Cummings), the steadily gloomy Eeyore (voice of Brad Garrett), as well as Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), her little Roo (Sara Sheen), and of course Owl (Toby Jones). Robin’s toys know change is afoot and are throwing Christopher a farewell party of sorts in which treats-ranging from pots of honey to carrots, of course-are served and where even Eeyore is moved to make a speech. It is in light of the depressed donkey’s surprisingly apathetic speech that Rabbit reacts to accordingly that we hear Cummings as Winnie the Pooh whisper a soft, “I would’ve liked for it to go on a bit longer.” And just as fleeting as the moment itself is it simultaneously felt as if I’d been knocked over by a half ton barrage of scattered thoughts and emotions that reminded me just how fleeting time itself is. It’s the one thing we can’t get more of no matter how much wealth we possess or the circumstance of our lives; we all have a finite amount of time and Christopher Robin, in its first five minutes, exists to remind you that your children will grow and change just as you did and even though you feel you’re different, that you’re special, and that despite knowing it was a fact of life all along you were never really meant to grow old and become like your parents before you. Time truly waits for no man. This affected me to the point I wondered why I was sitting in a theater watching a movie when I should have been at home snuggling my three year-old daughter. In short, that would have been the more entertaining option of the two and certainly the more fulfilling one as it is only in this aforementioned moment that Christopher Robin was able to pull any genuine feeling out of me. And might I remind you, this is a movie wholly designed to pull on the heart and nostalgia strings. One moment.

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood, this fictional land inhabited by Pooh and his friends, is where we initially meet the cast of well-known characters in director Marc Forster’s (Finding Neverland, Monster’s Ball, Quantum of Solace, World War Z) film, but we don’t spend much time here over the course of the next ninety or so minutes as Christopher Robin quickly enters the real world first showing us in montage how our titular character comes to stray so far from the childhood that has seemingly brought so much joy to so many other’s childhoods. Beginning with boarding school-and a very telling shot in which Robin’s father turns his back to walk away as soon as he’s hugged and told his son goodbye while his mother stands for a moment longer, watching her son walk away-onto having to become the man of the house at a younger age than most, into the fact this young boy who we’ve always pictured as something of a Peter Pan-like touchstone actually served overseas in the war for several years away from his pregnant wife, Evelyn (Hayley Atwell), therefore missing the birth and early years of his daughter’s life. It’s a lot to take in especially given the amount of time in which the film delivers it, but more interesting is the fact any point in these events would have made for a more satisfying experience in terms of what the movie wants to do, but instead of having Robin hit rock bottom-losing his sense of childlike wonder completely-during the war the screenplay from Alex Ross Perry (writer/director of such indie darlings as Listen Up Philip and Queen of Earth), Tom McCarthy (writer and director of the Best Picture-winning Spotlight), and Allison Schroeder (whose first feature screenplay made into a film was Hidden Figures) instead decide that the film’s namesake will have this crisis of identity post-war when he’s stuck in an office doing mundane, day to day tasks because “Hey! At least the war was unpredictable!” This may be the most “movie” thing this movie does, but this has a lasting effect on the film as the biggest issue Christopher Robin runs into is being a movie about the purity and preciousness of childhood and yet it never feels authentic. Everything about from how the scenes are stitched together to the very example-like nature that each of the situations possess lend the overall impression of a series of contrivances rather than a genuine truth that conveys the thesis of the pitch that adults too easily lose sight of a child’s perspective including the multitude of joys that can be found in the world if we alter how we look at it.

Forster is a diverse director, but in less and less of his more recent efforts has he seemed to be able to find his own sense of footing or who he is as a filmmaker. It’s admittedly been some time since I’ve seen either Monster’s Ball or Finding Neverlandthough he will always have my favor and optimism thanks to Stranger than Fiction (I need to see The Kite Runner), but while it was those early films that marked Forster’s arrival on the scene and as something of a formidable force to be reckoned with he was then snatched up by the studios to direct pre-destined tentpoles such as the next James Bond. It’s easy to see how his career trajectory went astray after this, but with Christopher Robin it seems he might have landed on a project that would allow that footing to once again be surer of itself. And while there are components, arguably the most critical of components, that work well and bring the aimlessness of the plotting and the lack of efficiency (ironically enough) in the pacing up to levels of charming and more consistently funny than expected after the slog the first act turns into the movie itself ultimately never has any stakes that are worth getting involved in, has a message and main idea that should be fairly obvious to the main character, but that he doesn’t fully give into until the third act when he’s supposed to give into his epiphany despite long-since realizing the lesson he’s intended to learn. Worse, none of these actions ever truly gel with what the movie really wants to say. There is this line that is repeated often by Pooh that goes something like, “doing nothing often leads to the very best something,” and though there is certainly flaws to be found with this nugget of wisdom it might have been beneficial had Forster taken cues from his characters. Christopher Robin is aimless because it tries to do so much at once, throwing multiple character arcs and conflicts at the wall, but never giving any of it enough weight to the point it amounts to anything. There is a bit with the Robin’s weird neighbor who keeps insisting he and Robin have a game of gin rummy, but this goes nowhere and is ultimately nothing more than something thrown in to get a laugh. The likes of Atwell and Bronte Carmichael who plays their daughter, Madeline, are more or less wasted and serve simply as reminders of how much Robin is messing up and how much he is missing. Christopher Robin is oddly paced because it largely wraps up its core story in an hour and then has to go on for another forty minutes so that the title character can repeat his arc and Madeline can fill in the role once played by her father in regards to his toy friends. Oddly enough, this redundant final act is the only time the movie possesses some forward momentum. Essentially, should Forster’s Christopher Robin have less distractions filtered through it the characters themselves might have been more in tune with the film’s very visible heart.

Being a story about how Christopher Robin becomes so lost to the point it is difficult for his own child to imagine him as a child though, the most critical of elements that would need to be pulled off in order for even the single most innocent member of the audience to buy into the fact Robin could make the realizations he needs to make in order for viewers to feel as if they’ve been taken on a journey is that of the credibility and connections of those inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Wood. We needed to care about Winnie the Pooh and his make-believe friends and believe in their ability to serve as not just reminders of who Christopher Robin once was, but as symbols of what he’d lost in the course of growing up. It is in this course of action that Forster and Christopher Robin as a whole succeed the most. This is a very handsome film, a gorgeously rendered film, if you will, as each of the characters we all know and love are depicted as something of a balance between the animated incarnations most will associate them with and the real-life dolls of the real-life Christopher Robin and his father, author A.A. Milne. Forster and cinematographer Matthias Koenigswieser create this warm and comfortable aura with a soft sun luminescence within the Hundred Acre Wood that lends the realm something of an ethereal element whereas Robin’s London-based job and home life couldn’t be drearier or more drained of color. The aesthetics of these dolls come to life in truly tangible ways and their interactions with both real-world environments as well as, when Pooh makes his way to London, real-world people are what give the film a much needed vibrancy. Pooh will rattle off little sayings like, “It’s always a sunny day when Christopher Robin comes to play,” but in the case of this movie it is more the opposite for it is when we get to see cute little Piglet try to hide, but be tempted by the thought of acorns, or Eeyore float down a river with no hope of being saved, or even when the movie blatantly pays fan service by having Tigger perform his trademark song that the most joy comes off the screen and we, the viewer, are ourselves reminded of what made our childhood so magical. This isn’t to say Ewan McGregor isn’t fine enough as the titular character, but he’s simply strapped with so much of the dour material that he can’t help but to pull down both the energy and the tone. The challenge with Christopher Robin was always going to be how to make it more than just a nostalgia trip though, and while it might have yielded a better, more insightful movie better in tune with its feelings and ambitions had Disney maybe allowed Perry to direct a script he wrote by himself based on the given premise what Forster has crafted here is a very nice, very quaint film that hits its necessary marks, but is far too slight to ever reach the emotional heights it’s scaling.

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