Film in 2019 was about family. It was about love. It was about defiance. And it was about growing old. From the March sisters to Jimmy Hoffa, Rick Dalton to Lance Corporal Schofield, Mr. Rogers to best friends Amy and Molly, the characters of 2019 embodied what keeps us human, even when things, or even people, are at their worst. It was yet another beautiful year in film, so let’s celebrate. Here are the MovieMini Awards for the Films of 2019:
(These awards were voted on and compiled by Danielle Gutierrez, Levi Hill, Kyle Kizu, Miyako Singer, and Hooman Yazdanian.)
Best Specialty Performance
Winner: Tom Hanks as Woody — Toy Story 4
Runner-up: Tony Hale as Forky — Toy Story 4 3. Shirley Henderson as Babu Frik — Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 4. Billy Eichner as Timon — The Lion King 5. Zach Galifianakis as Mr. Link/Susan — Missing Link
Next Group: Rosa Salazar as Alita — Alita: Battle Angel Jay Baruchel as Hiccup — How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World Chris Pratt as Emmet/Rex — The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Ryan Reynolds as Pikachu — Pokémon Detective Pikachu Keegan-Michael Key as Ducky — Toy Story 4
Best Feature Debut
Winner: Olivia Wilde — Booksmart
Runner-up: Alma Har’el — Honey Boy 3. Joe Talbot — The Last Black Man in San Francisco 4. Jérémy Clapin — I Lost My Body 5. Tyler Nilson, Michael Schwartz — The Peanut Butter Falcon
Next Group: Vince Gilligan — El Camino Nia DaCosta — Little Woods Melina Matsoukas — Queen & Slim Jennifer Kaytin Robinson — Someone Great Josh Cooley — Toy Story 4
Best Original Song
Winner: “Control” — Her Smell
Runner-up: “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” — Rocketman 3. “La Jeune Fille en Feu” — Portrait of a Lady on Fire 4. “Pulled Down” — Her Smell 5. “Jose and Mark” — The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience
Next Group: “Show Yourself” — Frozen II “A Glass of Soju” — Parasite “The Ballad of the Lonesome Cowboy” — Toy Story 4 “IHOP” — The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience “Glasgow (No Place Like Home)” — Wild Rose
Special Mention: Jessica Only Child Illinois Chicago — Parasite
Best Original Score
Winner: Thomas Newman — 1917
Runner-up: Daniel Lopatin — Uncut Gems 3. Emile Mosseri — The Last Black Man in San Francisco 4. Alexandre Desplat — Little Women 5. Matt Morton — Apollo 11
Next Group: Max Richter, Lorne Balte — Ad Astra James Newton Howard — A Hidden Life Dan Levy — I Lost My Body Jail Jung — Parasite Michael Abels — Us
Winner: Donald Sylvester, Paul Massey, David Giammarco, Steven Morrow — Ford v Ferrari
Runner-up: Oliver Tarney, Rachael Tate, Mark Taylor, Stuart Wilson — 1917 3. Eric Milano, Brian Eimer — Apollo 11 4. Gary Rydstrom, Brad Semenoff, Tom Johnson, Mark Ulano — Ad Astra 5. Matthew Wood, David Acord, Christopher Scarabosio, Andy Nelson, Stuart Wilson — Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
Next Group: Ryan M. Price, Patrick Southern — Her Smell Damian Volpe, Mariusz Glabinski, Robert Fernandez, Alexander Rosborough — The Lighthouse Wylie Stateman, Michael Minkler, Christian P. Minkler, Mark Ulano — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood Matthew Collinge, John Hayes, Mike Prestwood Smith, Danny Sheehan — Rocketman Warren Shaw, Skip Lievsay, Tom Fleischman — Uncut Gems
Runner-up: Fríða Aradóttir, Judy Chin — Little Women 3. Janine Rath, Heba Thorisdottir — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 4. Mónika Tóth, Katalin Jakots, Iván Pohárnok — Midsommar 5. Elizabeth Yianni-Georgiou, Victoria Money, Barrie Gower — Rocketman
Next Group: Debra Denson, Carla Farmer, Stacey Morris, Vera Steimberg — Dolemite Is My Name Emma Strachman, Elissa Ruminer, Amy L. Forsythe — Her Smell Nicki Ledermann, Sean Flanigan, Michael Marino — The Irishman Traci Loader, Linda Flynn, Adrien Morot — The Lighthouse Scott Wheeler, Camille Friend — Us
Best Costume Design
Winner: Julian Day — Rocketman
Runner-up: Jacqueline Durran — Little Women 3. Arianne Phillips — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 4. Ruth E. Carter — Dolemite Is My Name 5. Albert Wolsky — Ad Astra
Next Group: Mitchell Travers — Hustlers Sandy Powell, Christopher Peterson — The Irishman Mayes C. Rubeo — Jojo Rabbit Dorothée Guiraud — Portrait of a Lady on Fire Miyako Bellizzi — Uncut Gems
Best Production Design
Winner: Lee Ha-jun, Cho Won-woo — Parasite
Runner-up: Barbara Ling, Nancy Haigh — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 3. Dennis Gassner, Lee Sandales — 1917 4. Craig Lathrop, Ian Greig — The Lighthouse 5. Jess Gonchor, Claire Kaufman — Little Women
Next Group: Kevin Thompson, Karen O’Hara — Ad Astra Bob Shaw, Regina Graves — The Irishman Henrik Svensson — Midsommar Thomas Grézaud, Hélène Delmaire — Portrait of a Lady on Fire Sam Lisenco, Kendall Anderson — Uncut Gems
Winner: Hayley Saywell, Ben Cooke, Rhye Copeman — 1917
Runner-up: Robert Nagle, Brian Simpson, Chris Palermo — Ford v Ferrari 3. Jonathan Eusebio, Scott Rogers, Cale Schultz — John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum 4. Robert Alonzo, Jacob Dewitt, Samuel Le — Ad Astra 5. Monique Ganderton, Sam Hargrave, Daniel Hernandez, James Young, Terry Notary, Michael Hugghins, Ralf Koch — Avengers: Endgame
Next Group: Mindy Kelly — The Art of Self-Defense Chris O’Hara, Simon Crane, Ralf Koch, Greg Rementer, Randy Beckman — Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw Ian Mclaughlin, Tabitha Dumo — Hustlers Gáspár Szabó, Ildikó Szücs, Anna Vnuk — Midsommar Ku Huen-Chiu, Feng Weilun, Lin Zhitai, Tang Tengfei — Shadow
Runner-up: Allen Maris, Guillaume Rocheron, Scott R. Fisher, Jedediah Smith — Ad Astra 3. Roger Guyett, Neal Scanlan, Patrick Tubach, Dominic Tuohy — Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker 4. Dan DeLeeuw, Russell Earl, Matt Aitken, Daniel Sudick — Avengers: Endgame 5. Guillaume Rocheron, Robert Winter, Eric Frazier, Brian Connor, Peter Nofz — Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Next Group: Louis Morin, Annie Godin, Christian Kaestner, Ara Khanikian, Michael Dawson — The Aeronauts Richard E. Hollander, Joe Letteri, Kevin L. Sherwood, Eric Saindon, Richard Baneham, Bob Trevino, Nick Epstein — Alita: Battle Angel Bill Westenhofer, Karen M. Murphy, Guy Williams, Sheldon Stopsack, Mark Hawker — Gemini Man Pablo Helman, Leandro Estebecorena, Nelson Sepulveda, Stephane Grabli — The Irishman Jonathan Fawkner, Carlos Monzon, Dale Newton — Pokémon Detective Pikachu
Winner: Roger Deakins — 1917
Runner-up: Jarin Blaschke — The Lighthouse 3. Claire Mathon — Portrait of a Lady on Fire 4. Adam Newport-Berra — The Last Black Man in San Francisco 5. Hoyte van Hoytema — Ad Astra
Next Group: Phedon Papamichael — Ford v Ferrari Rodrigo Prieto — The Irishman Yorick Le Saux — Little Women Robert Richardson — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood Hong Kyung-pyo — Parasite
Best Film Editing
Winner: Nick Huoy — Little Women
Runner-up: Yang Jin-mo — Parasite 3. Todd Douglas Miller — Apollo 11 4. Thelma Schoonmaker — The Irishman 5. Fred Raskin — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood
Next Group: Lee Smith — 1917 Andrew Buckland, Michael McCusker — Ford v Ferrari David Marks — The Last Black Man in San Francisco Julien Lacheray — Portrait of a Lady on Fire Ronald Bronstein, Benny Safdie — Uncut Gems
Best Documentary Feature
Runner-up:Diego Maradona 3. American Factory 4. Honeyland 5. Knock Down the House
Next Group: The Biggest Little Farm For Sama Fyre The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley The Legend of Cocaine Island
Best Animated Feature
Winner:I Lost My Body
Runner-up:How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World 3. Toy Story 4
Next Group: Klaus The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Missing Link
Best International Feature
Runner-up:Portrait of a Lady on Fire 3. Pain and Glory 4. I Lost My Body 5. Slut in a Good Way
Next Group: Ash Is the Purest White Everybody Knows Honeyland Monos Shadow
Winner: The Peach Scam — Parasite
Runner-up: The Final Bet — Uncut Gems 3. Sixteen Hundred Men — 1917 4. The Trailer — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 5. The Benoit Blanc Breakdown — Knives Out 6. It’s What It Is — The Irishman 7. The Night Window — 1917 8. Leaving China and Nai Nai — The Farewell 9. The Laurie-Jo Devastation — Little Women 10. She Didn’t Notice Me — Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Next Group: Leave It Open a Little Bit — The Irishman Beth — Little Women Shirtless Cliff Booth — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood Lovers — Pain and Glory I’ll Remember — Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Greta Gerwig — Little Women
Runner-up: Steve Zaillian — The Irishman 3. Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue — A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 4. Taika Waititi — Jojo Rabbit 5. Matthew Michael Carnahan, Mario Correa — Dark Waters
Next Group: Mike Flanagan — Doctor Sleep Terrence Malick — A Hidden Life Lorene Scafaria — Hustlers Jérémy Clapin, Guillaume Laurant — I Lost My Body Andrew Stanton, Stephany Folsom, Martin Hynes, Josh Cooley, Valerie LaPointe, Rashida Jones, Will McCormack — Toy Story 4
Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Bong Joon-ho, Han Jin-won — Parasite
Runner-up: Lulu Wang — The Farewell 3. Céline Sciamma — Portrait of a Lady on Fire 4. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie, Ronald Bronstein — Uncut Gems 5. Quentin Tarantino — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood
Next Group: Shia LaBeouf — Honey Boy Rian Johnson — Knives Out Noah Baumbach — Marriage Story Joe Talbot, Jimmie Fails — The Last Black Man in San Francisco Pedro Almodóvar — Pain and Glory
Runner-up:The Irishman 3. Little Women 4. Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 5. Knives Out
Next Group: 1917 Booksmart The Farewell Hustlers Uncut Gems
Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Al Pacino — The Irishman
Runner-up: Joe Pesci — The Irishman 3. Song Kang-ho — Parasite 4. Shia LaBeouf — Honey Boy 5. Jonathan Majors — The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Next Group: Dean Charles-Chapman — 1917 Tom Hanks — A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Chris Cooper — Little Women Alan Alda — Marriage Story Kevin Garnett — Uncut Gems
Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Zhao Shuzhen — The Farewell
Runner-up: Florence Pugh — Little Women 3. Cho Yeo-jeong — Parasite 4. Scarlett Johansson — Jojo Rabbit 5. Park So-dam — Parasite
Next Group: Jennifer Lopez — Hustlers Thomasin McKenzie — Jojo Rabbit Jamie Lee Curtis — Knives Out Lee Jeong-eun — Parasite Julia Fox — Uncut Gems
Best Lead Actor
Winner: Adam Driver — Marriage Story
Runner-up: Brad Pitt — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 3. Adam Sandler — Uncut Gems 4. Leonardo DiCaprio — Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 5. George MacKay — 1917
Next Group: Brad Pitt — Ad Astra Robert De Niro — The Irishman Robert Pattinson — The Lighthouse Antonio Banderas — Pain and Glory Choi Woo-sik — Parasite
Best Lead Actress
Winner: Lupita Nyong’o — Us
Runner-up: Saoirse Ronan — Little Women 3. Elisabeth Moss — Her Smell 4. Awkwafina — The Farewell 5. Adèle Haenel — Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Next Group: Beanie Feldstein — Booksmart Ana de Armas — Knives Out Florence Pugh — Midsommar Noémie Merlant — Portrait of a Lady on Fire Samara Weaving — Ready or Not
Winner: Bong Joon-ho — Parasite
Runner-up: Greta Gerwig — Little Women 3. Céline Sciamma — Portrait of a Lady on Fire 4. Sam Mendes — 1917 5. Martin Scorsese — The Irishman
Next Group: Todd Douglas Miller — Apollo 11 Marielle Heller — A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Lulu Wang — The Farewell Lorene Scafaria — Hustlers Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie — Uncut Gems
Runner-up:Parasite 3. The Irishman 4. Uncut Gems 5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire 6. 1917 7. Once upon a Time… in Hollywood 8. The Farewell 9. Apollo 11 10. Marriage Story
Next Group: Ad Astra A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Booksmart Dark Waters Ford v Ferrari Honey Boy Jojo Rabbit The Last Black Man in San Francisco The Lighthouse Pain and Glory
The Cats Category or (The Buck Wild Film Beyond Awards Comprehension):Cats
Not Quite a Feature Film, But Deserving of Cinematic Awards Recognition Anyway:The Unauthorized Bash Brothers Experience
2018 was mind-boggling. Ever since Black Panther back in February, the year just held strong up through the final days with the likes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. So it’s no small statement to say that 2019 might rival it. In less than a month, we’ll have Dan Gilroy’s Velvet Buzzsaw (on Netflix, no less), followed soon after by the trilogy capper for How to Train Your Dragon. And with Captain Marvel and Us in March, the year will quickly become overwhelming. And it’s not only big budget films, or genre pieces from recent American (and male) darlings. There’s a new Scorsese film, a new Kore-eda film, a new Rees film, a new Joon-ho film, a new Larraín film, and a new Denis film — as well as exciting documentaries and feature debuts we’ll hear about soon at Sundance. With all that said, we couldn’t pick only 10 for our most anticipated list. In fact, we couldn’t even stick with 20. Below these 20 are sets of 15 from us individually, as well as five more honorable mentions (for a total of 55). Inject 2019 into our eyes already:
20. The Truth
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda (Shoplifters, After the Storm, Like Father, Like Son, Still Walking, Nobody Knows) Written by: Hirokazu Kore-eda, Léa Le Dimna Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke Release date: TBD Hirokazu Kore-eda directing Ethan Hawke and Juliette Binoche is enough to start wondering if The Truth will bring the acclaimed filmmaker back-to-back Palme d’Or wins. — Levi Hill
19. Ford v. Ferrari
Directed by: James Mangold (Logan, 3:10 to Yuma, Walk the Line) Written by: James Mangold, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth, Jason Keller Starring: Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Caitriona Balfe, Tracy Letts, Jon Bernthal, Noah Jupe Release date: June 28, 2019 James Mangold has proven himself as a storyteller who understands the American spirit. Combine that with stylish Ferraris, racing and another Christian Bale transformation, and Ford v. Ferrari could be another piece of Mangold gold. — Kyle Kizu
18. Honey Boy
Directed by: Alma Har’el (Bombay Beach, LoveTrue) Written by: Shia LaBeouf Starring: Lucas Hedges, Shia LaBeouf, Maika Monroe, Noah Jupe Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere) Shia LaBeouf writes and co-stars with Lucas Hedges in a Sundance premiering semi-autobiographical film about a childhood actor (Hedges) and his relationship with his father (LaBeouf). The film should be a challenging, honest, painful, but ultimately touching exploration of how LaBeouf became who he is today. — LH
17. The Beach Bum
Directed by: Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) Written by: Harmony Korine Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Snoop Dogg, Isla Fisher, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill Release date: March 22, 2019 For his follow-up to Spring Breakers, Harmony Korine kept his color-soaked stoner aesthetic and added A-list stars Matthew McConaughey (Moondog), Snoop Dogg (Lingerie), Isla Fisher (Minnie), Zac Efron (Flicker), and Jonah Hill (Lewis). — LH
16. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Directed by: Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl, Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Written by: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Chris Cooper Release date: October 18, 2019 Can You Ever Forgive Me? felt like a film from a 20 year veteran. That it was Marielle Heller’s sophomore feature just shows how astounding she is. Pair her with an icon for another icon’s story, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is set up to be an affecting journey. — KK
Directed by: Alice Winocour (Augustine) Written by: Alice Winocour Starring: Eva Green, Matt Dillon, Lars Eidinger Release date: TBD Proxima follows an astronaut as she trains her body and her mind for a year on the ISS. The psychology of astronauts is such an intriguing subject that’s often left behind in massive sci-fi stories, so to see the exciting Alice Winocour take on a more intimate angle — Winocour says the film will focus particularly on saying goodbye to family — with Eva Green will be such a treat. — KK
14. Toy Story 4
Directed by: Josh Cooley Written by: Stephany Folsom, Will McCormack Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Keaton, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Patricia Arquette, Keanu Reeves Release date: June 21, 2019 Initially, a fourth Toy Story movie was a head-scratcher, especially after the exit of Rashida Jones due to “creative” and “philosophical” differences with Pixar. But then came the hilarious promos, as well as the reports of how emotional the film was for all those involved. And the first three films arguably form the greatest trilogy of all time, so why doubt the franchise now? — LH
13. Detective Pikachu
Directed by: Rob Letterman (Goosebumps) Written by: Nicole Perlman, Rob Letterman Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Suki Waterhouse, Rita Ora Release date: May 10, 2019 Ryan Reynolds might be an obvious choice after his (vocal) success with the wise-ass Deadpool, but that doesn’t make this adaption of the video game, featuring the adorable-looking Pikachu and other Pokemon, any less exciting. Think of it as a modern, pop culture heavy take on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. — LH
12. Velvet Buzzsaw
Directed by: Dan Gilroy (Roman J. Israel, Esq., Nightcrawler) Written by: Dan Gilroy Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Toni Collette, John Malkovich, Daveed Diggs Release date: February 1, 2019 (Sundance premiere) Regardless of his second feature, Dan Gilroy directed an American masterpiece right out of the gate with Nightcrawler. It’s not only the slow, creeping relevance of the film or the incredible noir stylings, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s terrifying turn. The simple idea of them reuniting is tantalizing, but that it’s for a feature about the often terrifying and visually dazzling contemporary art world takes the anticipation through the roof.— KK
11. Little Women
Directed by: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) Written by: Greta Gerwig Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Timothée Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Bob Odenkirk Release date: December 25, 2019 Through 2018, Little Women has seen the silver screen seven times. Take that, A Star Is Born. But it’s tough not to love the idea of Greta Gerwig adapting the story with her delicate, observant eye and such an outstanding cast after she made Lady Bird, one of the best American films of the 21st century. — KK
Directed by: Ari Aster (Hereditary) Written by: Ari Aster Starring: Will Poulter, Florence Pugh, Jack Reynor, William Jackson Harper Release date: August 9, 2019 Following up the critically acclaimed (and potential Oscar nominee) Hereditary is no small task. Yet, with A24’s backing, an exciting young cast, a Sweden setting, and another tale of horrific pagan cults, Midsommar has all the signs of another creep-fest by the already horror maestro Ari Aster. — LH
9. The Lion King
Directed by: Jon Favreau (The Jungle Book, Chef, Iron Man) Written by: Jeff Nathanson, Brenda Chapman Starring: Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Beyoncé, Alfre Woodard, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Keegan-Michael Key, John Oliver Release date: July 19, 2019 There’s no doubt The Lion King will roar all competitors away from the box office, and take it’s rightful spot on the throne as the top grossing movie of 2019 next to Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: Episode IX. So really, the only thing to hope for is that Jon Favreau takes enough risks to change some elements of the 1994 classic so that it’s not 100% a shot-for-shot CGI (instead of hand-drawn) remake. Other than that, this film is too big to fail. Hakuna matata. — LH
8. Uncut Gems
Directed by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie (Good Time) Written by: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, Ronald Bronstein Starring: Adam Sandler, Idina Menzel, Lakeith Stanfield, Pom Klementieff, The Weeknd, Kevin Garnett Release date: TBD Say what you will, but Adam Sandler is a good actor. Seriously. He’s made some stinkers, but for those who have charted his career, it’s clear that when he’s given an original script from an acclaimed filmmaker (Punch-Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, Funny People, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)), he brings real depth to his characters. So, who better then than the Safdie brothers — who helped American audiences further see all of Robert Pattinson’s post-Twilight talents — to usher in even more indie goodwill for “character actor” Adam Sandler? Plus, the Netflix special Adam Sandler 100% Fresh, showing Sandler at his funniest and most heartfelt,was the thing I rewatched most in 2018. If the Safdie brothers tap into Sandler’s uncanny balance of hilarity and tragedy, Uncut Gems might be a major critical and commercial leap for all involved. — LH
7. Lucy in the Sky
Directed by: Noah Hawley (Legion, Fargo) Written by: Brian C. Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi, John-Henry Butterworth, Noah Hawley Starring: Natalie Portman, Dan Stevens, Jon Hamm, Zazie Beetz, Ellen Burstyn, Colman Domingo, Tig Notaro Release date: TBD Between Black Swan, Jackie, Annihilation, and Vox Lux, Natalie Portman has offered some of the most complex, haunted characters of the past decade. With Lucy in the Sky, she’ll now examine the psychology of an astronaut (based on a true story) along with Noah Hawley, the creator of Legion, and likely further prove why she’s one of the absolute best actors of our time. — KK
Directed by: Jordan Peele (Get Out) Written by: Jordan Peele Starring: Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Elisabeth Moss Release date: March 15, 2019 Get Out came out of nowhere to gross over $175 million domestically, receive four Oscar nominations (including Best Picture), and win Best Original Screenplay. Us won’t have the stealth factor that Get Out had. However, it’s apparent with Us that Jordan Peele is far more than the real deal. Even with what could have been a blank check and even more of a blank page to write and do whatever he wanted, he doubled down on the savage, if slightly funny, horror satire mode he worked to wonders with Get Out. While Us might not reach the box office or Oscar glory of Get Out, it could become, to us, an even more impressive and idiosyncratic horror masterpiece. — LH
5. Knives Out
Directed by: Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Looper, Brick) Written by: Rian Johnson Starring: Daniel Craig, Ana de Armas, Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Lakeith Stanfield, Christopher Plummer Release date: November 27, 2019 It was hard to believe as the cast for Knives Out came rolling in, with powerhouse after powerhouse lining up. That they were lining up to work with Rian Johnson, however, is no surprise. With Looper, Johnson gave us one of the best original sci-fi films of the past decade. And with The Last Jedi, he arguably gave us the best Star Wars film to date. Knives Out is said to be inspired by the murder mysteries of Agatha Christie, and will show us a side of Johnson we haven’t seen before. — KK
4. Ad Astra
Directed by: James Gray (The Lost City of Z, The Immigrant, Two Lovers) Written by: James Gray, Ethan Gross Starring: Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, Ruth Negga, John Ortiz Release date: May 24, 2019 (rumored Cannes premiere) Ad Astra was a bit of an enigma for all of 2018, with a strange January 2019 release date and speculation that it’d open early in December (and in IMAX). So the anticipation is already running high, and for good reason. Gray is a methodical, classical kind of filmmaker that allows you to soak in a film’s world, and feel deeply for his characters. And as Bilge Ebiri wrote for Vulture, filmmakers can get a little more personal, risky, and expressionistic with space films. Throw in DP Hoyte van Hoytema (familiar to space already having worked on Interstellar), Brad Pitt, and the Plan B producing team, and Ad Astra might just be the original epic of the year. — KK
3. Star Wars: Episode IX
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Super 8, Star Trek) Written by: J.J. Abrams, Chris Terrio Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Lupita Nyong’o, Keri Russell, Richard E. Grant, Matt Smith, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd Release date: December 20, 2019 Was Star Wars: The Force Awakens a bit safe? Sure. Did J.J. Abrams successfully relaunch the franchise after the unfathomable damage of the prequels with an exciting adventure filled with amazing new characters and hinting at themes that Rian Johnson would later fulfill? Undoubtedly. Besides Johnson, who better than to take on the monstrous task of closing out not only this trilogy, but likely also the story of the Skywalkers? And Episode IX, following Luke Skywalker’s death as well as the tragic real death of Carrie Fisher — who will appear via deleted scenes from the previous films — will be an especially emotional experience in a galaxy far, far away.— KK
2. Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Directed by: Michael Dougherty (Krampus) Written by: Michael Dougherty, Zach Shields, Max Borenstein Starring: Millie Bobby Brown, Vera Farmiga, Sally Hawkins, Charles Dance, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ken Watanabe Release date: May 31, 2019 Godzilla: King of the Monsters might not be in consideration for many people’s best-of-the-year list when 2019 comes to a close. And it’s possible that the film will be nothing more than monster-movie mayhem (and fun). Yet, when Claude Debussy’s Clair de Lune came on during the first trailer, and Mothra spread her fluorescent wings under the neon blue, this lifelong Godzilla fan wiped tears from his eyes. Does the nostalgia for the memory of a four year old’s first experience with movie magic weigh heavy here? You betcha. But with the thrilling 2014 reboot from Gareth Edwards and the enjoyable (if forgettable) Kong: Skull Island, this franchise appears to understand that to win over our hearts, you just have to let some kaiju (Titans) fight. Long live the King. — LH
1. Avengers: Endgame
Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War, Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: The Winter Soldier) Written by: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Josh Brolin, Karen Gillan, Don Cheadle, Bradley Cooper Release date: April 26, 2019 Amidst all of the complaints of it being an incomplete story (debatable) and fans having trouble with their favorite heroes screwing up (it’s called character development, folks) and dying is the reality that Infinity War is an incredible apocalyptic journey that fully earns its crushing dread. Its pacing is pitch perfect. Its theme of the weight of one life versus billions is carefully handled throughout the entire film. And its writing brings together massive superhero personalities in a way that proves that these storytellers truly know these characters. So, not only is Avengers: Endgame the event film of 2019 — sorry Star Wars — but there’s also the very real and likely possibility that the Russos and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely will deliver another supreme epic that does right by the eleven years of investment in this universe. And if they delve into time travel, as well as the heart of Captain America — the character that the Russos have defined — Avengers: Endgame could wind up as exhilarating as any big budget epic in recent memory. — KK
Kyle’s Next 15:
15. Superpower Dogs
Directed by: Daniel Ferguson (Jerusalem) Release date: March 15, 2019
Directed by: Francis Lee (God’s Own Country) Written by: Francis Lee Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Kate Winslet Release date: TBD
13. The Nightingale
Directed by: Jennifer Kent (The Babadook) Written by: Jennifer Kent Starring: Sam Claflin, Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr Release date: TBD (2018 Venice premiere, Sundance showing)
12. The Laundromat
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh (Logan Lucky, Magic Mike, The Informant!, Ocean’s Eleven, Traffic, Erin Brockovich, Sex, Lies, and Videotape) Written by: Scott Z. Burns Starring: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Matthias Schoenaerts, Antonio Banderas, Jeffrey Wright Release date: TBD
Directed by: Trey Edward Shults (It Comes At Night, Krisha) Written by: Trey Edward Shults Starring: Lucas Hedges, Sterling K. Brown, Taylor Russell, Kelvin Harrison Jr. Release date: TBD
10. Chaos Walking
Directed by: Doug Liman (American Made, Edge of Tomorrow, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, The Bourne Identity) Written by: Charlie Kaufman, Patrick Ness, Lindsey Beer, John Lee Hancock, Gary Spinelli) Starring: Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley, Cynthia Erivo, Mads Mikkelsen, David Oyelowo Release date: March 1, 2019
Directed by: Todd Phillips (War Dogs, The Hangover, Old School) Written by: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Shea Whigham, Marc Maron, Brett Cullen Release date: October 4, 2019
Directed by: David Gordon Green (Halloween, Stronger, Pineapple Express, George Washington) Written by: Ben Jacoby Starring: Seth Rogen, Logan Lerman Release date: TBD
7. Captain Marvel
Directed by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck (Sugar, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Mississippi Grind) Written by: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet, Jac Schaeffer, Nicole Perlman, Joe Shrapnel, Anna Waterhouse Starring: Brie Larson, Jude Law, Gemma Chan, Samuel L. Jackson, Lee Pace, Ben Mendelsohn, Annette Bening, Djimon Hounsou, Clark Gregg Release date: March 8, 2019
6. Spider-Man: Far From Home
Directed by: Jon Watts (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Cop Car) Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers Starring: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei, Samuel L. Jackson Release date: July 5, 2019
Directed by: Josh Trank (Chronicle) Written by: Josh Trank Starring: Tom Hardy, Linda Cardellini, Jack Lowden, Matt Dillon, Kyle MacLachlan Release date: TBD
4. The Woman in the Window
Directed by: Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice) Written by: Tracy Letts Starring: Amy Adams, Gary Oldman, Julianne Moore, Brian Tyree Henry, Wyatt Russell, Anthony Mackie Release date: October 4, 2019
3. Triple Frontier
Directed by: J.C. Chandor (A Most Violent Year, All Is Lost, Margin Call) Written by: J.C. Chandor, Mark Boal Starring: Ben Affleck, Pedro Pascal, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund Release date: March 15, 2019
2. The Last Thing He Wanted
Directed by: Dee Rees (Mudbound, Pariah) Written by: Dee Rees, Marco Villalobos Starring: Ben Affleck, Anne Hathaway, Willem Dafoe, Toby Jones, Edi Gathegi, Rosie Perez Release date: TBD
1. Apollo 11
Directed by: Todd Douglas Miller (Dinosaur 13) Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
Levi’s Next 15:
15. The Dead Don’t Die
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch (Paterson, Only Lovers Left Alive, Broken Flowers, Mystery Train, Stranger than Paradise) Written by: Jim Jarmusch Starring: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloë Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits, Caleb Landry Jones, Selena Gomez Release date: TBD
Directed by: Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The New World, The Thin Red Line, Badlands) Written by: Terrence Malick Starring: August Diehl, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Nyqvist, Bruno Ganz Release date: TBD
13. Native Son
Directed by: Rashid Johnson Written by: Suzan-Lori Parks Starring: Nick Robinson, Sanaa Lathan, Margaret Qualley, Ashton Sanders, Kiki Layne, Stephen McKinley Henderson Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
12. IT: Chapter Two
Directed by: Andy Muschietti (It, Mama) Written by: Gary Dauberman Starring: Bill Skarsgård, James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Jay Ryan, Isaiah Mustafa, James Ransone, Teach Grant, Andy Bean, Xavier Dolan Release date: September 6, 2019
11. The King
Directed by: David Michôd (War Machine, The Rover, Animal Kingdom) Written by: David Michôd, Joel Edgerton Starring: Timothée Chalamet, Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Robert Pattinson, Sean Harris, Thomasin McKenzie, Lily-Rose Depp, Tom Glynn-Carney Release date: TBD
10. The Irishman
Directed by: Martin Scorsese (Silence, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Departed, Casino, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) Written by: Steven Zaillian Starring: Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Jesse Plemons, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Jack Huston Release date: TBD
9. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part
Directed by: Mike Mitchell (Trolls), Trisha Gum Written by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller, Matthew Fogel, Raphael Bob-Waksberg, Michelle Morgan, Dominic Russo Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Alison Brie, Margot Robbie, Jonah Hill, Nick Offerman, Channing Tatum, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Charlie Day Release date: February 8, 2019
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho (Okja, Snowpiercer, Mother, The Host, Memories of Murder) Written by: Bong Joon-ho Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-Jeong, Choi Woo-sik, Park So-dam Release date: TBD
7. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
Directed by: Dean DeBlois (How to Train Your Dragon 2, How to Train Your Dragon, Lilo & Stitch) Written by: Dean DeBlois Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, Gerard Butler, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera Release date: February 22, 2019
6. The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Directed by: Joe Talbot Written by: Joe Talbot, Rob Richert, Jimmie Fails Starring: Danny Glover, Finn Wittrock, Thora Birch, Tonya Glanz, Mike Epps, Tichina Arnold, Rob Morgan, Jonathan Majors Release date: TBD (Sundance premiere)
5. Jojo Rabbit
Directed by: Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, What We Do in the Shadows) Written by: Taika Waititi Starring: Taika Waititi, Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie, Sam Rockwell, Scarlett Johansson, Alfie Allen, Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson Release date: TBD
4. The Lighthouse
Directed by: Robert Eggers (The Witch) Written by: Robert Eggers, Max Eggers Starring: Willem Dafoe, Robert Pattinson Release date: TBD
3. High Life
Directed by: Claire Denis (Let the Sunshine In, 35 Shots of Rum, Beau travail, Nenette and Boni) Written by: Claire Denis, Jean-Pol Fargeau, Geoff Cox Starring: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin, Mia Goth, Lars Eidinger Release date: April 12, 2019 (TIFF premiere)
Directed by: Tim Burton (Big Eyes, Frankenweenie, Corpse Bride, Ed Wood, Batman Returns, Batman, Beetlejuice) Written by: Ehren Kruger Starring: Eva Green, Colin Farrell, Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Alan Arkin Release date: March 29, 2019
1. Everything Everywhere All At Once
Directed by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man) Written by: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert Starring: Michelle Yeoh, Awkwafina Release date: TBD
Directed by: Pablo Larraín (Jackie, Neruda, No) Written by: Guillermo Calderón, Alejandro Moreno Starring: Gael García Bernal, Mariana Di Girolamo, Santiago Cabrera, Mariana Loyola Release date: TBD
Directed by: Ang Lee (Life of Pi, Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, The Wedding Banquet) Written by: Billy Ray, Christopher Wilkinson, Stephen J. Rivele, David Benioff, Andrew Niccol, Darren Lemke, Jonathan Hensleigh Starring: Will Smith, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen, Benedict Wong Release date: October 4, 2019
Directed by: Paul Feig (A Simple Favor, Bridesmaids) Written by: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings Starring: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Emma Thompson, Michelle Yeoh, Rebecca Root Release date: November 15, 2019
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Directed by: Bi Gan (Kaili Blues) Written by: Bi Gan Starring: Sylvia Chang, Tang Wei Release date: TBD (2018 Cannes premiere, 2018 TIFF showing, 2018 China premiere)
Men in Black: International
Directed by: F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton, The Italian Job, The Negotiator, Set It Off, Friday) Written by: Art Marcum, Matt Holloway Starring: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Kumail Nanjiani Release date: June 14, 2019
Monster hit It once again took home the top spot at the box office, drawing in an estimated $60 million this past weekend, bringing the domestic total of the Stephen King adaptation to $218.71 million. With many weekends still left to devour, It already stands as the eighth largest domestic grossing film of the year and will jump past The Fate of the Furious, Logan and Despicable Me 3 to the fifth spot by the end of next weekend. By the end of its run, the film could challenge Spider-Man: Homecoming, which brought in $1.875 million this weekend to hit $330.26 million domestically, and even, if it has as strong of legs as it seems rearing up to, the $389.8 million of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
New releases took the second and third spots of the weekend. The Michael Keaton-starring action film American Assassin racked up an estimated $14.8 million domestically. On a $33 million production budget, the film looks like it might just make its money back, needing to reach about $70 million worldwide to turn a profit.
Darren Aronofsky’s art house horror film mother! struggled at the box office, only making an estimated $7.5 million, likely due to an incredibly unmarketable story (and thus, poor trailers), a shifted release date and divisive reception from both critics and fans. With word of the intense reactions to the film spreading, it would be hard to imagine it fairing any better relatively next weekend. On a $30 million production budget, Aronofsky’s latest is shaping up to lose money. It’ll need strong international showing to prove otherwise.
The Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy Home Again took home an estimated $5.33 million in its second weekend, bringing its domestic total to $17.13 million. The film will turn a profit on its $12 million production budget, likely ensuring that many more cookie cutter studio rom-coms will continue to be made.
Wind River is turning out to be one of the more successful independent films of the year, catching an estimated $2.55 million in its fourth weekend wide, during which it has stayed between the 7th and 3rd spot — the middle of the pack.
Finally, Dunkirk incredibly maintains a top ten spot for the ninth weekend in a row — the entirety of its release — pulling in an estimated $1.3 million to shoot its domestic total up to $185.14 million. It seems like Christopher Nolan’s war film will pretty much, by the end of its run, match the domestic take of Interstellar, which made $188 million in US and Canada markets. Worldwide, Dunkirk is pushing $510 million, currently sitting at $508.34.
All films will have trouble doing similar relative business next weekend due to the releases of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Battle of the Sexes and Stronger. Hopefully, the order will be more interesting then.
*All weekend numbers are domestic, meaning that they’re from theaters in the US and Canada, and are also estimates, reported by Box Office Mojo, with actuals coming out in the next few days.*
Girls Trip, the comedy starring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Reginal Hall and Tiffany Haddish, has just crossed $100 million at the domestic box office, making it the first film produced, directed, written and starring African Americans to do so, according to Blackfilm.com. Helmed by Malcolm D. Lee, director of Barbershop: The NextCut, Undercover Brother and The Best Man, Girls Trip has been wildly successful in its run.
Releasing the same weekend as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, on July 22, the film pulled in a domestic opening of $31.2 million and only dipped 37% in its second weekend.
Rough Night, another all-female comedy from this summer, merely opened to $8 million domestically and finished its North American run at $22 million. According to Box Office Mojo, Girls Trip had a $19 million production budget and Rough Night had a $20 million production budget.
Baywatch, the male driven comedy starring apparent superstars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, was also beaten by Girls Trip. The remake opened to just $18.5 million domestically and left US and Canada theaters at $58 million.
At the moment, Girls Trip sits as the 20th highest domestic grossing film of the year. Other notable films that it has beaten are Ghost in the Shell, The Dark Tower, The Emoji Movie, Alien: Covenant, The Mummy and Power Rangers. It should pass Baby Driver, which sits at $100.8 million, and has a chance at passing Fifty Shades Darker, which sits at $114.4 million.
In fact, the current top two domestic grossers of the year are female-led films Beauty and the Beast and Wonder Woman.
Regina Hall can be seen in Netflix’s Naked, which stars Marlon Wayans and released on the streaming site on August 11.
First reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Tiffany Haddish will join Kevin Hart and repair with director Malcolm D. Lee for Night School, which is set to open on September 28, 2018.
*Warning* Spoilers ahead. Stop reading if you haven’t seen the film.
As Dunkirk required three timelines to tell its story, I required three viewings before reviewing. One to plunge into the filth. A second to discover what I missed. The time inbetween to read up on more background and intricacies. And a third to absorb as close to an entirety as I can.
And yet, an ‘entirety’ is entirely out of reach. Even on the 5,000+ square feet of an IMAX 70mm screen, details are so ingrained within each frame that it becomes impossible. That’s the nature of movies, however. And specifically, that’s the nature of Dunkirk.
We were never meant to receive each piece of experiential information. We must simply be aware of their presence because the film is as massive as it is intimate. As we run on, sail across and fly through the vastness of land, sea and air with these characters, we’re constantly stuck in suffocating spaces — the countless bodies lined up on the mole, the tight cabins of the Moonstone, the seemingly inescapable naval destroyer interiors and the rattling cockpit of a Spitfire.
That’s the contradiction that director Christopher Nolan must overcome. On their surface, land, sea and air are the most wide open of visual scapes. In Dunkirk, they’re the cell with no escape.
One of the most stunning shots of the entire film shows precisely how Nolan does it. As enemy planes dive bomb the beaches, the film cuts to a wide shot of the scrambling men in the sand, framed by two (prison) bars.
These may be wide open plains, but there’s nowhere to hide. As 400,000 Allied forces find themselves surrounded by enemy troops on the beaches of France, one sense arises: we’re trapped. And only one sense comes next: we must survive.
As Christopher Nolan has said time and time again, Dunkirk is a suspense film before it’s a war film. Its main question is not of the politics of how the Allied troops got to where they were. It’s simply a response to the situation, a matter of the soldiers’ perspective: will they survive? The soldiers didn’t know the exact position of the enemy, the reason why the RAF weren’t showing up or anything another film may show. So, neither will we. We’re simply planted alongside the soldiers, improvising and panicking as one of them.
With such a goal, Dunkirk becomes, in a measured 106 minutes, one of the most impressively crafted films of recent memory, and Nolan’s greatest achievement, so far, as a filmmaker — something that holds immeasurable weight considering that this is the director of The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar.
There’s a method here more polished than in any of Nolan’s previous work. Taking the film’s goals, the genre and Nolan’s affinity for practical effects and large format offers immersion on an unmatched level.
Most of Dunkirk’s aerial sequences were filmed in just that: the air. Retrofitting old planes and inventing rigs for IMAX cameras, as well as sending the actors up into the sky make for images that tap into unidentifiable aspects of our viewing minds, aspects that allow us to process when real physics — of planes executing meticulous turns in the sky’s true air — are at work. It’s a difference that just can’t be understated and it’s a difference that Nolan doesn’t waste, precisely because of how those fights are orchestrated.
While X Wings are quick to down their targets, Spitfires, flown by Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden), are slow and methodical. It takes minutes for our pilots to line up their guns and, nine times out of ten, those bullets will miss. It takes fierce, dedicated evation to stay alive, and careful communication to execute the perfect shot. Dunkirk’s aerial battles are more so eerie and unnerving, yet gracefully beautiful dances, which makes for better battles.
But the fact of the matter is that these sequences, and the rest of the masterclass action, of which it feels egregious to simply brush over, are in service of a larger technical endeavor. This is a suspense film, built on tension. And thus, Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer design their respective work to build tension. With a score that feels more like an augmentation of an already vicious and grueling soundscape, Zimmer utilizes the musical illusion of the Shepard Tone.
In simple terms, the Shepard Tone is an illusion consisting of three layers of sound, all an octave apart. The top layer moves from loud to soft. The middle layer stays the same. And the bottom layer moves from soft to loud. The effect is a constant feeling of rising tension. So while there may be a constant ticking, one that is undoubtedly central to the idea of time running out and to a sense of tension, the true core of this score lies in its ghostly, unforgiving, oceanic orchestra.
But Nolan makes use of the same trick in his own work. His intention with his three part structure was to adapt the Shepard Tone, an initially musical phenomenon, to writing and, in turn, to a film.
How can that work though? The three threads occur on different timelines. When they cross, we jump backwards and forwards. There’s a disjointedness to its structure.
We’ll get to that last part. But the concept is executed on an ingenious level. There’s never a sense of narrative momentum slowing down with these jumps, and that’s because they never actually slow down. Each thread, even if touching on story beats we’ve already met, is running forward with unstoppable force. The narratives are always progressing. If we’re jumping back to a moment we’ve seen before, it works because it’s a new moment in the thread we occupy.
For Dunkirk, one of the most massive and important events of the 20th century, such crafting of tension is the only way to approach this story.
And it works. As the film unfolds, we get a sense that the slippage of time, of one thread onto another, is just the beginning of a process. The threads start to get closer and closer. The characters colliding. The score building. Their space narrowing down to a single place in time.
And as we reach it, and as The Oil, one of Zimmer’s most truly affecting pieces ever composed, begins to play, the built up pressure, the gravest of circumstances, the grimmest of violence and the senselessness of survival all coalesce into a feeling of cinematic immersion singular to itself.
A ship is bombed, oil spills and soldiers swim helplessly in the water as the Moonstone braves waves to save as many as it can. And by virtue of editor Lee Smith’s absolutely refined work in bringing the filmic version of the Shepard Tone to fruition, the tension overwhelms one into a transfixed terror.
There is truly no appropriate description for such a feat of cinema, of filmmaking, of storytelling, all with a purpose, a purpose that fits.
And yet, all would be for only so much were the film not laced with every ounce of humanity Nolan could bring to it. It may seem cold to some at first. But upon reflection and return, Dunkirk’s idea of namelessness, near facelessness, all without much background, if any at all, is informed. And it comes in two shapes. Terror and togetherness, both crafted through perspective.
The terror of the situation is evident from the start. A surface swim into history will provide enough context to scare. But it’s in how Nolan crafts the scenario.
Bullets pierce without origin, without cinematic warning and with only an intention to kill. As hundreds of thousands of soldiers slowly rise after dive bombers sweep the beaches, hundreds, if not thousands remain motionless on the sand, built into the mise-en-scene as the cinematography lingers for long enough, but briefly enough to truly haunt.
The entire opening, filled with biting violin strikes as Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) carry a man on a stretcher for what seems like miles across the beach and the mole to a hospital ship about to leave, simply results in the downing of that very ship, with tens of wounded men on board, via enemy bombing.
With only seconds to decide, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) yells at the top of his lungs that the ship must be pushed away from the mole as it sinks — if not, then the mole would be completely blocked as an escape route. These are the sacrifices that must be made, captured as the camera slowly tracks away from Bolton’s frozen fear as all he can do is watch men flail overboard.
As the ship collides into the mole for a moment, and Alex (Harry Styles) is pulled away in the knick of time, a voice can be heard screaming as its body is crushed. The camera, of course, lingers.
While Dunkirk doesn’t actually bleed, except for a brief moment on the Moonstone, the film’s veins do bleed with senselessness. There is no mercy in war. No simple path. No logic. There is only terror. And Nolan’s film does that as well as war films with blood.
In fact, this idea of terror, and its causes on the individual, can be traced back through Nolan’s career, most significantly to The Dark Knight — what many call a response to post-9/11 US society. In that seminal film, the terror truly manifests not when the events happens, but as those they could happen to anticipate them.
The same can be said with Dunkirk. Some call Harry Styles’ Alex a villain, but what he actually represents is one of the more obvious victims of terror.
In his anticipation of terror, Alex turns on Gibson, a man who saved Alex’s life when he opened the door for drowning soldiers within the destroyer sinking after a torpedo strike, and accuses him of being a “German spy” with “an accent thicker than sauerkraut sauce.”
The scene is the one that proves Styles as more than a serviceable actor — because, as Nolan has said, the scene contains a subtle truth dependent on him to deliver. These lines of dialogue hold one of the very few direct mentions of the Germans. Outside of this scene, they’ve simply been called “the enemy,” and are never shown — their villainy more an idea than a people. But as a man anticipates the worst of terror, his potential death, it is he, one of our heroes, who throws the name of the enemy at one of his own.
War evokes tribalism, primalism even. There is one goal: survival. And even in his most vulnerable and terrified state, Alex states a truth of the matter: “survival isn’t fair.”
The idea calls to mind George (Barry Keoghan), the 17 year old boy sailing with Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter’s father Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), who is knocked down the stairs to below deck on the Moonstone by the Shivering Soldier (Cillian Murphy), bashing his head, incurring brain trauma and dying off screen.
His death is senseless. His death isn’t fair. The Shivering Soldier, a man consumed by his own fear, by his own anticipation of terror, causes George’s death. The burden of such an accident on someone who never intended harm isn’t fair.
But the deck of the Moonstone — where the Shivering Soldier, perhaps the most irredeemable character of Dunkirk, stands — is where we find that other aspect of humanity: togetherness.
The Moonstone ‘little ship’ in Dunkirk — Warner Bros/Courtesy
As the climax of the filmic Shepard Tone reaches, the film slows down momentarily. At this point, George has fallen and revealed that he can’t see. Peter has attempted to comfort him as much as possible, but can’t do much more.
The Moonstone sails into the climactic battle, rescuing soldiers, Alex among them. Alex ventures below deck and discovers George. Peter frantically says, “Be careful with him.” But Alex replies, “He’s dead, mate.”
Peter pauses to process, and then says, “Well be bloody careful with him.”
Peter looks at his father at the ship’s wheel. The Shivering Soldier, having checked on the boy’s well-being before — to which Peter initially chided him — asks again if the boy will be okay. Peter stares at him. Then, despite just learning of George’s death, he nods.
The moment is among many. A togetherness marks the film with such powerful, purposeful quietude.
Near the beginning of the film, Gibson hands over a container of water, an implied scarcity, to thirsty stranger Tommy. Later on, as the naval destroyer is torpedoed and begins to sink, Gibson nearly jumps over board. But, after hearing the faceless screams of those trapped inside, risks his life to open the door to the interior, saving them. As Gibson gains a spot on a tiny departing boat, while Tommy and Alex are denied access, Gibson slips off a rope so that they may hold on as they row back to shore.
Farrier, low on fuel and turning around to head back to mainland, sees an enemy bomber in his rear mirror as it targets boats below. He’s right there. And no one else is. He turns around.
Despite accusing Gibson of being a spy and nearly forcing him to walk into slaughter, Alex, as their temporary hideaway ship sinks, makes sure to make Gibson aware that they’re escaping. In tragic senselessness, the man who has saved the most lives drowns. But it’s the man who nearly had him killed who tries to help him in the end.
Perhaps the film’s most touching moment can only be recognized in hindsight. Throughout Dunkirk, Mark Rylance’s Mr. Dawson and his son marvel at the sight of the RAF’s Spitfires.
At one point, Collins’ plane gets shot and he must make an emergency crash into the ocean. Mr. Dawson tracks the crash, steering intently at its site. As the plane downs, Peter tells his dad that there’s no use, that the engine cut and a parachute wasn’t pulled. Mr. Dawson ignores. Peter repeats. Mr. Dawson ignores again. Peter insists. And Rylance superbly delivers his following lines with a sense of desperate helplessness, touched by aching sadness. “I hear you Peter, I hear you,” he yells. He begins to trail off. “Maybe he’s alive.” Even more so. “Maybe we can help him.”
It’s not until the end of the film that we learn that Mr. Dawson’s oldest son, Peter’s brother, was an RAF pilot, but died three weeks into the war. And finally, the moment clicks. As Collins goes down, all Mr. Dawson can see is his oldest son. He wasn’t able to save his son. But maybe he can save Collins. Maybe that can mean something.
There are many more. They may be missed at first, but that’s simply because of the event within which they take place and the fact that they’re not forced.
But both togetherness and senselessness merge and unify. They both come back to the moment with Peter and the Shivering Soldier after George’s death, and the return to England when Peter gets George in the paper as a hero at Dunkirk. In this sense, as he has done so many times before, Nolan tackles the notion of truth, the value of truth. But while he may be questioning it in previous films, stating that, sometimes, truth isn’t for the best, it almost seems like, with Dunkirk, he’s positing that this grand idea of truth is simply impossible.
The film’s multiple perspectives and disjointed structure may never be fully figured out. It’s difficult to tell exactly where everything stands and when — its jaggedness purposeful in disorientation. But that sense evokes this idea that each perspective holds its own truth, its own reality. And like Inception, that may be valid in itself. For the men on the beaches, the RAF left them in the dust. For a pilot like Collins, he fought his own near deadly war. We empathize with the soldier who asks Collins, “Where were you?” But we also empathize with Collins through Mr. Dawson’s lines. Pointing to the Moonstone, he says, “They know where you were.”
The Shivering Soldier has suffered enough. He may be the cause, but he is not to blame for George’s death. His truth is not in George’s death, but rather in his overcoming of his self in the aftermath. And, with it being after his change, his sight of George’s body at the end will only help him come to terms with war.
Cillian Murphy as the Shivering Soldier in Dunkirk — Warner Bros/Courtesy
For George, he took one step that changed his life. While he may not have made it to Dunkirk, while he may not have been directly involved in saving anyone, that step is a bravery to be rewarded, especially with his death as a result of senselessness and the privilege of the living left behind. His name belongs in the paper because, in that moment, the truth doesn’t matter anymore. What matters is an idea of truth.
And it is the idea of truth that elevates the reading of Winston Churchill’s famous address by young Tommy.
The heroics of war are everywhere. In the leaders, sure. But history will be kind to accomplished leaders, to singular individuals easy to point out.
What Nolan concerns himself with is the heroics of war within the faceless, within the nameless. Men whom history won’t remember as anything other than nameless and faceless. Men who’ve gone through hell and come back. Men who blame themselves, feel ashamed of themselves as Alex does when he first boards the train. Tommy — who represents that merge of togetherness and terror, as he rejects tribalism, but shakes with deep panic beneath the water as bullets fly above — is the face of the faceless. It is all of these men who are deserving of the words of Churchill. It is for them for which they were spoken. So it is one of these men who must read them.
Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in Dunkirk — Warner Bros/Courtesy
What I’m always interested in with a film is the truth that the filmmaker brings to it. And the details of the truths that Christopher Nolan brings to Dunkirk are profound.
Nolan’s grandfather was a navigator on a Lancaster, a British plane from the Second World War. He didn’t make it out of the war, which calls to mind Tom Hardy’s Farrier. A pilot who, after indescribable, unquantifiable heroics, is captured as his plane crackles ablaze, defiant.
That nature and fate made Nolan’s father obsessively interested in planes and aviation. Nolan’s father passed away a few years ago. At his funeral played a variation of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod, the musical piece which composer Benjamin Wallfisch scores his own variation of for the film’s final minutes.
While watching the film a third time, after I’d learned of Nolan’s father, the stunningly gorgeous shots of Farrier’s Spitfire gliding gracefully above the thousands of cheering soldiers on the beaches of Dunkirk hold an unbearably moving truth, a truth that renders capture triumphant, a truth that turns survival into victory, a truth that crafts a heart at the center of Dunkirk and shapes the rest of its humanity throughout.