Dunkirk

Release: Friday, July 21, 2017

→IMAX

Written by: Christopher Nolan

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

In memory of my late grandfather, John Little.

In his first historical drama, one that gives the acclaimed writer-director an opportunity to fly that British flag high, Christopher Nolan is deeply committed to creating a singular, sensory experience that goes beyond a mere reenactment. Relying on an intimate relationship between its technical elements as well as time as a constant factor, the acutely distressing thrills of the mighty Dunkirk you will feel in your marrow.

As always, Nolan doesn’t just go for style points. Firmly entrenched within the chaos and destruction of this senses-shattering summer blockbuster lies “the Miracle of Dunkirk,” a story of survival and stoicism nearly lost to the sea of newspaper headlines declaring an embarrassing defeat for the good guys. In fairness, much was lost. This was desperation. Even the British Bulldog acknowledged, sprinkling a pinch of salt upon his heaps of praise for his boys: “Wars are not won by evacuations.”

June 1940. The Nazi campaign was steamrolling Europe and had pinned a significant number of Allied forces against the grimy waters of the northern French harbor of Dunkirk. An increasingly desperate Luftwaffe, to whom the task of preventing any sort of escape had ultimately fallen (after a significant delay), had been engaging the opposition on the water as well as in the air. Devastation was catastrophic on both sides, though the Germans suffered greater aerial losses — some 240 aircraft over a nine-day span. In that time 200 marine vessels were sacrificed, including a hospital and the famed Medway Queen, a beautiful British paddle steamer. Out of a total Allied strength approximate 400,000, some 30,000 were either killed in action or presumed dead or captured in this violent and pivotal clash.

Because the Brit has built a career around an intellectual yet highly entertaining brand of filmmaking, the bluntly observational Dunkirk feels somewhat like a departure, if for no other reason than it feels gauche to call this entertainment. The material demands a certain intonation, and as a result Nolan has created his most harrowing, his most sobering movie to date. Even more to his credit, his approach consistently shies away from excessive bloodshed, making this, in some ways, the anti-Saving Private Ryan. The anti-Hacksaw Ridge. The anti-any war film that subscribes to the notion that gore and blood are necessary evils if a viewer is to be properly immersed in the action.

In realizing a significantly world-shaping event, Nolan finds himself as a director adapting to the circumstances. Instead of philosophizing and extrapolating, he takes a more back-door approach to accumulating profound emotion. Empathy for the masses doesn’t require an intimate relationship with any one character. The point is to highlight the commonality found within the calamity. To that end, two things tend to strike you about the film: its narrative style, which follows key role players on each of the three fronts, and the sound design, chiefly realized through Oscar-winning composer and six-time collaborator Hans Zimmer (who clearly took the memo to heart when Nolan told him to make a show of force).

The scenery has changed, yet the element of time remains Nolan’s favorite ball of yarn. Once again he demands it be a malleable object, able to be manipulated in order to heighten the sense of all-encompassing, inescapable danger that crashed upon the stranded repeatedly like waves against the beach. His nonlinear triptych spreads the workload of presenting each unique aspect of the Good Fight across an incredibly efficient 107 minutes, resulting in frequently intense and dynamically intersecting perspectives that show all parts working together. It’s the epitome of cinematic, as opposed to the simple trick-fuckery some critics have dismissed the technique as.

Presented first is “The Mole,” so named after the long breakwater pier upon which thousands stood awaiting rescue, and it describes everything that happens on land. This is where we meet a trio of young soldiers, privates Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) and a low-ranking soldier named Gibson (Aneurin Barnard). We follow them through an obstacle course from hell. Nolan brings aboard a few recognizable faces to give weight to the proceedings, like dry-as-a-box-of-saltines Kenneth Branagh, who doesn’t do much as a British commander, but then the role requires that his hands be tied. James D’Arcy is alongside him as an army colonel.

“The Sea” is the second thread introduced and it develops over the course of a single day. It’s characterized by a death-defying crossing of the English Channel. Mark Rylance gets the distinction of representing this stalwart civilian effort, playing a regular old Joe who felt a great sense of duty to answer Churchill’s call. He’s joined by son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and a young local boy (Barry Keoghan). The purity in this gesture, in their desire to help, is what the movie is all about. Because sometimes actions really do speak louder than words, Nolan keeps dialogue to a minimum in Dunkirk, allowing the actions taken both by the individual and of the collective to drown out even the bombast of Zimmer’s incredible score.

Last but certainly not least is “The Air,” which features all the acrobatics aloft. This segment takes place over the course of just one hour. In it we experience the way Nolan has interpreted the ‘dogfighting’ phenomenon associated with World War II. Needless to say, it’s breathtaking and deeply involving. Bullets ricochet cacophonously. The tin sound is abrasive. Radio comm between the RAF and Farrier screams ’40s simplicity. Some of the most stunning and graceful sequences of combat you will ever see in a war film result from Nolan’s decision to place IMAX cameras on the bodies of actual Spitfires, and returning DP Hoyte Van Hoytema’s ability to create unique, disorienting angles. Don’t blame Nolan for any confusion. If anything, lay it all on Hoytema, who turns cameras sideways as we sink into the water to give the impression ‘the walls are closing in.’

As time ticked away and spirits and ammunition ran out, the thousands — mostly British and French, but among them a smattering of Belgians and Canadians — stared longingly across the Channel, wondering if they’d ever make it back to the familiar shores of their hometowns. Others looked skyward, hoping for a miracle in the form of the Royal Air Force, only to be disheartened by the sight of a Messerschmitt dive-bombing right for them. And the lucky left wondering if they’d ever see (and hear) the end of this unrelenting period of undulating, unbearable stress.

Nolan’s latest test piece is about so much more than an historic military debacle. The pearl that lies inside, the drama that lies underneath the drama as it were, is that Churchill got ten times the number of men that he had hoped would bolster the effort in the inevitable Battle of Britain. The moral victory that resulted from Operation Dynamo’s success, the widespread cooperation, epitomizes why Nolan makes movies. As do the incredibly high stakes. The cumulative effect gives modern audiences a better idea of how close we had actually come to living in a world in which the Nazis had conquered more than Europe.

Recommendation: Relentlessly intense and loud, Dunkirk poses unique problems. As an event film that embraces a wide audience, I saw a number of people exiting the theater with their hands over their ears. Perhaps its ambitions as a senses-throttling experience do have drawbacks. But there is no denying the approach makes this a unique war film, and the epitome of a Christopher Nolan production. It doesn’t get much more profound than this. 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 107 mins.

Quoted: “I’m on him.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Behind Enemy Lines (2001)

. . . and just when everyone thought this thread was dead uhhhh-gain, it makes a triumphant reappearance. Well, semi-triumphant. I finally watched a war film I had been wanting to see for many a year and as it turned out, well . . . phooey on all that anticipating. It wasn’t really worth it! Oh well. It’s still a decent romp. You could do a lot worse as far as cheap-looking war movies are concerned, things that fail to succeed to even entertain on some basic level, such as what can only be presumed to be the case for the disastrous direct-to-VHS sequels to 

Today’s food for thought: Behind Enemy Lines.

Being ridiculously jingoistic since: November 30, 2001

[DVD]

Behind Enemy Lines is an awkward blend of entertainment and information. Or maybe misinformation would be a better term. Director John Moore’s fictionalized account of American involvement in the final days of the Bosnian War isn’t so much irresponsible as it is lazy. This is too easy of a film, quickly digestible and dispensable. But at least it was . . . fun?

Owen Wilson played Navy flight officer Lieutenant Chris Burnett, an intelligent but rather undisciplined young man who gets deployed on a holiday mission by Admiral Reigart (Gene Hackman). Joining him in what was supposed to be a routine reconnaissance mission is pilot Lieutenant Jeremy Stackhouse (Gabriel Macht). During the flight Burnett suggests they make use of their “shiny new digital camera” — since they’re missing the Christmas dinner onboard the ship they may as well make good use of their time. They end up taking aerial photos of a site that is decidedly outside of their lawful flying route, a demilitarized zone that just so happens to contain a mass grave, an operation being conducted secretly by Bosnian-Serb paramilitary General Miroslav Lokar (Russian actor Vladimir Mashkov). Of course they are spotted and subsequently shot down.

The Americans eject and avoid death by pine tree at Mach 3, though Stackhouse suffers a leg injury and stays behind while Burnett searches for higher ground to radio back to the USS Carl Vinson for help. Unfortunately Serbian forces appear over the horizon and gasp, spoilers! are quick to interrogate and then execute the lone Stackhouse. Burnett goes on the run, but not before he accidentally exposes himself (no, not in the Lenny Kravitz in Sweden kind of way). So ensues an hour and a half of cat-and-mouse across the frozen and rugged mountains of Bosnia-Herzegovina. How long can a sole American Naval officer survive behind enemy lines? If this film’s questionable historical basis (that of U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady) is anything to go by, apparently it’s six days (or as long as the running time says).

To provide the drama at least some depth, Moore injects his production with the typical political farce. Burnett’s survival hinges upon whether Hackman’s Reigart can convince the dispassionate NATO Commander — who is overseeing the peace talks between American and Serbian forces — that it will be worth his while to rescue this one guy. While the concerns of Admiral Piquet (Portuguese actor Joaquim de Almeida) are valid, there’s very little to justify how long it takes for Admiral Reigart to finally disobey orders by taking matters into his own hands.

Plot holes and predictability notwithstanding, Behind Enemy Lines is, at its best, exemplary of that ‘good-old boys’ huzzah that was clearly gunning for the viewer not as concerned with more accurate, less video-gamey war depictions in the vein of Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates and Black Hawk Down. Though its can-do spirit feels more like faded glory now as the special effects are profoundly poor, chaotic and overly dramatic. Added to which a script that has the typically excellent Gene Hackman stuck between a rock and a hard place delivering, visibly hesitant, corny lines that are intended to motivate Burnett. The blue wash of light from the ship’s command center on Hackman’s face offers some concealment of an actor in discomfort. And as refreshing as it is to see Wilson in a dramatic role — this, mind you, being in retrospect given his upcoming career — he doesn’t fare much better when his final dozen lines devolve into a festival of “goddamnit”‘s.

Behind Enemy Lines has almost innumerable issues, from the technical to the practical. Portrayals of Serbs as the obvious bad guys and Americans as the unquestionable do-gooders make the film ripe for parody. It’s not much of a surprise to learn the filmmakers were unable to hire any Serbian actors for those particular roles. That wasn’t enough to stop Moore from creating a silly, slight but still somewhat enjoyable slice of American action.

Recommendation: Behind Enemy Lines is far from the best war film you’ll see but the cast do a thorough enough job getting into character so believing in the situation isn’t as absurd as it might have been with less experienced actors. That said, the special effects and general clumsiness of the script (particularly the dialogue) leave too much to be desired to warrant anything but a shaky recommendation from me. All that said, this has got to be legions better than anything else that has proceeded it in the so-called “series.” 

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 106 mins.

TBTrivia: Director John Moore was nearly killed in the scene where the tank busts through the wall. He was pulled away by a stuntman just in time.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com; http://www.channel4.com

TBT: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

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In trying to keep with a theme for this month’s batch of TBT’s, I have failed. 😦 I kind of put myself in a bad spot by opening the month (and the year) with Arnie’s disastrous adventure involving Armageddon in End of Days, a film I didn’t really feel comfortable with “associating” with any others as it’s just so poorly made. Unless I wanted a month of movies that fell well below their potentials I would have to go with some randoms for January. With that in mind, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and explore 

Today’s food for thought: Saving Private Ryan.

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Storming Normandy since: July 24, 1998

[DVD]

Steven Spielberg’s magnum opus is one of those films you can recall precisely where you were when you first watched it. For me, that was crammed into a small bedroom in Columbus, Ohio on a road trip me and a high school friend took in the fall of 2003. He had suggested watching it since he had never seen it, and up until that point I hadn’t been overly enthusiastic over putting myself through something I had heard was so grisly violent. Finally, on the last night of being in town, we slipped the disc into the DVD player.

I’m not sure how many I’m talking to here when I say that if you are anything like I was, reluctant, you have good reason to be if you have yet to experience Saving Private Ryan, particularly the opening half hour. More akin to a form of psychological boot camp designed to test viewers’ resolve than just another confronting scene of blood and gore, the infamous D-Day invasion of Normandy beach cements the film as essential viewing. The reality of war has never manifested as a nightmare so uniquely absurd, what with bodies being engulfed in walls of fire only to emerge as liquefied flesh.

Grenades rendering the very unlucky without a face.

That boy crying out for his mama.

Good thing film can’t tap into our sense of smell and taste; although there comes a point where the blood becomes so much its coppery taste is palpable. It’s also ironic: while wartime violence is something no one should ever witness, this harrowing sequence is history no one can afford to ignore.

After I had made it through this part and the room had righted itself again — I sometimes get the feeling the room is turning sideways whenever I get very uncomfortable in my seat — I felt uplifted, as though I had just achieved something. At the same time I felt callousness as I had this sense that whatever would pass by my eyes next would not be as severe as . . . well, that. There would be continued loss of life and likely there’d be other confronting passages — goodbye, Medic Wade (Giovanni Ribisi) — but I knew even then that Spielberg had crafted something unique once Tom Hanks and his band of brothers gained the hill and bunkers and managed to regroup.

Saving Private Ryan is a title that explains itself but for the sake of coloring the picture: Private James Ryan (Matt Damon) is unaware that his three other brothers have all been killed in battle over the last week, and it is now up to Hanks’ Captain Miller and his company (which is comprised of several names that would later become major players in the entertainment biz, including Vin Diesel) to track him down and ensure his safe return to the States. There’s a tension that somewhat dissipates once we’re off the beach, a transition some have misconstrued as the film losing its strength. That may be true, but only insofar as the opening scenes possess a power that no film can really maintain. Spielberg wasn’t setting out to be masochistic in his choices, nor did he have intentions of frustrating those expecting the bloodletting to continue for two full hours uninterrupted. In his orchestration of the D-Day landing, yes we suffer. And audiences suffer a lot in this sweeping chronicle, but not for nothing.

After the bunkers the narrative distinctly shifts gears, for we move behind enemy lines with Miller et al as they forge ahead through wastelands created by aerial bombings and the crushing weight of Nazi tanks and troops. We escape pervasive, shocking violence but move into a realm that’s arguably more disturbing; the aftermath of war upon civilization. The mission proper gets underway and we move through towns that now bare more of a resemblance to the surface of the moon than anything on Earth, searching for a needle in a gigantic, blood-soaked haystack. Spielberg scatters all kinds of present danger across a steadily sprawling map. From hair-raising sniper shoot-outs to savage hand-to-hand combat in abandoned homes the brutality of war manifests itself in far more personal ways.

The violence doesn’t go away because you . . . excuse me, I . . . wanted it to. Because you want the room to stop spinning like crazy. Because you feel ill. All of these things are symptoms of a person who either watches films too seriously (probably true) or effects of a director whose vision refuses to be compromised. The notion that something has been banned in several countries based on realistic depictions of wartime violence and not because it features a lot of graphic sex scenes necessarily places the film on a short list of extremely disturbing films that are remarkably without great controversy. Rightfully so. Steven Spielberg’s film, though difficult to watch and of the variety that’s good to watch once and be done with, is a cinematic landmark, and quite possibly the standard to which all war films are going to forever be held. Even the ones that have preceded it.

Not that any of this was my immediate impression having randomly thrown this on on a crappy tube-TV in Ohio. It would take me years to comprehend the depravity of its violence, and for me to appreciate how hard it is for a filmmaker to recreate such atrocities with such an unflinching eye, an urgency to tell it like it is.

Who remembers Bryan Cranston in this movie? I don't. I hope I am not alone.

Who remembers Bryan Cranston in this movie? I don’t. I hope I am not alone.

5-0Recommendation: Far from comfortable, Saving Private Ryan is compulsory viewing. An extraordinary achievement in practical special effects and committed storytelling. A powerful vision of the sheer scale and desperation of the D-Day invasion (thanks goes to Mr. Alan Turing for his helping Britain decipher the German Enigma code so they’d know where to invade and when). An altogether unforgettable experience. For all these reasons and quite a few more, you should commit yourself to this film if you have not already. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 169 mins.

TBTrivia: In the German-dubbed version of the movie, one of the actors, himself a German veteran of the Normandy invasion, couldn’t deal with the emotional realism of the film and dropped out and had to be replaced.

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.moviezmag.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Edge of Tomorrow

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Release: Friday, June 6, 2014

[Theater]

Pinch me, I must be dreaming (over and over again).

This cannot possibly be the summer blockbuster whose early previews seemed to indicate (perhaps warn us cynics of) the coming of merely yet another summer bust. From the outset the odds seemed stacked against this film, a sci fi romp whose gritty-gray trailers made the thing look less original than a robotic compulsion to try and be grimmer than the last doomsday flick.

For all intents and purposes, everyone’s favorite scientologist was poised to star in the Oblivion of 2014 — not exactly a death sentence for such an iconic career, but the deflating sounds of a balloon losing air are really becoming audible now. Even if this recent romp went belly-up for Tom Cruise, at least there would still be something to ogle at (or that’s what one tends to think whenever a woman is paired alongside Cruise, but then you meet Emily Blunt, and, well. She’s not that gal.) Breathtaking backdrops always do their best to compensate for whatever else of the movie audiences have a hard time taking seriously or even engaging in, be it the dialogue coming out of actors’ mouths or the script conveyed through their characters’ actions.

It seems as if Doug Liman’s the last man to receive the memo about the list of cliches Cruise’s career has been constructed out of. After mumbling “to hell with this,” he tossed the list out the metaphorical window and defiantly directed Edge of Tomorrow, a film about a group of worldwide soldiers uniting to save the world from total destruction. It’s a summer blockbuster film that is as far from average as you might get. As such, it is probably not possible for the Academy to even consider something as gigantic as a movie like this for any category — and truthfully, this isn’t quite that good — but this entry is just that one step closer. Action packed and perhaps stuffed even thicker with moments of refreshing and hilarious self-awareness, this epic adventure film about fighting for humanity’s right to live on is one of the biggest surprises of 2014.

Major William Cage (Cruise) may be the catalyst for filmgoers’ collective “oh my god, no way!” This is a role so unlike Cruise, a man whose honor, he feels, should be proven enough because he’s earned the high-ranking title of officer and whose contributions to the war should also be considered enough because he has a desk job and shiny cuff links. His whiny officer is given a major gut-check time when he’s brought before General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson) and ordered to the front lines in the first wave of what appears to be humanity’s last stand against an alien creature — known as ‘the mimics’ — on the French beaches.

A parody of Saving Private Ryan this is not, but there are obvious references, and not to mention, it’s release date is more than convenient, coming on the 70th anniversary of the infamous D-Day invasion of Normandy. The drama that unfolds, on a visual spectrum, reaches blindingly brilliant. This might even be a film that could properly support the 3-D technology, though that experience is less than necessary. A standard format will immerse most of the senses in the same compelling way. From the moment Cage’s mission officially gets underway as he plummets from a crashing aircraft, we are into the thick of it. He’s still trying to figure out who’s going to answer for this grave mistake of sending him into battle. We are trying to figure out how any of this can possibly work out for the better.

And so begins a beautiful relationship between Cruise and Edge of Tomorrow‘s global audience. What we don’t expect next is the very thing that is waiting around the corner for us. This is true of Cruise’s latest performance and of the script itself. A routine cycle of living for a few moments, quickly getting killed off and re-spawning once more doesn’t seem like a recipe for hilarity, and yet the writers have a field day with this. There’s even a joke or two about suicide somewhere along the way, and even these fail to register as offensive. Meanwhile, Cruise does his best to not break the fourth wall in any of his major fight scenes. Not once does he turn to the camera, hair blowing back epically in the wind of the destruction and loss of life around him, with the fortitude to whisper to us all (just once): “this is all a bit ridiculous, isn’t it?”

Unfortunately he never comes right out and says it but his performance, especially when measured up against a great dramatic turn from Emily Blunt, certainly is suggestive. Perhaps that’s more the work of brilliant writing from it’s four writers and direction from Liman. I don’t really care upon whom I should heap more praise, though; it’s the fact that the collective effort that went into this film — a film sitting smack-dab in the middle of the year, mind you — seems to have figured out a different policy for entertaining mass audiences. It neither panders to viewers nor does it have such a high-concept plot so as to come off condescending.

Fast-paced, funny and constantly engaging — not to mention, bolstered by some of the coolest aliens this side of Men in Black — Edge of Tomorrow is blockbuster filmmaking as it should be. The way the narrative develops is far from perfect, as the climactic final thirty minutes take to somewhat secure ground compared to the film’s refreshingly extemporaneous tone earlier on; however, I refer you to the previous line as to why slight slip-ups are not going to spell the end of the world.

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3-5

Recommendation: Critics and audiences agree: Edge of Tomorrow surprised the shit out of us. This is a real treat. Again, it could be argued there has been too much anti-Tom Cruise/scientology sentiment going around that perhaps cast a very unfavorable light upon his newest outing. Or it could be I, personally, am just becoming very cynical the more movies I watch, and it very well could be that this was always going to be a great movie from the start. I would like to read the book now. Yes please.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 113 mins.

Quoted: “On your feet, maggot!”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

300: Rise of an Empire

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Release: Friday, March 7, 2014

[Theater]

Two things you must be comfortable with in order to properly enjoy the latest Frank Miller graphic novel adaptation: a whole lot of crimson red and a whole lot of Eva Green. If you’re at least cool with the second, then there’s hope for you still as you stand in line waiting to buy a ticket to 300: Rise of an Empire.

It goes without saying that you’ve seen the original, so if consistency is what you seek in your 2014 experience, you’ll be left mostly satisfied. Rise of an Empire shares in the original’s gleeful bloodletting and it rejoices in the opportunity to strip 21st Century male models down to their undies and to empower them with gigantic swords and shields made from some material appropriately manly. . .like, cast iron. Or something. They all then get into a consistent (and pretty manly) fight that ends up constituting half of the runtime. While all of this is going on your I.Q. is taking a pretty consistent beating in the process. On these fronts, the new film delivers.

Rather than taking the risk of telling a story completely removed and distinct from that of the film that preceded it, Rise of an Empire benefits from simply increasing the size of the stage. This strategy is not exactly ground-breaking, but it’s a tactic that helps the sequel provide the fun it ought to. Clearly, with the extensive amount of time spent on slow-motion dramatizations of killing blows and the like, there was barely material enough to warrant a second, full-length feature film. Not to mention, at least half of this one is spent doing battle rather than using time to explain things — with hindsight this was another good decision.

We rely on Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) in the opening scene to fill us in on certain details that will not only give the upcoming story context but also help make a few things clearer about what happened years prior to the events of 300. Following the murder of King Darius I of Persia by General Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), a true evil was born when Darius’ son Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro), filled with a rage only emo kids can identify with, dunked himself in a bath of what appeared to be liquefied gold and transformed himself into a powerful and terrifying god-king. The narration continues: in the ensuing years, Xerxes made it his top priority to tear Greece apart with brute force, using vengeance as his guiding spirit, and confidence that no one can challenge his authority as his motivation to continue.

Now Greece’s last fighting chance lies within Themistokles and his decision-making. He believes their best chance of surviving a massive attack from the Persians would be to unite as one, and he turns to Sparta and to Gorgo for support. Unfortunately he has just missed Leonidas as he has led 300 of his men out of the area, and Gorgo is reluctant to side with the Greeks. Themistokles, ever determined to mount a defensive against the incoming Persians, does manage to gather a fleet of ships and leads the charge out into the Aegean Sea, where they are to confront a massive Navy commanded by the vengeful and bloodthirsty Artemisia (Green).

While tipping its hat to the original, the saga branches out and onto open waters in a particularly brutal and extended action sequence. Themistokles and several thousand Greek craftsmen-turned-warriors put their lives on the line in a gloriously bloody and cartoonishly stylized battle that rivals anything seen in 300. Every so often there are a few more nuggets of information that connect the original to this “sequel,” though the majority of what happens beyond the halfway mark can be categorized as glorified stunt work and crimson red CGI.

The threat of Artemisia is almost without question the strength of this overstylized bloodbath. And why shouldn’t it be? Green clearly relishes the opportunity to play evil. A good portion of the film proves she can be convincingly psychotic; sometimes her lines are excruciatingly cliché, but never does she come across disingenuous or disinterested in what kind of role she’s playing here. The same cannot be said for Stapleton’s Themistokles, and while he’s been given rather large shoes to fill by essentially becoming this year’s Leonidas, this is an actor who can’t win affections nearly as quickly. He’s no meat-headed brute, but he’s not exactly an inspiration, either. Unfortunately he’s at the center of the film’s attention and the lack of star power is to blame for a lot of the film’s lack of impact.

No one will ever consider the writing of 300 award-winning, but by comparison Rise of an Empire is even less memorable. There isn’t the same kind of martyrdom that made the blood spillage in 300 seem like such a noble sacrifice and ultimately worth the time spent watching such violence. Themistokles and his brave men are merely shadowing the fates of Gerard Butler and his outnumbered ranks and its a fact you simply cannot get over as the story trends to the more and more predictable with each stabbing of the spear to a chest. As well, Xerxes comes across as more and more laughable with each scene he appears in. He’s supposed to be the top dog, yet he hides behind the black veil of Artemisia as she goes on a murdering spree unmatched by many a full-grown Greek warrior. He also has some of the worst dialogue in the entire movie and the scenes in which he continues to plot his terror are completely wasted moments.

All the same, the decrease in quality should have been anticipated. Standards need not be very high. If blood and chaos is what one wants, blood and chaos is what one gets, although the word ‘chaos’ can apply to the product in general. Whereas Snyder’s direction gave purpose to the deaths of so many (including that of Gerard Butler’s most identifiable role), Noam Murro’s direction is numbingly violent and consists MANly of repetition and cliché Hollywood effects. It’s good to have some fun with history, but this one tries just a little bit too hard.

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2-5Recommendation: Though it comes in an obvious second to its predecessor, 300: Rise of an Empire sports some bloody good fun via action sequences and epic set pieces. Visually, it’s stunning and there isn’t a great deal to complain about if you are requiring a film that asks absolutely nothing of its audience. . . well, you know, apart from remembering how important it is to work out on a daily basis.

Rated: R

Running Time: 103 mins.

Quoted: “It begins as a whisper. . .a promise. . .the lightest of breezes dances above the death cries of 300 men. That breeze became a wind, a wind that my brothers have sacrificed. A wind of freedom. . .a wind of justice. . .a wind of vengeance.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com