Darkest Hour (2017)

Only 8 months into a global war that would last 6 years, Britain reached a pivotal point that almost led to the end of the empire.  Darkest Hour focuses in on May 1940 as Neville Chamberlain, played by Ronald Pickup, resigns as prime minister and Winston Churchill, played by Gary Oldman, takes over the premiership.  While Churchill’s war council is pushing for peace negotiations, he is forced to stand alone for the fight against Hitler.  At least, that is how the situation is portrayed in Darkest Hour.

Dunkirk (2017)

In May 1940, between 300,000 and 400,000 British troops were trapped between German forces and the ocean.  As they attempted to evacuate the beaches of Dunkirk they fell victim to German Luftwaffe, the German equivalent of the American Air Force.  German planes focused on bombing the evacuating ships and gunning down men on the beach.  British battlecruisers were nearby the beach, however, they were unable to land on the  shallow beach to carry the men to safety.  The smaller ships used to shuttle men back and forth between the beach and the battlecruisers were dwindling and this led to the deployment of civilian vessels from England.  This historic endeavor was codenamed Operation Dynamo.

Christopher Nolan’s new film, Dunkirk, follows the struggle of a few groups of men.  The primary group is comprised of a band of men trying to get off the beach by any means necessary, portrayed by Fionn Whitehad, Aneurin Barnard, and Harry Styles.  The second group is a civilian boat on the way to Dunkirk to rescue troops.  The boat’s crew is made up of Mr. Dawson, played by Mark Rylance, his son, Tom Glynn-Carney and his son’s friend, Barry Keoghan.  The third group we follow is a pair of spitfire pilots, Collins, played by Jack Lowden, and Farrier, played by Tom Hardy.  The intertwined storylines conceived by Nolan provides an intense and immersive look at the historic evacuation of Dunkirk that was a pivotal moment of World War II.

Dark Days (2000)

Who knew that under the streets of New York, in abandoned subway tunnels, there were communities of vagabonds, drug addicts, and other transients slowly piecing together homes.  This intense and fascinating documentary shows what life is like for these people living in the most unusual manner and their struggle to make something of themselves. Marc Singer created an intimate experience that is enhanced by the fact it is in black and white.

By living in the community himself, for months, Singer was able to capture a ‘day in the life’ of this underground community that has fallen into complete complacency.  Each individual has their own story and path that brought them there.  However, the “safety” and consistency of the tunnels allows them to put their guard down.  The illusion of safety keeps them in the tunnel and exposed to disease, drugs, danger of getting hit by trains, and anything else the tunnel offers.  If this film shows us anything, it shows us how resilient the human race can be.  The scrappy hustlers living under New York city will be the ones to follow if there is ever an apocalypse.  This may have been dark days for this community, but the film brings an inspirational  and relentless message.

DJ Shadow’s soundtrack compliments the tone and vibe of the imagery perfectly.  DJ Shadow is able to amplify the energy throughout the film whether it be darkness or inspiration.  A soundtrack is such an important aspect of a great film and Dark Days is no exception.

A State of Mind (2005)

A spectacular movie that shows what North Korea is really like on a day to day basis.  Daniel Gordon takes the viewer through the day after day regiments and daily life for gymnasts that train all year for a chance to perform in the Pyongyang Mass Games.  These games are a large spectacle that are a kin to the opening ceremonies for the olympics, only on  grandeur scale.  The purpose of these Mass Games are best described by Jong-il Kim, “Mass gymnastics play an important role in training schoolchildren to acquire these communist qualities.”  Gordon and his crew were able to get so close and behind the scenes of, what appears to be, typical life in North Korea.  In the process they enlighten the viewer with, sometimes shocking, culture differences.  It is fascinating to see how the United States is perceived from within North Korea and the role propaganda plays in the North Korean psyche.