Reviwed by Adam Millward

Christopher Nolan’s 2017 feature, Dunkirk, delves into the murky world of the war epic, taking on the 1940 evacuation of British forces from the French beaches.. Nolan’s thoughtful masterpiece shuns the usual war-flick clichés; there’s no scrapping bulldog, and only a hint of stiff upper lip – Nolan isn’t afraid of depicting defeat in his icy-cold disasterclass.

The sub-zero temperature is instilled from the get-go; Nolan’s experimental cast barely utter a word between them, which could cause something of an emotional detach between the characters and the viewer – but as a result the film is characterised by a prolonged, intense silence.

The silence is complimented by a jarring Hans Zimmer score. Ascending pitter-patters, insistent ticking and deep growls and grunts lend the feature an unyielding suspense. Nolan never once takes his foot off the gas pedal. The film tightens continually, leaving the viewer gasping for air at the film’s climax.

This is not to detract from a handful of exceptional performances – while Kenneth Branagh chews the scenery as the charismatic commander overseeing the evacuation, Tom Hardy’s understated eye movement and furrowed brow deserve a best actor nomination of their own. The contentious Harry Styles is perfectly fine in his bolshie, if largely innocuous supporting role – and not once did I picture him as that clean cut kid from One Direction in Dunkirk’s two hour running time.

Sure, the film won’t win the best picture award at the 90th Academy Awards this year. It won’t win best actor, best supporting actor – probably not even best director, for Nolan’s best efforts. Even a slip-up like last year’s La-La Land fiasco wouldn’t hand Dunkirk any major plaudits. Dunkirk however, for its faults, is a technical masterpiece. An instant wartime classic that, even if it isn’t richly rewarded at the upcoming Oscars, is a worthy tribute to a British classic.

The Post

Reviewed by Charlie Macguire

The Post is a timely and suspenseful drama that exposes the events surrounding the publication of top secret government papers in the Washington Post that shook the country to its core. During the Vietnam War, U.S administrators lied about the progress of the war, sending more soldiers out despite knowing it was a lost cause. This film will have you questioning who you can really trust, as well as your own ethics.

From a directorial sense the film is flawless. The Spielberg captures the soul of the newsroom, from the dense smoke of burning cigarettes to noisy tapping of fingers against typewriters, and the constant chatter. His decision to incorporate the real audio of President Richard Nixon gives the movie an obvious villain and clears the audiences’ moral conscience. The award winning director manages to create a sense of tension throughout the film, even if the ending was spoiled by history 50 years ago.

Although the film has an all star cast including Tom Hanks who plays Washington Posts editor Ben Bradlee, Meryl Streep overshadows the predominantly male ensemble. Streep, who plays Katherine Graham, the publisher of the Washington Post, gives a complex performance of Kay as a woman coming to terms with the amount of power she has, and inevitably becomes a feminist role model.

The film has an obvious correlation to the U.S government’s relationship with the media. Like Trump, Nixon was at constant war with the media for reporting “lies” although the publication of the Pentagon Papers debunks this. All in all The Post has a clear relevance to the world today as the freedom of the press is questioned on a daily basis. The winning of any award for this political thriller will be significant as it will inspire newsmakers now and in the future of who the press really serves.

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Reviewed by Lisa Wehrstedt

Fox Searchlight Productions

“Raped while dying”, “Still no arrests” and finally, “How come, Chief Willoughby?”. These lines, printed on the infamous ‘three billboards’, become cathartic monuments to a mother’s rage and grief. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) lost her daughter 7 months prior to the events of the film, and is still looking for justice. Chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) is however not the sole carrier of this burden. The made-up town of Ebbing is ridden by a lack of justice; dim-witted Officer Dixson (Sam Rockwell) is locally notorious for his racially driven police brutality.

The billboards become a catalyst that exposes the town to issues of racism, homophobia, police brutality and inadequacy, and the residents’ refusal to be confronted with these matters. The film is an unpolished meditation on loss, grief and vengeance, held together by McDormand’s brilliant execution of a mother’s primal pain. Constantly holding a precarious balance between humour, tragedy and chaos, McDonagh manages to round out the initially caricatural characters, and deliver an amazing looking film with breathtaking cinematography and long takes.

Three Billboards is being nominated for a total of 7 awards, though it might not bring home many of them. The competition for Best Actress is fierce, as nominees include Meryl Streep and Saoirse Ronan, who were nominated but did not win the past two years. A victory for Best Picture might arrive if the Academy cared more about sending out a message about current issues of sexual harassment in the industry than to reward the best film of the season.

Get Out

Reviewed by Emmanuel Omodeinde

Get Out was by far my favourite film released last year (only succeeded by Moonlight, the release of which was included in the 2017 Oscar nomination cycle). I’ll admit when I first saw the trailer for Get Out way back in 2016 I was very sceptical. As someone who isn’t a big fan of horror films, I thought it would be another gimmicky mediocre horror film.

How happy I was to be proven so wrong. When I found out it would be directed by Jordan Peele, who is best known as half of the sketch comedy duo Key and Peele, I was immediately intrigued. When the film was released in the U.S. and I began to hear the extremely enthusiastic reactions to it, I really began to get excited.

The two times I saw Get Out in theatres have been some of the best experiences I’ve ever had in the cinema. The satirical horror-thriller tackles the illusion of a post-racial America in which Chris, a Black man (brilliantly played by Black British actor Daniel Kaluuya) goes to visit his White girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams) at her parents’ home. Get Out perfectly captured the zeitgeist with the increasing tensions surrounding race relations in the U.S. and the election of Donald Trump. It’s been nominated in three other categories and truly deserves to win in all its categories. I’m especially rooting for Daniel Kaluuya, who is only the second Black British actor to be nominated in his category after Chiwetel Ejiofor was nominated in 2014 for 12 Years a Slave.

What I want to win Best Picture? Get Out. What will probably win? Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Lady Bird

Reviewed by Joe Cumner

Lady Bird is the solo directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, an actor who has been a constant presence in many indie films, particularly those from director Noah Baumbach. It’s quite common for actors to make the transition to writing/directing but rarely are they any good. That’s not the case here.

Centred around the character of Lady Bird, portrayed by Saoirse Ronan, Gerwig’s film is a brilliant exploration of teenage life, encapsulating the awkwardness and hilarity of those years in a reality-driven ball of perfection. It would be easy for a film such as Lady Bird to become too indie, and get lost in its own pretentiousness, but it never does. The film has character, style and heart, not to mention some incredible performances. Ronan is amazing as the titular character, but the most praise must be given to Laurie Metcalf, who gives the performance of her career as Lady Bird’s mother. This year the race for supporting actress is going to be tight, and I would be surprised if Metcalf doesn’t come out as the overall winner. It’s a wonderful portrayal, grounded and human, whilst simultaneously emanating a power that flows through her scenes.

The film is also gorgeous. A colour palette of muted, bright shades permeates throughout the cinematography. This compliments the wonderfully quirky script, which is full of brilliantly snappy dialogue. Gerwig has created characters that are both believable and interesting, they grow and evolve throughout the story and by the end, they all had great arcs.

If you are a fan of independent, character-driven cinema, or even just good cinema, this film is a must-see.

Call Me by Your Name

Reviewed by Andrea Berdegue

Call Me by Your Name, directed by Luca Guadagnino, is a hit movie that among many other nominations has recently been nominated for an Oscar as best picture. This film is about a great-looking doctoral student Oliver, played by Armie Hammer, who stays with a family in Italy and interns for a professor and falls in love with his bright son Elio, played by Timothee Chalamet.

Call Me by Your Name is a marvelous love story which not only beautifully portrays the experience of first love but also tells it from a gay man’s perspective. The relationship between Elio and Oliver is elegant and sensuous and throughout the movie takes time to develop.

Another great thing about this movie is the relationship with Elio and his parents. Rather than in the most coming-out films, the parents react in a calm way accepting of their son’s sexual orientation.

This movie has had many great reviews and is loved by many critics. This is a movie that should win and should be watched.

Darkest Hour

Reviewed by George Knight

The critically acclaimed Darkest Hour is a historical accurate and dramatic piece of cinematography worthy of the Oscar’s Best Picture. The title is fitting, as the film relays Churchill’s accession to Prime Minister and the events of May 1940. The film explores his battle against opposition both internal and external, fighting to evacuate British forces from Dunkirk and secure his political position. In an increasingly over-saturated market for World War Two films, the Darkest Hour carves a unique space for itself, using both cinematography and detail to give a thrilling portrayal of events.

Director Joe Wright’s attention to detail is impeccable. From the plot, to costume to dialogue, the emphasis on historical accuracy is paramount to the movies success. The story is a micro-history, and with such a small timeframe, Wright takes every opportunity to fill each scene with detail. Each meeting and speech is sourced from historical research, with a variety of literature and biographies supporting each characterisation. From Winston’s home to the King George’s stutter, no aspect is spared.

However, this does not mean it is completely accurate. As John Broich, historian argues for ‘Slate.com’, exaggerations are frequent. The violent confrontations during the War Cabinet meetings and Churchill’s rejection of peace negotiations are all amplified. There are also scenes which challenge belief. Moments such as Churchill’s journey on the London Underground and touching interactions with his secretary Elizbeth Layton often push the plots dramatic license.

But what is a movie without drama? The story arc is incredibly gripping, the audience guided through each moment of Churchill’s short journey. Wright guides Oldman to portray the attractive and equally unattractive features of Churchill’s character, exposing his weakness and allowing us to sympathies with the opposition. Rather than flawless, Wright generates more dynamic characterisation, offering a relatable and fallible image. By maintaining this state of insecurity, he allows tensions to increasingly raise and makes Churchill’s success more satisfying.

The only major flaw is the failure to portray literal human suffering. There is significant focus on Churchill’s sacrifices, losing the garrison of 4,000 men in Calais to save the 300,000 in Dunkirk. However, Wright only presents one scene of soldiers in France and it only briefly shows the wounded. This is likely intentional, maintaining a focus on Churchill’s domestic battle, but when compared with other recent adaptations such as Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, which offers scenes both domestic and frontline, it draws into question what the film would lose by implementing them.

Wright’s use of cinematography bolsters the performances. Shallow lighting and scenery, the dark and claustrophobic feeling of inter-city London and the underground Cabinet War Rooms set the tone. Graphics are excellently implemented, showing the swift progression of time and supporting the less effective soundtrack. Rather than adding character, the music is used to emphasis certain moments and emotions, essentially a plot device.

Despite other features, the most effective feature that brings the film critical acclaim is the outstanding performance of Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Surrounded by brilliant supports like Stephen Dillane and Lily James, Oldman’s performance manages to stand out. His ability to characterise the emotion that Churchill would have experienced, all while maintaining his smallest mannerisms, earns him recognition, which has been received with numerous nominations for Best Actor across the board.

The Darkest Hour is a worthy of winner of Best Picture. It offers a unique interpretation of WW2 and the men behind the history. Oldman’s performance, with its accuracy and the support of well-constructed visuals all reinforce the films overall success. The praise it has received is well deserved and secures its place within World War Two and historical cinema.

The Shape of Water

Reviewed by Georgia Dack

Guillermo Del Toro’s The Shape of Water is an entry that as a fantasy has unexpectedly made waves this awards season. Eliza (Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaner in a Government lab, and one day comes across and befriends a humanoid amphibian. Often the viewing experience treads the line between enjoyable and uncomfortable; the overall result however is odd yet startlingly beautiful, and the plot ultimately comes to a poignant end, portraying the beauty of two lonely beings finding unlikely connection.

The film can be praised for its distinctive and breathtaking visuals, fusing the dark of the cold-war era with Del Toro’s signature flair for fantasy, and complemented by Desplat’s sweeping and nostalgic score.

Sally Hawkins complex and committed portrayal is both odd and sympathetic, and a strong contender for best actress. Octavia Spencer and Richard Jenkins’ characters are heartfelt performances, but slighted by their one-dimensionality, and Shannon’s villain feels equally like a cardboard cut out.

Despite some apt accusations of plagiarism and rehashing, it’s already been a huge critical success. The film received an astounding 13 nominations for the academy awards, and having won several smaller gongs, it’s a high contender for Best Picture, as well as some technical awards.

Phantom Thread

Reviewed by Margot Aquaro

Phantom Thread’, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, is set in 1950’s post-war London, in the middle of the Haute Couture scene, where royalty, aristocracy and the new rich cross path desiring Reynolds Woodcock’s wearable masterpieces. Reynolds Woodcock is brilliantly interpreted by Daniel Day-Lewis who reported this role as his final performance. The Film shocked viewers and critics alike with a total of six nominations.

Woodcock as an almost stereotypical tortured male creative genius has a long history in using women as temporary muses, and sometimes lovers, and then discarding them without second thoughts. This aspect of his life, the one that needs to be strictly connected to reality and the business side of House Woodcock, is controlled with an iron grip by his sister Cyril Woodcock (Lesley Manville). She is simultaneously the enabler of Woodcock’s fussiness but also a sharp businesswoman and the authority figure inside the house.

When Reynolds brings home Alma (Vicky Krieps), Cyril thinks she will be another passing muse. However, Alma demonstrates a soft will of steel, one that can break the ‘curse’ under which Reynolds has placed himself.

This film is a masterpiece with a sweet but nostalgic fairy tale aftertaste; there is an elegant finesse that permeates from the characters and the story they are telling. Anderson has composed in this subversive romance a tortured genius who shocks the audience with what the director has in store for him. It is a tale of passion and love warring to overtake the other in both protagonist, but it is also a search for balance, for what works for the two lovers.

However, it a romantic tale of perverse persuasion as it transforms disquieting concepts into a bizarrely gentle spark of seduction. Reynolds and Alma’s affair is delicate in its representation, but each of them is highly sensitive to the other’s action of kindness and of spitefulness. It seems to be just another story of a male genius taking its frustrations and anxieties out on a vulnerable female victim. The film is set in the 1950s, but the issue at hand is one that is very current in Hollywood and across all work industries. Through this story, Anderson has achieved to put gender politics and abuse that facilitates art under examination in a time when this fight is real and happening.

Reynolds and Alma’s story is neither of submission nor of dominance over the other, it is the discovery of each other’s weaknesses and how to overthrow traditional notions of one-sided power.

There is a fairy tale note to this story; it floats around Reynolds’ mother’s ghost, magic mushrooms and cursed passions. Alma seems to sense this eerie web that surrounds her lover, she tells him ‘Whatever you do, do it carefully’ because she knows their story will be extraordinary and intricate and twisted and tortured. Their passion for one another consumes them; the question is can they survive it?

But Reynolds fights, at least at the beginning, his hunger for her, but cannot deny the unforeseen inspiration she provides him ‘I feel as if I’ve been looking for you for a very long time’. This inspiration, however, is like the tide: it is unstoppable and uncaring of who is standing in its path or of their feelings.

In this masterpiece, the soundtrack is note-worthy. The incredible notes accompanying the lovers with such delicate hands are composed by Johnny Greenwood, which have earned him a deserved Oscar nomination. From the entwining piano notes to blooming orchestral arrangements, the symphonies seem to stitch Anderson’s masterpiece together. Greenwood captures the delicate balance between destructive passion and creative love.

It is certainly a phantom thread that holds all the details together, not all has to fit, but it is the thread of passion and love that sews this film into a masterpiece of cinematography. The story between the two protagonists is of an elegant finesse that is almost translucent. They portray passion and love with a lightness and a touching depth that marvels the audience.

I think there is an invisible thread that connects us all: the people we meet, interact with, notice and keep with us. This film through the art of fashion and elegance, teaches us about relationships: the strong and the weak ones, the great and the forgettable ones, the ones we choose and the ones we don’t. They fortify the seams of who we really are. The film shocked critics and viewers alike with a total of six nominations.