Book Review: The Making of Dunkirk

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Publisher: Insight Editions

Release Date: July 18, 2017

The Making of Dunkirk” tells the incredible story of how Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy) brought a historical moment in World War II to life on the screen using innovative film-making techniques that give the film a gritty, exhilarating realism rarely seen in modern cinema. Those who haven’t seen the film itself should correct their oversight soon. It tells the story of the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk, France, in a daring endeavor that saved them from certain defeat at the hands of enemy forces. Featuring a stunning ensemble cast that includes newcomers Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, and Harry Styles, as well as acclaimed actors Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, Dunkirk offers a breathtaking glimpse at a turning point in the conflict determined by not only the ingenuity of the British forces but also the bravery of British civilians who sailed into war-torn waters to save them. The film has already received an incredible amount of box office and critical success—earning 3 Golden Globe Nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Score) and 8 Academy Awards Nominations (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing).

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James Mottram’s coffee table account of the creation of Dunkirk gives a surprisingly comprehensive account of production. Interviews with the director and key department heads give the text a more authentic resonance and offers the reader first-hand accounts of the film’s creation. Of course, the information is richly illustrated with never-before-seen imagery from the shoot, concept art, storyboards, and other documentation. The accumulative effect is both enjoyable and informative, and the book is essential reading for fans of the film or for anyone who admires the director.

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Book Review: Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work

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Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic

Release Date: March 15, 2007

J.J. Murphy’s Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work is a study of the screenplay structure used in twelve successful independent films (Stranger than Paradise, Safe, Fargo, Trust, Gas Food Lodging, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Reservoir Dogs, Elephant, Memento, Mulholland Drive, Gummo, and Slacker). Murphy compares the structure of these films to the ‘traditional’ three act paradigm that is taught in the manuals. Syd Field, Linda Seger, Robert McKee, and other notable manual writers are discussed and quoted at length. Murphy often does this in order to compare the structure of these independent films to traditional structure that is taught by screenwriting manuals. These quotes are often associated with the films discussed in the book, but while the manuals tend to explain why these diversions from typical structural paradigms are a mistake, Murphy argues that these diversions are actually responsible for the success of the film. Murphy claims that these unusual diversions from the structure taught in manuals subvert audience expectations in original ways (and actually add resonance to the themes covered in these films).

While this book isn’t a screenwriting manual, it has the potential to serve future scriptwriters by validating the desire to digress from traditional paradigms. It makes a nice companion to the more rigid manuals on the market. This text will also be of interest to fans of the various films discussed in these pages. Before reading Murphy’s book, this reviewer had only seen seven of the twelve films discussed. It created a strong desire to watch the other five films, and managed to raise my appreciation for the seven films that I had previously seen.

Review by: Devon Powell