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"Dunkirk" in 70mm IMAX at the Langley theater

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Scott Pickering, BC Canada Date: 25.07.2017
IMAX 70mm film. Picture by Thomas Hauerslev

I watched
"Dunkirk" in 70mm IMAX at the Langley theater here in BC Canada. This theater left its 70mm projector installed, on rails, so it could be used whenever needed. The digital projector is usually what they use, as the IMAX 70mm projector hasn’t been run since 2012. So its been 5 years since they’ve shown a film print in this theater.

That said when it started, they showed a few previews of films that were mainly shot on digital. I was hoping to see Branagh’s new release preview, but not in this case did they show it. A quick IMAX logo was shown. Nothing to say this was a 70mm release or anything as such. Not like digital where every time you watch a movie, they have to exclaim you are watching digital projection. I thought IMAX could of done some advertising here to proudly exclaim this was a 70mm special showing. Nope.

On to the movie. I could tell right off the bat this was a film print we were watching, because I noticed a few scratches on the print and flicker from projection. Yup this was real film here. I notice flicker more now because digital lacks that when shown.

I forgot how smooth IMAX film is on screen. And the detail mixed in with that. Shots from air showing the water and beach areas for example were very detailed. I didn’t care much for the hand held work in the film, as it was too jarring to watch. But I understood why they shot it that way. IMAX works better when the image is steady so you can actually see the detail in the shots.

Switching between 5 perf and 15 perf was more noticable, as the color and contrast changed between formats. The 5 perf was contrastier and maybe a bit darker then the 15 perf. I wonder if it was because of the extra optical dupes between the two formats when showing 5 perf? I could see grain in the 5 perf shots too. Funny as in days past when I’d watch 5 perf movies, I never notice grain. But when "The Hateful Eight" came out, all of a sudden I could see grain in 70mm prints. I'm thinking its because they used 250D as their slowest film. 50D would not do this.

Focus was also noticable, because of the shallow depth of field. A lot of shots the DOF was so shallow, people went in and out of focus often. I understand why as I get this when using my Pentax 6x7 film camera at times too. Such a large format, its hard to retain DOF.

The movie itself was simple, yet good. It was over before you knew it. I applaud Nolan for doing most of the movie in IMAX, as I don’t think any other directors out there would shoot so much of their movie in the format. I would, but then again I don’t make Hollywood movies. I wonder what Nolan has up his sleeve for his next movie?
More in 70mm reading:

"Dunkirk" in the splendour of 7OMM

What did you think about the 7OMM Road Show Version of The Hateful Eight? - Short stories

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Updated 16-07-18