Sunday, July 23, 2017

Movie Review: "Dunkirk" (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan
Year: 2017
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes

A chronicling of the evacuation at Dunkirk that followed the defeat of the allied forces.

"Dunkirk" is written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who is known for directing "The Dark Knight" trilogy as well as "The Prestige" and "Memento." His latest film is a war drama about the evacuation at Dunkirk during the Second World War. There is a large cast, who play soldiers trying to escape and the civilian sailors coming to rescue them. Some of the more recognizable cast members are Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and Harry Styles, yes, the Harry Styles of One Direction fame. The story is told across three timelines from three different perspectives of the battle from the land, the sea, and the air. It looks at the perspective of the soldiers on the beach over the period of a week, the perspective of the civilian sailors over a day, and the perspective of the air force pilot over an hour.

This movie is visual storytelling at its finest. It serves to immerse the audience in the hell-fire and tension of battle more than anything else. From the moment "Dunkirk" begins until the second it ends, the audience is put in the thick of World War II on a sandy beach with guns blazing, planes soaring, bombs flying, soldiers running and ducking, and scores of nameless troopers lined up awaiting safe passage home. There isn't a whole heck of a lot of dialogue. There aren't many identifiable characters, at least not in the traditional sense. The people in this movie are not overly developed beyond their posts, such as fleeing soldier, shivering soldier, heroic fighter pilot, or commanding officer. The most developed character in the film is Mark Rylance's Mr. Dawson, his son Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney, and Peter's friend George, played by Barry Keoghan, as well as Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, though their principle archetype is to represent patriotic English citizens doing different duties in the name of their country. These characters all have the same look, hairstyle, hair colors, and body type, and this is clearly done on purpose. This is probably Nolan's most minimalist film yet.

We have to imagine the majority of the script for "Dunkirk" simply included screen direction and sound effects like "vroooooom," "ratatatatata," several "boom!s" and lots of "ahhhhhhh!s." These sound effects are coupled with the occasional line of impactful dialogue like, "you can practically see it from here," "I'm not going back," and "we have to do what's right." We mean it when we say there's a lot of action in this flick. In fact, Nolan hardly gives the crowd a second to catch their breath. After all, this is a war picture, so we expect no less. The sounds of battle, the crunching of sand, the looming bombs, the flying planes, the precision-point score, all of the auditory elements are extraordinary, and they are relentless, never letting up for one second throughout its run time. Despite all of this, this is one of the least bloody modern war films we have seen, not that we necessarily need blood and carnage to understand the brutality of war. Some viewers may find this project lacking because of the absence of gore. We can also understand some moviegoers not getting emotionally invested due to the lack of character development as this is where we landed ourselves. However, this is clearly a "big picture" spectacle movie, but Nolan has been accused in the past of being emotionally cold as a filmmaker, and while we disagree, the lack of character development here doesn't really help his case.

"Dunkirk" is visually stunning and gorgeously shot. What Christopher Nolan is able to do with a camera is nothing short of fantastic. He puts the audience right in the thick of the battle of Dunkirk and makes us feel every twist and turn from the planes in the sky, every splash and sway from the boats in the ocean, and every sound and explosion from bombs being dropped on the British soldiers. The editing is fantastic as the three timelines are cut together to make sure the tension and excitement remain high throughout its run time. Nolan's use of practical effects over digital ones serves to enhance the look, feel, and authenticity of this movie. The cinematography is stunning, and Hans Zimmer does it again with a haunting, ticking score that elevates the final product. Our one big critique of the movie is Nolan's choice to keep the bulk of the characters nameless and (relatively) faceless. Some people will love this choice, but it was a bit of a rub for us. We wanted to be able to root for these individuals and wish for their ultimate survival but we didn't feel a connection to them since they aren't really developed. Despite this minor critique, "Dunkirk" is yet another solid offering from Nolan and gives a unique perspective on how to approach a war film when they are a dime a dozen in Hollywood.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~8.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~92%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

1 comment:

  1. Watching the same movie twice in a cinema is something that i hardly do, usually i watch it in cinemas and watch it again at home, as of DUNKIRK, i did it, one of the best amazing movies so far this year.. if u havent watched it, pliz do