Fight for your life. So back in World War II, Germany tried to drive British and French forces into the English Channel. This is the story of how a few key soldiers did whatever it would take to survive and all the acts of heroism that went along with it. This is the new Christopher Nolan film, and it already has a ton of buzz around it. The man does not make bad movies, and I always get pumped up for a film with a shorter runtime. Dunkirk is the shortest movie Nolan has made next to his directorial debut Following (which is absolutely fantastic, do check it out if you ever have the chance). He has put together a positively gorgeous film with Dunkirk, and I don’t know if I have ever said that about a War movie before.
If you have a fear of drowning, this is going to be a rough one for you.
Nolan’s filmmaking is the star of this movie, and Dunkirk really does feature some of the best cinematography you will see all year. When you’re watching a Christopher Nolan movie, you know it, because every shot is framed with an OCD attention to detail and has a distinct purpose. When you get the scale of people being directed, it is astounding, similar to Seven Chances, except with, you know, catching bullets instead of brides. The action is well-filmed, and it is non-stop throughout, almost to a fault. You never really are given an opportunity to catch your breath or let your guard down, as you are constantly in the trenches. A lot of the credit for that has to go to the score, which is composed by Hans Zimmer (of course). It ratchets up the tension to the point of putting you in a constant cold sweat, and because of that, you are always right there in the moment. While I feel like this is more of an action War movie than it is a history lesson, I did not know much about the events that happened in Dunkirk in 1940, so I did walk away from this feeling somewhat educated. I also liked how they don’t go linear with the plot, and three stories are started at different time points right in the beginning.
It may take you a short while to adjust.
While I do really like this and I do think this more than merits being seen on the big screen, I don’t think it’s a perfect movie, and I do have a few critiques. For one thing, it feels very impersonal on a story level, and you never really get to know anything about anybody’s personality (dialogue in this is sparse to say the least). They are all blank slates, which is okay, but I do feel that this fact holds this back from being a classic (I feel the same way about The Hurt Locker). Because of that, it is sometimes difficult to tell one young white male face from another, and it gets a bit hard to determine who is dying and who is living in the thick of battle. Also, the villain in this is pretty faceless, and this is the Nazis that we are talking about, who have always made for great antagonists to root against on the silver screen. I don’t recall ever seeing any enemy soldiers on screen, only their bullets and vehicles, but I suppose that was an intentional choice. I felt physically exhausted and drained walking out of this, which is the tell-tale sign of any quality War movie on a large scale.
Dunkirk (2017) ****
– Critic for Hire