Click here to see how this ranks up with Christopher Nolan's 9 other feature films.
Now I presume the modern-day art house/blockbuster wizard will at last earn his first Oscar nomination for directing his tenth feature film, Dunkirk. He deserves it, as he creates a true cinematic spectacle set around a subject made for a true “guy’s night in.” Unlike other WWII films focused on the inner journey, Nolan utilizes the IMAX screen’s visual splendor to grasp the British soldiers’ first-person perspective whilst treading through turmoil to get back home.
For you longtime Nolanites, you should be pleased to hear that the Dark Knight director achieves what he promised us in his passion project: a well-researched claustrophobic thriller. Everything he has never been very good at in the past, such as expositional dialogue, is left out, while his true strengths, such as bending the rules, remain. He relies on action, rather than philosophical ramblings, to communicate his message. This project also demonstrates the best of his actor direction; the number of soldiers he directs unnerves you to watch as they line up at the beach and unanimously gaze upon the terror above. His finished product almost resembles real recolorized news footage.
These somehow endless events unravel in three separate narratives, each overlapping over different lengths of time. One takes place on the mole over a week, one takes place on the sea over a day, and one takes place in the air over an hour. (Think: Magnolia with a smaller cast) Each subplot feels truthful in authenticity as they unravel in real time, the clock pressing upon each one. The stories appear disconnected, then soon merge together into a graceful singular conclusion.
Each of these men, whether on the ground, on the sea, or in the air, are not meant to be understood on a personal level, particularly with the older soldiers. Nolan’s intention is in fact less for you to connect with the fictionalized war heroes, and more to see how the cost to fight affected everyone involved. Despite whatever little we learn of these men caught in the anarchy, we still believe them as traumatized souls as we watch them gaze upon death at every corner, even in the dry, empty French town behind them.
Aside from the lack of a memorable character study, you still see the soldiers support each other in the heat of their conflicts. Sadly though, a much present father-son relationship misses its open chance at adding some needed heart to give us a breather from the mayhem.
For the intended effect, Nolan’s heart-stopping experience must only be watched on the biggest screen out there, with the best quality speakers in the world. In the theater, the ear-splitting gunfire and jet engine hum rattles you from the inside all the way to beneath your seat. As for the visual elements, the impressive dogfights tumble sideways and upside down over the vast ocean. Then on the ground, the seafoam sprays onto your 3D glasses, disorienting your vision as the ship of soldiers loses buoyancy. Inside the interiors, the camera comes in uncomfortably close to the heated action, leaving no space left to squirm in your seat; it gives such a contrast against the massive exteriors, it makes you ponder each sequence’s behind-the-scenes process.
The intensity here would be wasted without the urgent music by the legendary Hans Zimmer. His score never stops ticking as the time for the bomb to go off gets nearer, which he achieves by stressing the stiff, harsh sounds of strings. You rarely realize the score’s effective prowess, as you’re too focused on the revulsion to notice. Heck, you could use Zimmer’s new Oscar-worthy piece to motivate your study sessions!
Yet like any great director, people will always find more critiques to press against Christopher Nolan’s greatest success. He deserves the already voiced criticisms about the little representation toward anyone besides British men, and he deserves further criticism about lacking a distinct “so what” to what is another WWII feature. But as a whole, Dunkirk stands as Christopher Nolan’s most thoughtful film to date; it impacts you enough to further research and discuss that dreadful day. Understanding the tragedy of violence is precisely what today’s generation needs to understand, and Nolan just put us back on the right path.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
Broich, John. “What’s Fact and What’s Fiction in Dunkirk.” Slate. 20 Jul 2017. Web. <http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2017/07/20/what_s_fact_and_what_s_fiction_in_dunkirk.html>.
Brueggemann, Tom. “Dunkirk.” Digital image. IndieWire. WordPress, 7 Jul 2017. Web. <http://www.indiewire.com/2017/07/dunkirk-tracking-low-its-wrong-1201851546/>.
Dunkirk. Warner Bros. Web. <http://www.dunkirkmovie.com/>.
Griswold, Alex. “USA Today Review Bemoans Lack of Women and Minorities in ‘Dunkirk’.” The Washington Free Beacon. 19 Jul 2017. Web. <http://freebeacon.com/culture/usa-today-review-bemoans-lack-women-minorities-dunkirk/>.
Truffaut-Wong, Olivia. “How Accurate Is 'Dunkirk'? Christopher Nolan's New Film Uses Fiction To Get To The Truth.” Bustle. BDG Media, 19 Jul 2017. Web. <https://www.bustle.com/p/how-accurate-is-dunkirk-christopher-nolans-new-film-uses-fiction-to-get-to-the-truth-71207>.