Dunkirk

kinopoisk.ru

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

-Winston Churchill, June 1940

Has anyone ever been better than Winston Churchill at giving motivational speeches?  He had a way of rising to the occasion and here, the stakes had never been higher.   This speech was given immediately after the British and their Allies had been run out of France by the invading Germans.  Victory over the Nazis was not on the horizon and must have seemed impossible at the time.  That’s more or less what Churchill said, after all: he is not describing a plan to win.  He is describing a last-ditch effort to survive when the Nazis try to conquer Britain after they finish in France, and a cry for help to the New World to save the day in that bleak scenario (Canada was, of course, already part of the Allied forces at the time, but the U.S. would not be until Pearl Harbor).

The devastating outcome of the Battle of Dunkirk gave good reason for Churchill’s pessimism.  It is a fascinating historical event because it was a loss that could well have broken the Allies, but instead, it galvanized them, particularly in the way that the British survived: hundreds of civilian vessels sailed from Britain to France to help rescue over 300,000 Allied soldiers from the Nazis.

Time and time again, Christopher Nolan has proven himself to be as adept a director as Churchill was a speaker.  Tonally, Nolan’s Dunkirk captures what must have been the prevailing mood on the ground, at sea, and in the air as the Battle of Dunkirk was fought.  Nolan makes an inspired structural choice by intertwining three different stories over three different time periods, and as only Nolan can do, effectively explains a complex structure using only three small titlecards at the very beginning.  Dunkirk is reminiscent of The Prestige in that way – in both, Nolan always provides enough cues so the viewer knows exactly where a particular scene fits into the overall timeline and story, even as he tells the story in a complex, non-linear fashion.

With Dunkirk, Nolan has outdone himself.   Given how consistently great he has been throughout his career, it is incredible to think that he has gotten better, but that is clearly the case.  Dunkirk is absolutely masterful filmmaking from start to finish.  Above all else, Nolan’s film captures the essence of Dunkirk and gives us a true sense of the anguish of war, the desire to survive, and the fear of the unknown that soldiers must deal with constantly.  In particular, I am reminded of the scenes featuring Tom Hardy’s RAF pilot, all of which inserted me into the battle and truly made me feel how claustrophobic a Spitfire’s cramped cockpit would be, and how difficult it would be to spot, identify, and track an enemy fighter, let alone shoot it down.

For the viewer, this is a vital, visceral, and draining experience.  Dunkirk is a 106 minute movie that feels like it’s four hours long (which Nolan would take as a high praise, I think, if he ever read this review).  From start to finish, it is tense, it is devastating, it is awful and it is brilliant.  Dunkirk is filmmaking at its finest and a fitting tribute to one of the defining events of the 20th century.

 

 

Advertisements

27 thoughts on “Dunkirk

  1. Jay

    I didn’t like it as much as you did, hun. I found it slow\boring in some spots. I thought the editing between story lines was a bit confusing. There was little characterization; the only guy I felt I knew at all was Mark Rylance. And it was pretty unemotional – not something I expect from a war movie, but probably due to having little invested in characters I could hardly tell apart.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Sean Post author

      The characters did blend together a bit, especially the three dark haired soldiers that were usually hanging out together. For me, even though it was slow at parts, the tension remained, and that made it feel authentic. It definitely was an unemotional movie and felt different than most war movies in that way. I just thought it worked really, really well and I thought Nolan delivered an incredible war film that, interestingly, features almost no combat at all.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Jay

        Well I don’t mind the lack of action, and I actually thought that was realistic. There’s a lot of waiting in war, it’s definitely not all glamourous. But that quietness should have been an opportunity to get to know the people we’re supposed to care for.

        Like

  2. Christy B

    Oh wow I had heard the critics panned it (just saw a random FB comment saying that was the case) and so it’s good that you’ve given it a better review.

    Like

    Reply
  3. J.

    I didn’t even know Nolan was making this until seeing the trailer during Prometheus 2. I was fairly intrigued, but haven’t been inclined to go see it. Yet.

    Like

    Reply
  4. Robert Parker Teel

    Visually wonderful, and I loved the Spitfire vs Messerschmitt scenes, and the Hardy’s long gliding scene, but did anyone else find this virtually emotionless? Sorry, but long stretches of it seemed like animated oil paintings.

    Like

    Reply
  5. Jeff the Chef

    I wholeheartedly concur with your review. I would add that the film score – in and of itself, but also in the way that it intermingled with the sound editing – was boldly original and effective. Also, I loved that the viewer was left to more-or-less experience the void-of-meaning that each of the characters had to deal with: you’re generally clear about what’s happening, but you’re often not sure what is meant by it. It needs to unfold so that you can figure it out. This has to be what all of that feels like in real life (assuming that one is able to keeps ones wits while it’s happening). The event is essentially chaotic, and onto it, various leaders are trying to impose order. Especially in the wide, aerial shots, you can literally see this juxtaposition of opposites in action. Brilliant movie.

    Like

    Reply
  6. fragglerocking

    Well Hubby and I saw this at the actual pictures a couple of weeks ago, (we NEVER go to the cinema!) and came away completely underwhelmed. We came home and later watched Atonement, the hopelessness and chaos of the beach at Dunkirk much better rendered in 5 minutes by Joe Wright than Nolan managed in the whole movie.

    Like

    Reply
    1. Sean Post author

      That’s too bad this was underwhelming. You’re right that there is not much chaos seen on the beach. This movie could gave gone a lot of different ways but one of the things I liked was the short run time. But that did mean there wasn’t much time for desperation (or as Jay said, room for much emotion generally).

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s