MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Dunkirk” stars Fionn Whitehead (The Children Act, Him [TV Mini-series]), Aneurin Barnard (Citadel, War & Peace [TV Mini-series]), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, The BFG), Tom Glynn-Carney (The Last Post [TV series], Casualty [TV series]), Berry Keoghan (’71, Traders), Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road, Inception), Jack Lowden (England Is Mine, Denial), Harry Styles (One Direction: This Is Us), Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins, 28 Days Later…), and Kenneth Branagh (Valkyrie, Henry V). It was written and directed by Christopher Nolan (Interstellar, The Dark Knight). Taking place in World War II, British and French soldiers find themselves surrounded by the German army, pigeonholed into the beach of Dunkirk, France. Desperate for an escape, this film follows three separate point of views detailing their rescue.
Goodness gracious, it took him long enough! Christopher Nolan has to be one of my favorite directors of this day; the man is simply a genius. However, he is only one guy, who chooses his projects carefully. This means that it could take years until we actually receive some nectar from his noggin. “Interstellar,” his most recent motion picture (that was incredible), released back in 2014; almost three stinking years ago. Yes, time flies, but when it comes to the world we are living in now, filled with superheroes, sequels, prequels, and terrible horror flicks, it’s hard not to crave for something artistic or original. In that three-year hiatus, Nolan decided to gift us a war movie focused on the tense World War II event held in Dunkirk, France, where British soldiers were cornered by German troops on a beach waiting rescue. The waiting game lasted a week and to think about being put in that situation sets me on edge. Just think about helplessly waiting for an escape while the Nazis were itching their way closer and closer to you. It’s scary, but that’s war for you. I didn’t know what to expect of “Dunkirk.” Nolan is always a safe bet when deciding what to spend your hard-earned cash on at the theater, but this film’s trailers didn’t suggest something in-depth or inquisitive. When it comes to a war movie, what you see is what you get: battles, conflict, and action, sprinkled across a minefield of characters. In cinema history, the quality of this genre varies, with a few home-runs and many stinkers. “Dunkirk” happens to lie where most fans hope for. While the picture isn’t Nolan’s best work, it certainly puts up a fight, leaving a visceral, moving experience in its wake. Before I go into anything, I first need to get Nolan’s cinematography out-of-the-way. This is predictable: it’s exceptional. My gosh, the man is brilliant behind the camera. The shots, color grading, and utter mass of this production pleased me to a point of no return. It’s a film lover’s playground, though it’s expected from a terrific filmmaker such as Nolan. I loved the wide, landscape shots the most, bestowing the audience the view of Dunkirk and painting a sad picture of the conditions endured by the soldiers stranded. My only regret walking out was that I didn’t see it in IMAX; note to self, always see a Nolan production in a larger, broader format (it’s what he filmed it for). The atmosphere of this release is familiar. We’ve all seen at least one war movie and know what it contains in terms of costuming and sets. Nolan utilized what was given to him and added his own flair. With his style of coloring and shots, the characters and the period-piece portion shined. It was earthy, dirty, sleek, and gritty all together; the cinematography was easily the best part of the entire movie. Moving into the story, that’s where any problem should arise. It was clear Nolan didn’t want to focus on the characters themselves, but the situation they were in. Heck, the film is named after the place they are stranded for Pete’s sake. I would’ve loved to have the character’s fleshed out further in this movie, though I was satisfied with what I received regardless. How this film was shot captivated me from the get-go, and the intensity of the story made for a great experience all together. Three story arcs were present in telling this tale, all of which took place in three separate time spans: one week, one day, and one hour. Reading reviews, the main concern given by the audience was trying to follow the plot line. At first, I was a bit confused; I didn’t know if what was put up as a title of “one week” meant “ago” or “later.” Roughly twenty minutes in, I realized how each arc was its own separate entity within the movie. Rather than watching it as something linear or pieced together, I had to see it as if every time they cut to another arc it was on its own timeline (which it in fact was). At one point in the film, all of the arcs converge on the same time frame, only to drift further apart, making for a rewarding experience. I loved the way this was pieced together, as it was clever and original. Sure, it’s hard to grasp at first, but it makes the audience think harder when comprehending it, and I always commend that. The best part of this style is how the editing made everything seamless. I didn’t feel discombobulated or whiplashed in the array of arcs, aside from the first set of minutes I spoke of earlier. It’s an execution to get used to, and once you do the movie becomes magical. Like I stated, this isn’t about the characters. There are some that you could care about, but overall they are ends to a means, which is an understanding when going into war. I for one didn’t want the soldiers to die, though it’s all a casualty of the battle. When it’s all said and done, you have to realize that this film is based on a true story that ends on a happy note. What happens in between the start of conflict and resolution is what makes things tense, with or without immense character development. Everyone is a shell of their former self in the heat of war (and more importantly, when they come out of it) and are all striving towards the same objective: survival. That’s the theme of this movie, besides telling a true story. It’s a beautiful feature filled with wonderful cinematography, great direction, and fantastic performances turned in by Nolan’s gang and some newcomers (Harry Styles did surprisingly well). By the time the credits rolled, I was satisfied. Is this flick memorable? For the most part it isn’t, though there is plenty to talk about in terms of aesthetics rather than moments. Watching this at the theater proved to be an amazing experience. Nolan had another job well done, and taking joy in the cinematography alone makes for an entertaining film in my book. FINAL SCORE: 89%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: