Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dunkirk - Movie Review

The Movie: Dunkirk

The Director: Christopher Nolan

The Cast: Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, James D'Arcy, Jack Lowden, Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan, Harry Styles

The Story: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

The Review:
Christopher Nolan is a really good director. He's reached a level of fame and respect where his name is as much of a box office draw as the actors he hires to perform in his movies. Christopher Nolan really likes making his movies with IMAX cameras. Dunkirk was filmed almost entirely with IMAX cameras. Dunkirk is filled with some truly incredible images thanks to those IMAX cameras and watching it in a movie theater on a large format screen is really something to behold. The colors are so rich a Crayola box would be jealous, the textures look like you cold reach up and feel them on the screen, and the sound fills the room in a way that puts you right in the middle of the action. From a technical standpoint, this may be Christopher Nolan's finest effort to date.

On the other side of things, Nolan has tasked himself with recreating one of the biggest, most tragic, and most heroic events of World War II which, of course, is no small task.The story is told from three different perspectives along three different timelines that ultimately converge into the movie's big climax. There are troops on land who are trying desperately to leave, there are fighter pilots in the skies above desperately trying to protect the soldiers below, and there are civilians on the water using their personal water craft in a desperate attempt to save the soldiers from the approaching German army.

The converging timeline thing is the one part of the story telling process that I wasn't really fond of as it was often confusing, especially when you have to keep track of groups of English soldiers who all look the same in their identical uniforms. Nolan intentionally keeps them generic, even the primary characters, as a way to show how indiscriminate war can be and I get that so it's all good, but I felt like it took away any real emotional impact the film could have had. The only person I really rooted for was Tom Hardy as the ace fighter pilot although even his story line ends up being a bit redundant towards the end. It's pretty clear that Nolan's focus was on creating a film that looks amazing rather than crafting a story that will leave any type of lasting impact.

As I think about Dunkirk, I can't help but compare it to Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan and the stark contrast in styles between the two films. Ryan is all about the men, getting to know them, and understanding how participating in the war changed them the moment they stepped on to a battle field. Speilberg dug deep into the minds and souls of his men, even as he put them in seemingly impossible situations. Dunkirk feels more like a highlight reel or propaganda piece that shows how beautiful, panoramic, and glossy everything is which, to me, failed to properly honor the achievements and sacrifices that helped to win the day.

The Verdict:
Dunkirk is a technical achievement that raises the bar for how stunning a motion picture can look as Christopher Nolan goes all in with his use of IMAX cameras. Ultimately, this is a very good movie that lacks depth and emotion and falls just short of being something truly special.

For maximum effect, watch this movie at a legit IMAX theater. In Seattle, your one option is the Boeing IMAX theater at the Pacific Science Center. The screens that are advertised as IMAX in the mall multiplex theaters are not up to the proper standard and not worth the premium price. Want to know more?

1 comment :

  1. Decent review, although I think the things you pointed out as weaknesses were the things he intentionally went for. This is the Anti "Platoon" or "Saving Private Ryan" war movie. It's a war film devoid of sentimentality or Melodrama, without commentaries on politics or social issues, simply a case study on the specific battle. The soldiers love lives or view points on the politics behind it all are irrelevant ; their simply a group of men trying to survive a situation.

    That's the only reason I think this movie works as well as it does honestly. Had he packed it full of sob stories about how bad the war was, it would have simply been yet another "Saving Private Ryan" knockoff, and we already have plenty of them.


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