“I don’t typically care for war films. I love the first half of Full Metal Jacket, but get lost for the second. Saving Private Ryan and possibly Jarhead are the only ones I can stick with, due to story and characters respectively. Platoon, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, couldn’t do ’em. For me, the problem is that battle sequences aren’t enough. I want a good story, not just a piece that fits into a larger part of history. Or I want good character development, instead of pure survival. These are things that I need to stay invested in a movie, and without them you’re at a huge disadvantage.
Therefore, my thoughts leading into Dunkirk were conflicted. I _love_ Christopher Nolan, and think he’s a truly visionary filmmaker. But would that be enough to overcome the story issue I was already forseeing?
Shamelessly stolen direct from Wikipedia: The Battle of Dunkirk was a military operation that took place in Dunkirk (Dunkerque), France, during the Second World War. The battle was fought between the Allies and Nazi Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from 26 May to 4 June 1940. < End Plagerism > The movie is about that evacuation. We follow three groups: the soliders on land waiting to get home, the Englishmen at sea coming to get them, and the pilots in the sky continuing the fight. And because this is the dude that brought you Memento and Interstellar, we’ve got a weird timeline. The story on land spans a week, sea spans a day, and sky spans an hour. But they’re all told simultaneously as they converge.
First, let’s talk about where Nolan truly excels. Visually, this movie is stunning. There’s a lot of talk and debate as to what screen format is the best to see it in. I just opted for the normal screen that was most convenient to get to, and even without the bells and whistles (or additional MM’s and screen size) I was blown away by the images. Gorgeous cinematography and scenes that really popped. Truly one of those that deserves to be seen on the big screen and not your iPhone.
Second, the in between. That timeline convergence. I genuinely applaud the creativity in the approach, but I’m not sure how well it worked. While it afforded some cool flashback-eque interconnected stories, for the most part it was kinda confusing. Very hard to tell where in time you were at a given point.
Lastly, the story. For me, that was lacking. We had some character stuff with a few of the soldiers on land, but they were often hard to tell apart in the height of battle. The sea story had the most interesting character development, and was usually the part of the story that held my attention most. The sky being so relatively short felt spread thin. There were pockets of suspense here and there, but not enough to sustain and keep my attention throughout.
Ultimately for me, this is a clear division between quality and entertainment. It was certainly one of the most technically beautiful and quality movies I’ve seen, but I’ve enjoyed far worse movies much more. Then again, if you’re more into war movies than I am, then you just might damn well love this.
Dunkirk – \m/ \m/ \m/”