Dunkirk Movie Review

I’m always excited to see a new Christopher Nolan film out. He’s been using his popularity to direct a wide variety of films, with the Historical War Epic being the most recent. How does his style work in the war film? Does it live up to other war epics? Let’s sink into this, shall we? (Pun totally intended)

Likes:

  1. On a technical level this is a masterpiece of film. Shot on IMAX (which I highly recommend seeing it in if you can) cameras this film is gorgeous to look at. Some might be tired of the desaturated color palette that is common in war films, but this film truly deserves it as it fits the tone of the film perfectly. There is color at other parts of the film where it is needed too. But I must stress this again, if you have a IMAX theater near you playing this movie (or even better a 70mm film screening) it is absolutely worth it.
  2. The sound design maybe a bit on the controversial side as the focus of the mixing is on the chaos of war and visual storytelling, so the dialog is sometimes difficult to hear. That said, the dialog isn’t terribly important as the character actions are what drives the plot forward, not any exposition. The booms are loud, the bullets are deadly and it was truly am immersive experience as the sound really envelops you into the Beaches of Dunkirk.
  3. This is an unusual war film in the fact of how it shows war. The early WWII films were more-or-less action films with clear heroes and a glory that surrounds the conflict of war. The post-Vietnam war films were much more brutal and cynical as it depicted the dehumanizing effects on war. I don’t really think Dunkirk really fits in any of those paradigms. Firstly, this is a war movie about a crushing defeat of the allied troops early in the war before America gets involved. So there isn’t any glory or victory awaiting the troops on Dunkirk. The only victory at this point is survival. This depiction of war is unlike any war movie I’ve seen. It’s fresh and unique to this story where the only goal for most of these characters is to not die.

Likes/Dislikes:

  1. This is more of something I anticipate that people may struggle with than any personal criticisms I have. Like most of Christopher Nolan films, the structure of this film is not at all straight forward. This is something that I love about Nolan films is his use and mastery of structure is the best in the business today. However, some people might get lost as there are three distinct but overlapping story arcs that happen. First is a group of young soldiers on the beach trying to get off the beach and back home. The second is a English citizen and his two sons taking their boat across the English channel to Dunkirk. The final is the story of two BAF pilots fighting the German planes over the channel. Just know that the story is told on emotional beats of each arc and isn’t chronological.

Dislikes:

  1. There is a scene involving a lock that I won’t spoil for you. What I will say is that there was some buildup but the conflict dies down way too quickly. Didn’t really pay off for me.

Awkward Walk-In Meter: 3/5

While the blood and gore isn’t nearly on the same level as Saving Private Ryan, this movie is really intense. Suspense is a driving force in the film and it might be much for kids to handle. There is also a couple ‘F’ bombs, but not enough to warrant an R rating.

Overall:

I really liked the film. Again, on a technical level is was a totally immersive and chaotic film that really justifies a large-format viewing like IMAX. The story is tense throughout the film and you can never predict what is going to happen. Especially since Dunkirk isn’t talked about often in WWII history (at least for Americans) as most of the stuff we discuss is the push back on and after D-day. So yeah, I guess this film is an unofficial prequel to Saving Private Ryan if you really want to look at it that way. That said, this is a worthy Nolan film, I can’t say it’s one of my favorites but good none-the-less.

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