By Jeremy Say
Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s latest World War II film is about the miraculous retreat of British forces from the Germans at Dunkirk. It was also incredibly lucky for us that MBO invited us to their new outlet in the Starling Mall with an early screening, all so that I can properly mull over this movie.
The reason I need some extra time, is simply that the scope of this movie is larger than expected. This not a movie to go watch while sitting back and relaxing if you really want to get the most out of it. With beautiful cinematography and a wonderfully tense soundtrack from Hans Zimmer, this is unarguably a technical masterpiece.
We all agree that Christopher Nolan is a genius, with the Internet ablaze with positive reviews and comparisons to the great Stanley Kubrick featuring frequently in conversation. It’s almost as if every review is trying to out do each other on who liked the movie more. Even the people sitting in the same theater came up to me after the movie and told me to give this movie a 5/5 star rating. One person even said this is a brilliant movie that deserves 20/5.
This hype of course, eventually led to the awkwardness when I told them I think this movie is not perfect. There are quite a few bits and pieces missing that truly holds it back from being the true masterpiece I think this movie could have been.
Now don’t misunderstand me here, just because I don’t think it’s a masterpiece in every regard, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the movie. The list of ambitious things that Nolan has done well is truly staggering. The dogfight scenes between the British Spitfires and German Stukas were so realistic that it draws you right in the middle of the blazing metal and screaming propellers. Pairing this with Tom Hardy’s masked performance (yes, this makes it the 3rd masked film and that means it’s a pattern), you truly gain an appreciation of the actor’s skill. In an interview with Yahoo Movies, Christopher Nolan noted:
“So I said, OK, let’s do it again. But this time you’ve got goggles, you’ve got a helmet and everything, you can act with your right eye. Let’s see what you can do with just that.’ And of course what he does with just that is remarkable. But that’s Tom Hardy.”
If I were to tell you the two main reasons for cutting points from this movie, it will have to be the non-linear plot and minimalistic characters/plot. As for as non-linear plots go, you will have to keep track of the soldiers on the beach at Dunkirk, the civilian boats sailing to save the Allied soldiers and the aerial dogfight which all take place in a time spans of 1 week, 1 day and 1 hour respectively. So, not only do you have to constantly rewind the movie in your head, you have to keep track of the timing which can frankly be confusing. Am I watching the same scene but from a different view or is this a new scene? If I did watch this already, then I kinda know that this boat blows up and this soldier dies. Which to me is a nifty trick, but truly starts to outstay its welcome. There is just no tension in many of the scenes as you have probably already watched it once or even twice before.
Then of course is a debatable point of not enough dialogue or characterizations within the movie. I can’t really remember the characters from the movie off the top of my head, they kinda just exist in the movie. Granted, there is the whole argument of everyone in war starts to look the same and no one is special. So, why do they deserve a backstory to make you feel for them? While an overdone trope in many war films, it would have been nice if Nolan included an extra page or two of dialogue. I might have then actually cared about what happened to the ‘characters’ in this film and not focus solely on the helplessness and sheer terror of the moment for the soldiers. It makes the movie feels at times too technical, forceful with themes and quite frankly cold at times.
So, it’s with these two points that this otherwise great movie worth watching on the big screen, complete with proper sound system, that it gets a 8/10 for me.
Don’t take my word on it though, go see it for yourself and let me know what you thought of Nolan’s foray into WWII.