You never heard about Dunkirk the way you did Pearl Harbor or Normandy. The most I ever heard about it was last year when Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception, Memento, Insomnia, Interstellar) was wrapping this movie up, and I saw the underrated film Their Finest (Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton). That movie dealt with a propaganda film being made about Dunkirk. It’s a shame that in some ways it was a better movie. It certainly had better character development.
In 1940, Germany had French and British soldiers trapped in Dunkirk, France. At a port there, Allied forces had to retreat and were basically sitting ducks. The French lost almost 300,000, and there were almost 70,000 British casualties. .
Prime Minister Winston Churchill ordered any ships available to go over and rescue soldiers. About 900 ships went, getting over 325,000 men.
Nolan gives us three different stories: land, sea, and air. They’re also told in different spans of time. One story takes place in a week, another in merely a day.
The friend I brought with me, a World War II buff, didn’t care for the edits and how that all worked. I felt that, since the movie was 107 minutes, it was paced nicely, despite those edits not being my favorite. There were times things felt like a confusing mess, which is probably something they were shooting for. War is hell, and Nolan wanted you sitting right there in the thick of it.
The film is visually stunning having been filmed with IMAX cameras in 65mm. But as impressive as an explosion might be, fire on the water, a torpedo striking, or parts of a pier collapsing (side note: many were confused when the intro said “the mole” in reference to the pier, not a spy),
the movie needed more dialogue. My favorite segments involved a rescue where Mark Rylance (remember his upset Oscar win over Stallone as a spy in Bridge of Spies?). He totally captured the spirit of what civilians did during these rescue attempts, as his son and another teenage boy take their small boat out to sea. Yet when they rescue a shell-shocked pilot (Cillian Murphy), it isn’t as powerful as it could’ve been, all due to the lack of dialogue. Yet Rylance has a few facial expressions and nods that are perfect.
Speaking of interesting facial expressions and lack of dialogue, the same can be said for Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh).
If Nolan’s idea was to make a movie with so few words, at least he could’ve really given us the experience of how trapped these Allied forces were. In the beginning, you feel that way, but it doesn’t last.
There were a few things I hadn’t seen in other war pictures, and after having seen so many, that was cool.
The score for this was awful. At times, it was manipulative Hans Zimmer stuff. In the beginning, it was so loud I had to cover my ears (as did a few people in front of me). At one point, the bass was droning so loudly, and sounded unmodulated and annoying.
My friend felt the film was slow. It’s worrisome if a guy who loves World War II history (he has more war books than any bookshelf I’ve seen and even goes on searches for downed warplanes) doesn’t love this. I assumed this historically based fiction would be his favorite movie of the year, but he was underwhelmed.
Oh yeah, Tom Hardy was in it, with his face covered and hard to understand (remember him playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises?)
The other critics are going to overrate this movie. I’m giving it what it deserves — 2 ½ stars out of 5.