Is he bullet proof or is Christopher Nolan’s ship finally beginning to sink?
Written By: Rick Masters
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Christopher Nolan’s epic war story DUNKIRK for many many months now and today it finally washed up on the shore, but has it been worth the wait?
DUNKIRK is a war film with a huge budget ($150M approx) and Christopher Nolan directing (Interstellar, The Dark Knight Trilogy)… This is a sure fire hit right? I certainly thought so as I sat nestled down into my chair. It opens in the town of Dunkirk, bullets zipping by your head as a young soilder makes a run for it to the beaches. As he arrives there the shot opens up and you’re on the battleground in which most of the film takes place. Its instant and exhilarating and wastes no time at all in throwing you into the action.
The first thing you realise is it’s sense of scale, Huge sweeping shots from the air featuring thousands of extras, all huddled together on the beaches of Dunkirk. They are truly mesmerizing! The cinematography here is some of the most breathtaking I’ve ever witnessed, the quality of the special effects and the director’s technical prowess is something to behold.
The story is split into 3 parts, each following a different soilder. Land, Air and Sea. Tom Hardy’s air battles were some of the best I’ve ever seen (Top Gun 2 take note!) However Tom’s acting prowess is completely wasted hidden under a mask, unavoidable considering his role.
The sea battles are visually striking and, at times, insanely tense, with a real feel of claustrophobia kicking in at times as you go down with the ships.
If I was to review this film purely based on visuals and overall excitement it would be at least a 7 out of 5, however it’s the other elements of the film which causes huge holes in this ships hull.
While the subject matter of Dunkirk is fascinating, the film lacks emotional firepower due to the absence of a strongly written protagonist. This is especially odd considering Nolan usually excels in complex character work. Focusing on these three overarching stories the film is spread too thin, with few characters getting enough screen time to develop even the mildest emotional connection. I couldn’t name a single character in this film and at times I wasn’t even sure who I was looking at in some of the more chaotic moments. Cillian Murphy is criminally unutilised here, Tom Hardy is wasted under a mask for the majority of his role and Harry Styles (of One Direction fame) is on screen for so little time you simply just dont care for him or the mute soilder with him.
Nolan also, for some unfathomable reason, jumps from one soilders perspective to another, it took me quite a while to realise that these stories were not in sync, and that I was looking at several different time frames. The unnecessary complexity annoyed me somewhat, however the thought that Nolan was doing this for a big pay off in the end kept me intrigued. As it turns out there wasn’t any reason for it and the time frame confusion existed for no reason what-so-ever. Cheers Nol!
Comparisons to Spielbergs SAVING PRIVATE RYAN are unavoidable, and from a cinematography point of view they are very similar indeed, however there is no doubt that the 12a (PG-13) age rating DUNKIRK holds, damages the gritty realism that Spielbergs classic shocked us with back in 1998. There is very little blood, no body parts, no visual extremety and this undoubtly weakens the emotional impact an awful lot.
Much of the film plays out without much dialogue, leaning on just the score and sound design in most scenes. It’s here that Hans Zimmer delivers an incredible score, building up tension beautifully. The sound design is also nigh on perfect, The sound of the spitfire engines as they are sore past you, the drone of gunfire, and the meatiness of the explosions all immerse you into these powerful wartime action scenes which truly are some of the best ever created.
It is, without a shadow of a doubt, a beautiful film, masterfully shot with an incredible score. However with too many characters and too little time to develop them the film is left feeling a little eempty and emotionless. If the English channel was a shallow as this film then the soldiers could have waded home.
HOWEVER even though the critic inside of me sees all of it’s flaws, I still absolutely adored this film and cannot wait to see it again. Maybe its my love of War films, Maybe it’s the films shear beauty. It’s one of the hardest movies I’ve ever reviewed for that reason… but in the end my overall enjoyment beat out the critic in me. If fact ignore this review, go see it and decide for yourself. Why did you read this? I dunno! Just go!
Please be sure to let me know your thoughts!