By: Movie Snurb (A Toast) –
Dunkirk is the true and harrowing tale about the battle/escape of the British troops off of Dunkirk beach during World War II after being pushed back to the waterfront by the Germans. The German tanks stopping coming for the British because they decided it’d be easier to pick them off with the Luftwaffe bombers and fighter planes. Because the water at Dunkirk Beach is so shallow, the destroyers and medical ships couldn’t get close enough to the shore to load troops. The British Navy begins to commission civilian boats to rescue the soldiers. The Navy thought they were only going to get about 30,000 of the 400,000 men off of the beach, however, because of the brave civilian efforts, they rescued nearly 350,000 men.
Christopher Nolan is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. He never shies away from taking monumental risks in storytelling to tell a completely original story, or creative ways to tell his stories. He also uses 21st Century technology to enhance his stories, and Dunkirk is no exception. First the film is told from three different points of view: The Air, The Land, and the Sea. Also, these different points of view are spanning different lengths of time; The Air is in one hour, the Sea is in one day, and the Land in is one week. It was a big risk to go between these points of view as if they are happening at the same time. However, the way Nolan slowly pieces these stories together is like watching puzzle pieces fall into place. We see a dogfight, and then 15 minutes later in the film we sea that dogfight from the point of view of the civilian sailors. In some lesser director’s hands the film would’ve been a jumbled mess, but with Christopher Nolan this becomes an invigorating retelling of a powerful and prideful moment in British history.
Hoyte Van Hoytema does some gorgeous work on this film, just like he did in Interstellar and Her. Each is shot in very different styles and each film has its own beauty. Nolan likes to play with IMAX cameras and has since The Dark Knight in the semi-truck flip scene. Using IMAX cameras allows him to put this film on a grand scale which is what this story needed. It needed to be told in this format to help understand what these men went through to try and just survive. The scenes which we see the IMAX the most are in the Air, communicating the scale of the war and the emptiness that is all around if these men are shot down. Then we are put into the cockpit of the Spitfires during the dogfights, giving us the most authentic experience, just behind VR, of what it would’ve been like to be in that moment. And the scene when we get to be in the cockpit when one of the Spitfires goes down is pulse-pounding.
Not only is the IMAX great for Hoytemas’ photography, but also for the sound. Jesus are those IMAX theaters loud, and this film is justified in having the loud ear-attacking sound. There is no doubt in my mind that this film will be nominated for Sound Mixing and Sound Editing, if only for the moments when the Luftwaffe come screaming down at the poor soldiers to slaughter them like fish in a barrel. That sound is one of the most terrifying sounds I have ever heard and it was just in a movie. I can’t begin to understand hearing that sound in real life and how petrifying that sound would be. Hearing it those few times lets me understand why the Germans engineered their planes to have those screamers on the sides. It is soul crushing for your enemies to hear. It’s moments like these that allow this film to become an immersive white-knuckling experience rather than just watching a film.
Of course you can’t mention the sound design of a film with talking about Hans Zimmer’s occupying score. His score in this film is a constant reminder that time is running out and these men need to get off the beach. There are few moments of silence without score or sounds from the film. One moment is a beautiful moment when a Spitfire runs out of gas and is gliding to earth as all of the men watch. However, Zimmer’s score is engrossing and helps push the film along, while keeping the films intensity at a firm 11. Nolan and Zimmer pairs like a fine wine and cheese. It’s like chocolate and peanut butter, and I wouldn’t want any other composer for Nolan’s films.
This is Nolans’s tightest film at a brisk 106 minutes. The film is a pure cut of meat with no extra fat on it. Not only is the film his shortest since Following, but there is hardly any dialogue to be heard in it. Tom Hardy has more of the lines and they are delivered through another mask as he fights off the Luftwaffe. However, the story doesn’t need a lot of dialogue to push the story, we know what is happening and what needs to be done. The story is in the action, not the talking. The actors all do a brilliant job with their parts even with the minimal dialogue, especially newcomers Fionn Whithead and One Direction’s Harry Styles. I don’t doubt they both could have strong careers ahead of them.
This is also Nolan’s most personal film yet. Interstellar was about love and how it is unquantifiable and it is the most powerful thing in existence, over time and space. However, this is a film that hits very close to home with Nolan. Dunkirk is a moment of great pride for Britain. This is not just an immersive action film but it is also a deeply affecting story. There are several moments that will tug at your heart strings and move you to your core.
Dunkirk is why we go to the movies, even when we have so many options to stay home and watch movies from the comfort of our own home. Nolan still believes in seeing films on the big screen and Dunkirk makes a strong case for why we should still go to the theater. Dunkirk is one of the most intense, and literally white-knuckling (my fingers hurt from clinching my fists) films I have ever seen. I believe this film will lead the Oscar race with a truckload of nominations and might just earn Nolan his first directing nomination and hopefully, and deservedly, win.
P.S. To the guy next to me scrolling on his phone during the intense battle scenes. If you can’t be pulled away from your phone during the most gripping film in a long-time then you shouldn’t go to the movies.
Dunkirk (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time the Luftwaffe come screaming down.
Do a Shot: before the film to calm your nerves.
Take a Drink: for every time Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead speak.
Do a Shot: for every Luftwaffe fighter that goes down.
Finish your Beer: for all the men who lost their lives trying to just survive.