Dunkirk (2017)

I love going to the movies. It’s the perfect escape from reality. Some escapades though aren’t always the most enjoyable though.

Saw Dunkirk today. The two hour film was about the evacuation of the Allied forces in Dunkirk, a commune situated in Northern France. It starred Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh. It was directed by Christopher Nolan, who has directed films such as “Interstellar”, “Inception”, and the “Dark Knight” trilogy.

The film started with soldiers walking the abandoned streets, picking up propaganda flyers that fell from the sky. All is silent. Then, out of nowhere, gun shots ring your ears and your heart begins to race. One of the soldiers in that group finds the shooters, stated he was British and heads to the beach where the evacuation was taking place. The film focuses on three plot lines: the soldiers on land heading to sea (“The Mole”), the Spitfire pilots mid-air, and three civilians heading to sea to rescue those evacuating Dunkirk. Each story is on a different timeline. The Mole is on a one week. The civilians are on a one day timeline. The air pilots are on a one hour timeline. Very Nolan-esque if you ask me.

There’s not much talking in the film. The film is dictated by bombs, guns and film score. Nolan tries pretty hard to downplaying their big name cast members. In a movie review given by NPR, David Edelstein insists there was a “running joke directors [insisted] on covering [Tom Hardy’s] great face” (Hardy played one of the Spitfire pilots).

I did not mind the fact there was no gore. Pretty much the only blood you saw were the wounded soldiers on the beach. I applaud the music department as they did a wonderful job adding a deeper level of panic, hope, and suspense to the film. I also applaud Hoyte Van Hoytema, the Director of Photography. The parts where the British pilots spun and dove over the glistening Channel was beautiful. The bombs hitting the boardwalk shook fear inside of the audience.

In terms of the acting, as I said earlier, there isn’t much talking. There is also a lack of representation of the French, Belgian and Dutch soldiers. I counted one main French soldier (Barnard and one Dutch man who was not even a soldier. I didn’t see any Belgians (granted, I was not looking for the Belgians. Sorry Belgians. I was too busy trying to slow my heart down after hearing five bombs go off on a ship full of men).

Kenneth Branagh provided a great performance. Branagh (who I will forever see as the Shakespearean man thanks to a theater class in college) played the selfless Commander Bolton. The downside to Branagh’s performance is the fact the real commander at Dunkirk in 1940 was named Commander James Campbell Clouston. WTF? Why change the name of the hero? In an article on the Daily Beast, Clouston’s family was not at all pleased by the use of a fake name.

Harry Styles. The first time I saw him in the film, he looked out of place. I don’t know if it’s because I have the 1D image of him in my head. Fortunately, he was able to blend in quickly. Was it a grand performance? Branagh was better. Would I like to see him in other films? Sure why not?

If you’re faint-hearted, this film isn’t for you. If you need backstory, you are not going to get it. There isn’t any backstory on the characters. They are men in uniforms, most of them unnamed, retreating from a gruesome battle. Yet, you feel their pain, suffering and willingness to survive at all costs. It’s emotionally and psychologically draining from minute one to the credits. There’s no laughing, only tears. Tears when the civilians fail to reach their goal and tears of joy when the glimmer of hope for the British comes through.

All in all, I’d give it 90%. The score and the cinematography were the best. But if you were to compare it to history and other war movies that have recently been released (i.e. Hacksaw Ridge), then it falls a bit short.

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