Movie Review: Dunkirk
PG-13 | 1h 46min
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
by Jason Koenigsberg
A trend in movies is that they keep getting longer and longer. Christopher Nolan, one of the best directors to emerge this century is known for making films with very long run times. However, he ditches that trend with his newest film Dunkirk clocking in at only 106 minutes. He also ditches the trend of shooting strictly on digital with theaters rolling out the biggest release of a motion picture being shot and projected on actual film in glorious 70 mm and 35 mm. Theaters need to actually hire projectionists and make sure they screen the film properly. This is the biggest movie release on celluloid since Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight (2015) and is being shown in far more cinemas than that film was.
The big question, was Christopher Nolan’s efforts all worth it? The answer is a resounding yes! Dunkirk feels like a war film from a previous era the way it is told regarding pacing, violence, and cinematography while simultaneously feeling very much like a movie of 2017 using CGI to enhance the story and not dominate the action.
The opening shot shows Allied soldiers from behind patrolling an abandoned street as papers fall from the sky. Text gets the audience up to speed that these soldiers are awaiting rescue and evading the German army. It is the story of a rescue mission of over 400,000 British and allied troops. Despite Dunkirk being rated PG-13 it did not hinder the intensity of the film. This movie features harrowing wartime action and Hans Zimmer’s score has a sense of urgency and felt more like the music from a horror movie or suspense thriller than a war epic. There is no romanticizing war in this film, especially in regards to the music.
The editing is fast paced, the viewer feels that they are in the action and do not have much time to spare before the next bomb is dropped. The cinematography has deliberately muted colors and an intentional blue tint on the color palette. Emphasizing the bleakness of war and loss of hope and the fact that many of these soldiers may die by drowning in the water they are surrounded by. The sound design of also makes the action seem frantic and very intense. The bombs that are dropped and blow up in Dunkirk sound worse than bombs going off in the usual run-of-the-mill summer blockbuster. Plus the aerial dogfights in this film are some of the best sequences of its kind that audiences have seen in many years.
All of the elements of Dunkirk create a claustrophobic feeling. Even though the characters are outside the whole time, on the beach, on the sea, or in the air, it feels like the walls are always closing in on our characters. In the end Dunkirk is really about the good in our hearts to do the right thing and help our fellow man when it looks as if all hope is lost. When these soldiers face seemingly impossible and insurmountable odds, civilians with no military training risk their lives to save their fellow man. This is a movie Winston Churchill would be very proud of.
Dunkirk is an ensemble piece with relatively unknown actors such as Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden and Barry Keoghan sharing equal screen time with such prolific and award winning actors like Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Hardy. Rylance has the best line in the film when he is questioned why a man of his age should care about saving lives during this war, he states, “Men of my age dictate this war. Why should we let our children fight it?” Later on he is requested to turn his boat around and go back home to England, his response is that if he does turn around, “we won’t have a home to go back to.” Simply put, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk joins Black Hawk Down (2001) and The Hurt Locker (2009) as one of the best war films this century.