Seen 20th July
Christopher Nolan has one of the best track records in film. The man knows how to put together a movie better than most. When he does blockbusters they bust every block around, when he want’s to go cerebral and produce a weird dream movie then he makes the most elegant dream movie ever. He’s a fantastic film maker… usually.
The story of Dunkirk revolves around the battle of Dunkirk and specifically around 3 groups of people. The first is a small battalion of Englishmen trying desperately to get on a boat back home, the second is a pair of gunner pilots who are trying to get to Dunkirk so they can fight off the bomber planes that keep sinking ships and the third is a small boat with 3 civilians trying to get to Dunkirk and help the army get back home. The third story out of those is the one that’s the most interesting, it has the best character dynamics and the most at stake since those civilians didn’t sign up to enter a war zone, they just heard the call for boats and took it upon themselves to go out and help. If the film had stuck with them I’d be happier because they had the most interesting stuff. They have a shell-shocked soldier turn up on the ship and had to deal with him. They had to try and pull a bunch of men out of an oil slick that’d formed just after another boat sank. They had to use the captains knowledge of his boat to avoid being gunned down by a passing plane. They were the interesting ones, the other two stories just felt like every other war movie.
Casting in this movie is genuinely good, everyone feels like they belong. Yes, that includes Harry Styles who could’ve just felt like a cheap cameo but he turns out to be one of the few soldiers you end up really caring about just on the strength of his personality. Other than him, Cillian Murphy (As the shell-shocked soldier), Tom Hardy (As one of the pilots) and Kenneth Branagh (As one of the head officers) everyone else feels like they’re newbies, or at least not well-known actors so they just sink into these characters. They have to do a lot with just their expressions since they very rarely have any dialogue which is an interesting choice, though it does mean that after a while you end up not bothering to learn characters names. I know nothing of these characters other than they’re soldiers trying to escape. I know about the guys on the boat, it’s a father and son and another boy who is possibly the sons best friend. Those guys I knew about, I cared about them getting home. The soldiers… I mean yeah, it’d be nice, but they’re cannon fodder.
Visually the movie is up to Nolan’s high standards with some gorgeous shots from the aeroplanes or some truly special explosion sequences that really create some tense moments. He does slip a little though, one continuity error involving the guys on the boat was something I could pass off but the ending is just a bad editing choice. There’s a cut to black after the ‘final shot’ during a big speech, then smash cut to 3 seconds of someone’s reaction shot, then harsh cut to black. It’s a bad choice and just felt so wrong. A rookie mistake that Nolan of all people shouldn’t be making. On top of that whenever we had scenes that were meant to be taking place in dark rooms, it’s just a black screen. There’s nothing interesting about them and I know Nolan could’ve come up with something.
Overall the movie is good, but it suffers from trying to tell three stories when exactly one of them is actually interesting and new. It suffers from not utilising it’s cast and by silly editing errors that Nolan is above by now. It’s still something you should go see, it’s a spectacle and a really good film. It’s just sad that it’s nowhere near the greatness that we know this director is able to achieve.