a DUNKIRK musing

Not concerned with creating a great narrative this time around, Christopher Nolan brings another impressive piece of cinema with DUNKIRK. Following the events of the Dunkirk evacuation of British and French soldiers, the movie is split up into three perspectives: land, sea and air. Each of the plots is engaging and anchored by solid performances, most of which don’t have much dialogue to work with. The beauty of DUNKIRK is the achievement in filmmaking and plot structure, while not having to rely on a Oscar-caliber role.

“The Mole” involves two soldiers trying to escape Dunkirk via boat and their subsequent attempts. Their timeline takes place over a week, while “The Sea” follows a few civilians traveling across the Channel to help with the evacuation over a day. In the course of one hour “The Air” takes to the skies with three British Spitfire pilots. These three plots are all interwoven, and since they don’t take place simultaneously, it’s a bit disconcerting. It took some time to get used to, but once the climax came along, all the threads came together beautifully.

Seeing DUNKIRK in IMAX 70mm was the best and only way to see this movie. It makes full use of the large screen format, presenting beautiful images and sprawling shots of beaches and open ocean to place you into each scene. Sound is used to really put you into their shoes, as the score ramps up that ever-present ticking clock. All aspects of the filmmaking contribute to the claustrophobia and uncomfortable tension built up in each of the respective stories.

Christopher Nolan doesn’t give you much context and drops you onto the shores of Dunkirk from the opening frames. That lack of context leads to lack of character, but that frankly isn’t really needed, since the audience is just rooting for these people to get past these obstacles and get home. Some moments do become a little cheesy, which could be okay but doesn’t feel earned, mainly because we don’t get to know these characters (other than the occasional exposition dump from Kenneth Branagh). Barring those minor annoyances, DUNKIRK is an incredibly tense, ambitious and brave.


(Refer to my rating system HERE!)