Movie Review: Dunkirk

Posted August 7th, 2017 by Devin and filed in Review

My brief review of Dunkirk. In short: amazing. The story, told from four tight points of view, are shown in different time sequences. Over the course of the film, you get two people’s story of their time on the beach over the period of a week, one POV where you spend time on a small boat over the course of a day, and finally, one POV from inside the cockpit of a Spitfire that lasts one hour. The three timelines are cleverly cut together, and while it took me a couple of scene changes to figure out what they were doing, in the end it works brilliantly.

The cinematography and sound are beautiful. Dialogue is sparse and at times the film seems to go on forever without anyone speaking. Gunfire sounds like it’s coming right at you, the drone of marine diesels and aircraft engines that, meshed with Hans Zimmer’s unceasing soundtrack – literally, the music does not stop for an instant — creates an all-encompassing background dirge. One of my minor quibbles with the film is that I’d have liked to have some moments without the music, but seeing as the film isn’t about respite, even for an instant, it’s fitting as-is.

The acting is first rate. Cillian Murphy is as good as ever. Tom Hardy, as always, owns every scene he’s in, even though here most of his work is done behind an oxygen mask in a Spitfire’s cockpit.

This isn’t a typical war film. The above-mentioned multiple timelines aren’t anything I recall seeing previously in a historical piece. It’s intense and brutal and beautiful. It’s short on the “King and Country” patriotic rhetoric, and long on the desperate individual doing whatever they need to in order to survive. It has poignant moments of people doing terrible things; moments that made me wonder if I wouldn’t have done the same thing in the same situation if it meant my own personal life or death.

Historically speaking, it seems accurate to me, but I honestly haven’t studied much about Dunkirk. Uniforms look correct, the aircraft are close enough. I could tell that at least one of the ships isn’t period accurate, but honestly I didn’t care. Is it an artistic film? Yes. Does the historical aspect of the film suffer due to artistry? Not at all. In fact, it enhances the experience.

I’ve read sharply divided reviews: people love this film or hate it. I’m obviously in the former camp. My recommendation is that if you have ANY interest in seeing it, don’t wait for Blu-ray. See it in the theater, on the biggest screen you can; IMAX is great, 70mm if at all possible. This film isn’t about the overall battle at Dunkirk, it’s about what it was like for a few individuals to experience the little life and death moments that made up the bigger picture. As such, the big screen and accompanying sound gives one a true immersive experience as to what it must have been like to be trying to get off that beach.



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