Three years after Christopher Nolan and his wife, Emma Thomas sailed across the English channel, they bring to us this war drama
DunkirkIt's a good film, but it won't change your life. Nolan fans may be disappointed.
Three years after Christopher Nolan and his wife, Emma Thomas sailed across the English channel, they bring to us this war drama centered around the evacuation at Dunkirk. Just like the battle at Waterloo, the battle at Dunkirk, or more appropriately Dunkerque is etched deep into Britain’s memory. However, unlike most films of war, Dunkirk is not about a triumph, but of a long and laboured loss. The film takes place at a time during World War II, when England was cornered by Axis powers on all fronts, and her soldiers were forced to retreat to the French beaches (Western front).
The Battle of Dunkirk is memorable for many reasons. It reminds us of the time when England was forced to it’s knees and had to resort to begging and prayer in the face of the aggressive Axis powers. It is also a story of a nation’s solidarity towards its troops, who had returned with nothing more than harrowing tales of war and uniforms which were never to be adorned by victory medals.
However, most of us didn’t contemplate buying a ticket because of our intellectual interest in British history. We just wanted to watch Nolan’s brilliance shine on screen once again, after Inception, Interstellar, and the Dark Knight Trilogy. And who can blame us? The man is a genius. Sadly, Dunkirk was not as phenomenal as his previous masterpieces. Why? Read on:
First, let’s meet the actors:
Fionn Whitehead as ‘Take me home’
Aneurin Barnard as ‘Je suis Francais’
Harry Styles as ‘All we did was survive’
Jack Lowden as ‘Come on Farrier’
Barry Keoghan as ‘I’ll be useful’
Tom Hardy as ‘My gauge is hit’
Mark Rylance as ‘Maybe he’s alive’
Tom Glynn-Carney as ‘Look Father’
A film is brilliant because of the careful cohesion of many factors. Realistic cinematography, relevant themes, a meaty script and sharp performances under experienced direction. Chirstopher Nolan and his team are well aware of the concepts of film-making and what makes a movie tick. However, this time they forgot about the audience’s sentiment. Nolan films are famous for their irregular timeline and a shocking twist at the very end. They are famous for being aspirational and fantastical. This time, maybe on a whim to test his versatility, Nolan decided to make a simple, fact based, realistic film. (Boring? Some may say so).
Dunkirk is an evacuation/rescue film (not a war film), told from three different perspectives. The Army, the Navy and the Airforce, or to put it more simply, land, water and air. The film follows the lives of a few soldiers and a few civilians engaged in a doomed rescue process. It shows, very evidently, that war is no one’s friend and is only a fight for survival. Soldiers are not depicted as iron-willed heroes, but shell-shocked and crest-fallen boys. The true enemy is not he who stands behind the lines and shoots, but it is war itself. Traumatised soldiers scurrying to find refuge, having discarded human sensibilities, hoping to reach eutopia, which is a home that they can see, but not reach, is the basis of Dunkirk. (Fascinating? Some would say so)
The issue we see with Dunkirk however, lies not in it’s beautiful cinematography, or it’s accuracy, or even in it’s choice of subject matter, but in it’s script. The script is deficient in more than one way. The characters have not been introduced or developed adequately. Far too much time is spent on the description of the predicament. The side stories have nothing of quality to offer to the main storyline. It’s not haphazard (since Nolan time is now cherished), but it really is poorly written. Realistic cinema need not be scarce in terms of content. Just like a body without a skeleton, a film without a gripping story is bound to appear dysfunctional.
Additionally, the ambiguity of war is attempted to be conveyed through the ambiguity of dialogue in the film. All the actors are given a maximum of five dialogues to work with. The proficiency of acting can be conveyed through expression, but silence is never a feature of war. Hurried chaos and rushes of adrenaline may well be characteristic of war.
Nitpicking aside, Fionn Whitehead and Tom Hardy are brilliant in their performances. They truly did add much more body to the film. Even when Fionn Whitehead is smeared with oil and underwater, he manages to convey the spirit of survival from nothing more but his eyes. Tom Hardy is a well known British favourite, and we wish Fionn Whitehead many more opportunities to perform in the future.
What stands out in the film is the beautiful cinematography, the accuracy and the realism. What doesn’t deserve much mention is the background score (Hans Zimmer disappoints as well), the dry script without a single stimulating moment and the crude editing. Christopher Nolan has tried his hand at a different form of cinema. He has made a good film, but it isn’t necessarily likable. Nolan fans might feel dissatisfied. (We know we did). Dunkirk is similar to an impressionist painting. It’s perfect, but doesn’t necessarily elicit a world of emotion. It’s beautiful but not mind-boggling.
Whether you should buy a ticket this weekend is entirely a personal choice. If you want another interstellar, watch this one on television screens. If you want to be reminded of the futility (not the horrors), of war while sitting in an air conditioned hall, go ahead and buy a ticket. We give it 3.5/5.
You will like this film if: you liked Revenant and Into The Wild
You will dislike this film if: you either went in expecting another Interstellar, or you simply don’t care about Nolan’s cinema
Best performance: Tom Hardy