Dunkirk (2017)

Synopsis: Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

For more info and to watch the trailer, click here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5013056/

Who chose it: Brent

Why I chose it: Christopher Nolan wrote and directed it… and Tom Hardy is in it, so…


Brent’s Review:

Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” is the most visceral war film I have seen since “Saving Private Ryan”.

“Dunkirk” recounts a week-long “battle” in which German forces pushed British and French soldiers to Dunkirk beach, which is so close to the cliffs of Dover that 12 ferry rides per day are held between the two locations in 2017. “You can almost see [home],” one of the captains says early in the film. Escape is the goal, but it isn’t simple: tanks block the way back into France, U-boats patrol the sea, and the German air force are blowing up any ships that they can. Time is running out.

The narrative in this film is constructed ingeniously. The story is told across three individual stories, each with a different location (land, sea, and air) and each with a differing time interval (the longest section is one week; the shortest is one hour). Much of the film’s suspense is generated by the ways in which these storylines interface with one another.

It seems clear to me that Hans Zimmer’s score will receive an Academy Award given that 90% of the suspense is derived from his endless crescendos, atmospheric soundscapes, and that ticking clock that twists the screws tighter with each passing click. Zimmer, whose foghorns in “Inception” were so famously copied for years after its release, has created yet another memorable score.

My gut tells me that Nolan will get his due with “Dunkirk”, by which I mean that he will receive his first Academy Award nomination for the category of Best Director (my brain, however, tells me he will not win). “Dunkirk” is certainly an early favorite for Best Picture accolades, along with sure nominations for cinematography, editing, and sound design.

One criticism I’ve heard of the film is that the characters are too static and that there isn’t enough development for each character to feel like a film worthy of such high praise. For me, this criticism misses the point: Nolan wasn’t trying to create a story with dynamic characters, he was trying to put you on the beach. He succeeded.

Leah and I had the great fortune of seeing this film in 70mm at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, OH (my new favorite theater). There were over 100 people watching the film with us, each of us having shelled out more than double the normal price of admission to see the film the way Nolan intended. The gunshots that ring out in the film’s first minutes were deafening. Everyone was instantly glued to the screen. I could feel people around me tensing up as Nolan crafted sequences so spellbinding that breathing sometimes took effort.

After being disappointed with “Interstellar”, I had some reservations about “Dunkirk”. My reservations melted away near the end of the first act when I realized Nolan had crafted something wholly different from his last outing. He was in control of this film from the word go.

See “Dunkirk”, in 70mm if you’re able.

Leah’s Review:

I’m not typically a fan of war-movies. And as I’ve previously mentioned, history is not something I find enjoyable- but I do love a good biopic. When I found out Christopher Nolan was directing a movie about World War II, I was intrigued. Nolan has made some amazing films that I’ve watched and enjoyed (the most recent Batman trilogy, “Inception”, and “The Prestige” to name a few). I was interested to see how Nolan would take a nonfictional event and put his spin on it.

First off, I must mention that we saw “Dunkirk” in 70mm. “Dunkirk” was shot in 70mm and was meant to be viewed in this format. There are only a handful of theatres in the country showing the film in 70mm, but we were able to find a screening of it at an amazing independent non-profit theatre in Columbus. I will say that this really enhanced the viewing experience. It gives the movie a sense of authenticity as well as volume- it’s a “big” story and deserves to be seen up close and personal.

There are many war movies that I’ve not seen (notably “Saving Private Ryan”), but I think “Dunkirk” is one of the most authentic depictions of war that has been put to film. Nolan doesn’t shy away from the gruesome, gut-wrenching, and intense aspects of the battle of Dunkirk. One aspect that made this film feel real was that, as an audience member, you’re essentially dropped into the thick of things. There’s a brief introduction that gives the viewer some context of what is happening, but otherwise- it’s a pretty jarring beginning (which really sets the tone for the rest of the film).

If I could choose one word to describe “Dunkirk”, it would be urgency. British and French troops have a limited amount of time to escape the beaches of Dunkirk- and not much protection to do so safely. There are three separate but connected storylines going on- and each has a force driving its characters to accomplish the task at hand. Staying alive is key. Combined with Hans Zimmer’s subtle, yet masterful score (featuring a ticking pocket watch throughout)- we’re kept on the edge of our seats for the majority of the film.

Nolan chose to cast mostly unknown actors for “Dunkirk” (with the exception of Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy). This really allows the viewer to focus on the performances themselves. The film doesn’t rely so much on dialogue as it does the action. Again, this makes “Dunkirk” a very authentic sort of experience- as a viewer, you feel like you are experiencing the battle with the characters.

I was very impressed with what Nolan was able to create in “Dunkirk”: A war movie that doesn’t feel overdone, characters you root and feel for even though their lines may be limited, an ending that is inspiring without feeling cheesy, and an authenticity that very few historical films can pull off. Even if you’re not a history buff, go see “Dunkirk”.


Up next: We’re visiting the desert with Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, and Alec Guiness in “Lawrence of Arabia”. 

Peace out, kids.

 

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