Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s last effort released last year that I finally saw last weekend. Considering the film is lauded for its visuals and sound design over its story, it was interesting to see how this film hit for me as someone who really appreciates the art of filmmaking but feel story should always come first.
The first thing to notice about Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan goes for an original way to tell the story. Whilst the actual plot isn’t particularly engaging on its own, the way its shot is the main reason you’re engaged as you try to put everything together ahead of the film revealing it to you. It could be considered a bit of a spoiler, but the film essentially has three situations happening at different times that all come together towards the end of the film. This method of storytelling is certainly different, but I’m not entirely sure its effective.
Unlike in Nolan’s film Memento, a film which also tells a story using multiple timelines, I felt in Dunkirk it was more of a gimmick for gimmicks sake. Christopher Nolan is an innovator, and every time he makes a movie he has to do something out of the ordinary. Normally the twists or quirks of his movies are compelling but in this one it just didn’t seem to add anything.
Once you figure out what’s happening with the plot, Dunkirk tells part of the story of the historical event which saw thousands of soldiers rescued in the second world war. It’s a pivotal event and the film does do a good job of looking and sounding very realistic. Gunshots, explosives and crashes sound incredible, and I can imagine in a cinema it would be mind-blowing. The dogfighting Spitfire’s are pretty spectacular, but in a more real way. Things don’t explode into a thousand pieces like in some films, but more realistically engines are shot apart, and that failure causes the planes to head towards earth.
The films unusual structure means its hard to really pin down who is the lead character, but id say the 3 most obvious leads are Tom Hardy as a Spitfire pilot, along with Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles as two soldiers awaiting their rescue at Dunkirk. Mark Rylance leads the story on the boat, but I found the ship based elements the least engaging. Nobody is bad in the film, as you would expect from a Nolan film, every actor gives a good performance, including One Direction star Harry Styles. He genuinely surprised me in the film and I’m interested to see what is next in his acting career. He shows in this film a good range of acting, and its intriguing to see an actor transition from another entertainment industry and go for a more dramatic serious role to start with.
Dunkirk is an incredibly well made, beautifully shot movie, with some spectacular visuals. However the novelty of its story telling technique wore off pretty quickly, and I think seeing this film cut into a more standard edit would possibly make the film a little more interesting. Nolan doesn’t necessarily stumble with this movie, but considering how he normally amazes with his movies, this one was a little bit disappointing. When it comes to Christopher Nolan’s catalogue of films, Dunkirk is not quite as awe-inspiring as his other attempts. Compare it to any other filmmakers however, and it is still a very good film, but it’s hard to lose that feeling of wanting more from one of the most talents guys in the business.
Good: The pre filmmaking skill on show is astounding, from Cinematography, to sound mixing, to the wardrobe, it’s all executed brilliantly.
Bad: The time jumping nature of the film feels unnecessary, and only served to hinder my enjoyment, as you could see what was coming before it happened hence losing some of the mystery behind the film.
7/10 – Nolan makes just a good film for once, rather than an excellent one.