There are few directors that inspire such fanaticism and devotion as Christopher Nolan. Fortunately usually his name is worthy of such adulation. In my opinion, he hasn’t come out with a bad movie yet. His latest film, Dunkirk, is an unusual movie but in the end an amazing experience at the movies.
Watching Dunkirk reminded me of the Civil War reenactments that are popular where I grew up. People gather together to recreate a battle and while they have character names the battle is the important thing not the narrative. Likewise Dunkirk is a reenactment of a battle without a narrative to accompany it. I can see how this would annoy some viewers but it is executed so well that it worked.
Nolan splits up Dunkirk into 3 parts- mole, sea, and air. Each of these segments follow different people and are at slightly different timetables. This means you see the same boat sink 3 times, same plane get shot down 3 times etc. However, each time you are seeing it from different perspectives.
There is Harry Styles as a soldier on the ground looking out for a mole in their midst. Then Tom Hardy is in the air trying to take down German planes. And finally Mark Rylance commanding a pleasure boat to be one of the many civilians who aided the trapped soldiers at Dunkirk.
Truth is Dunkirk is an experience more than it is a movie. It works because it is so well made and immersive. You feel like you are on the ground with those troops or on the boat with Mark Rylance. The sound design is so great it can be shocking that it is not real. It makes you want to reach out and help the boys as if they were right beside you. It’s that real.
All the performances are top notch and in pretty much every way it is masterfully made on a technical level. It was an amazing experience to feel war on such a visceral and intimate level.
However, often these experience movies are not the most rewatchable of films. I don’t think every movie needs to be rewatchable but it is something to think about. I don’t think it would have the same impact on the small screen. It wouldn’t be as immersive or real and I might start itching for more character development.
I recommend you go and see Dunkirk in the theaters, in IMAX if possible (the 70mm option wasn’t available for me unfortunately). It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. It’s not a narrative. It’s a reenactment and in that regard it is quite special.
Overall Grade- A-