Movie Title: Dunkirk
First Watch / Repeat Viewing
Running Time: 1 hr. and 46 min.
Who did I watch with?: Flying Solo
Where did I watch it?: Home
Before starting my review I have to say that I am predisposed to disliking Christopher Nolan’s movies. Outside of his Batman trilogy, which was excellent, his movies are hit or miss with The Prestige being the only one I would consider to be truly excellent. I have particular disdain for Inception and Interstellar. Inception sacrificed any true excitement to concept. The concept was not particularly complicated or overly compelling. Interstellar was fantastic, until the reveal, which was incredibly disappointing. I was very concerned going into Dunkirk that it would, like these other movies, sacrifice potential excellence, for concept.
The film opens following a platoon of troops through the streets of Dunkirk in search of water. Leaflets are dropped on them indicating they are surrounded and ultimately doomed. As revealed through dialogue later in the movie, roughly 400,000 soldiers are in the city of Dunkirk. British soldiers line up at the sea waiting for rescue, but between the air and naval support of the Germans, as well as Britain’s reluctance to throw much into the rescue effort, hopelessness begins to set in.
We get to learn very little about Tommy, the British soldier encountered with his platoon. Fionn Whitehead does a great job playing the role despite sparse dialogue. After following his initial encounter and reaching the beach where he will wait for rescue the story diverges into three separate segments. Tommy’s segment is called The Mole. At this point the movie introduces a time mechanic with each of three stories taking place over a different, but overlapping period of time. Unlike Nolan’s other movies where the mechanic involved can become gimmicky; the time mechanic really helps to improve the movie and add drama. The Mole segment of the story documents Tommy’s attempts to reach a ship out of Dunkirk and back to England.
The second segment is called The Sea and shows Mr. Dawson, his son Peter, and his son’s friend George being called upon by the British Navy to participate in the rescue. Loaded with life boats they set sail for the French coast. Along the way they pick up an unnamed shell shocked British soldier played by Cillian Murphy who requires the crew to make tactical and later moral choices.
The third segment entitled The Air presents the air combat of a small squadron of planes ordered to provide cover for the retreating ships. Farrier, played by Tom Hardy and Peter, played by Tom Glynn-Carney participate in several dog fights that result in their planes being damaged. Farrier must continually monitor his fuel and Peter has limited control of his steering. Ultimately, they must make decisions about whether or not they will be making it back to Britain.
At roughly the one hour mark the stories begin to congeal and the combination of the stories ramps up the drama. Nolan makes some surprising directorial choices that work out well. A scene showing all the ships that came to Dunkirk to rescue people provides an idea of scale for the extraction. The different time variants instead of being a distraction aids the movie considerably.
Special nod goes to Kenneth Branagh who does an excellent job playing Commander Bolton who is in charge of the rescue efforts. His scenes help provide context for what is happening in the larger scheme of the movie. A nod also goes to Hans Zimmer for moving away from the atonal mess of Inception and Interstellar and truly producing a soundtrack for this movie that is excellent.
Dunkirk is is a visually striking, beautifully shot movie. It has fairly sparse dialogue at times and the moments of action are less bang bang and more drawn out. Ultimately, it is not a war movie, but a drama about the lives of a few men in the context of a large scale military action. That drama is excellent. See it.
Tomorrow’s Movie: Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017)
Time: 16 minutes and 43 seconds
Distance: 1 mile
I ran a mile and walked a mile today, walking one lap, and running the next. I was a little bit slower this time, but it likely has to do with running through snow for part of the route and running carefully on some ice patches for part of the route. On the whole I felt like I ran harder today though it doesn’t show on the time. Feeling good.