Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk Review!

Look who's ahead of the curve and is reviewing current films rather than films from 1992!  ME!

That's because it's Day One of Christopher Nolan Week and I went to see his brand new film, Dunkirk.

Before I get into describing this newest film, here's a quick lineup for the week--I hope you participate!
  1. Dunkirk Trailer Reviews and Expectations/Dunkirk Review
  2. Following (1998)
  3. Memento (2000)
  4. Insomnia (2002)
  5. The Prestige (2006) 
  6. The Dark Knight Trilogy
  7. The Dark Knight Trilogy Pt. II
  8. Interstellar (2014)/Inception (2010)
  9. Happy Birthday and Recap

Without further ado...

Dunkirk Expectations

I was really concerned about Dunkirk after hearing that it had so much action and so little dialogue and few main characters.

For me, a movie is engaging mainly when there are compelling characters I love--that's why Inception for example is a film that really captivated me.  The complex dream sequences and action scenes were one thing and they were good, but I mainly enjoyed the movie because of all the background you got on Cobb and his wife and their family's story.  That's what keeps a movie grounded.

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I also worried that this film would be a lot of action and not much substance--I mean just a recount of a historical event without any sort of message or lesson to be gleaned from it.  I didn't just want a film that was a play-by-play of what historically happened at Dunkirk.  Seeing the history is one thing, but I really wanted to have some food for thought: a new perspective, idea or theme that could be taken away as I left the theater.

I listened to Hans Zimmer's piece Supermarine for the movie, and I have to confess something.



I loved Hans Zimmer's compositions for Inception and the Dark Knight Trilogy, and Interstellar also had some beautiful pieces, but recently he has focused it seems on trying to do almost sound-effects in his scores rather than chords, notes or real instruments.

Supermarine was a lot of wrist-watch ticking and some chording, but I long for some sort of melody like you would get in something by John Williams and Howard Shore (though perhaps not as classical-ly musical, but still with some sort of hummable tune).

I was worried that Hans Zimmer was getting a little too abstract with his music and wanted him to get some little motifs throughout the story that could develop throughout the film.

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On a positive note, I was definitely expecting Nolan to deliver on his promise of practical effects rather than CGI and I basically took for granted that the film would be visually stunning as his always are.

My dad brought up Dunkirk unprovoked and probably with no knowledge that I was going to see it, and said that he had read about it and heard that it was being hailed as the greatest war movie of all time and it was going to be up for all sorts of Academy Awards.

This hyped me up a bit, but I tried to keep my expectations down as much as possible because I really didn't want to be disappointed.

Chris Stuckmann, my most trusted movie critic, said that he found no major flaws with the movie which further boosted my hopes and simultaneously made me nervous that it wasn't going to live up to everything I wanted it to be.



I finally went into the movie tentatively, expecting an action movie, which I know is not my favorite genre of movie by a long shot.  Still I hoped that Nolan would pull it off.

Dunkirk Review (No Spoilers)


I saw Dunkirk in IMAX with my two friends at 1 pm.  When we entered the theater there were only older people--mostly people fifty years old plus and that was a bit worrisome--I honestly thought there would be more people in the theater in general since this movie was such a big deal (to me, at least).

I kept urging my friends through the line because they were going slow, but they insisted we wouldn't be late.  I wanted to see the previews though, and of course we did end up being a few minutes late and walked in just as the end card for The Last Jedi appeared which was disappointing for me.

We saw the preview for the new Justice League movie and can I just say that Ben Affleck may be alright, but he is #notmybatman.

Apparently there is a movie with Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford coming out?   I didn't catch the title but that was interesting.  I know way more actors by name and can recognize them more than I used to be able to and it's actually super distracting when trying to settle in to a film.

The film started really abruptly--the lights dimmed, two logos popped up and bam!  You were in the film.

It started off on a very quiet note with soldiers walking around what looked to be a deserted street but the viewer was quickly jerked into the urgency of the situation by a couple of super loud gunshots.

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Can I just pause here and say: if you are going to see this in theaters, consider bringing ear plugs.  I'm serious.  Where we were, it was so ridiculously loud that it was actually painful to watch (I guess it immersed me more into the warlike experience) but it was distracting and took away from the movie.

It became readily apparent that the goal of the film was to make you feel like you yourself were in a war, from the loud volume to the soundtrack that mimicked a racing heartbeat and lingering shots on a character running and being tired.  For this reason, you should see this movie in theaters and not wait to see it on home video because it won't be the same immersive experience at home.

This film has very little dialogue as you've probably heard.  In some ways this might have been a good thing because I had a hard time understanding what the characters were saying, but then again I personally do in any movie and always use closed captioning to hang onto every specific word.

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Every action sequence, particularly the plane sequences looked very real and I was never distracted by trying to figure out if something was CGI or practical--I still have no idea, that's how seamlessly everything blended.

There were some very obvious expositional conversations had among characters and Nolan has never been known to be subtle with exposition (*cough cough* Inception) but it didn't last long and after that obvious conversation the movie turned back to the action.

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It quickly became clear that Nolan was going to split his movie characteristically into three sections that would intertwine among each other as he has done in the past.  The movie covered three aspects of the evacuation: the air, sea, and land which each had very different experiences.  Not only that, but the film also focused on three types of people involved: the broken soldier (Cillian Murphy's shell-shocked character), the breaking soldier (Fionn Whitehead), and the civilian about to be exposed to war (the character called George).

Now this movie is not historical fiction, in my opinion.  It's basically just live-action history as I sort of suspected before it started.  There are no subplots or inner workings of characters interwoven, which some people may like, some people may not.  My mom said she thought that was a good idea because as a historian herself, little specific subplots in historical films often come across as cheesy or bother her.  I sort of wanted something to latch onto and root for in the movie, but that's subjective.

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In some ways, the choice to not have clear main characters was a good one.  In movies where you have a particular interest in a character, other soldiers dying can seem inconsequential because, well, at least it wasn't the main character.  But in this film, by not focusing on anyone in particular you kind of connect with all the soldiers and feel bad when anyone dies.

Despite Zimmer's seemingly abstract/experimental-sound-effect soundtrack, he was able to tug at the feels at the end by bringing out some strings to swell at the end which I appreciated and placated me rather well at the conclusion.

When I left the theater, I wasn't pondering a deep question like I normally would after a Nolan film.  To me, there didn't seem to be a clear message to the film other than "war sucks" which is valid I suppose, but I was hoping for more of a cerebral theme.  Who knows though, perhaps something will occur to me sometime in the future that connects to this movie.

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One of my favorite quotes from the movie is:

"'The tide's turning.'
'How can you tell?'
'The bodies have come back.'"

I liked this one because for a moment it seems like they are saying things are beginning to look up (the tide is turning) but then you realize they mean it completely literally and it's very somber again.

Alright, so what do I think overall about this movie?

It was extremely well made for one, but that's a given with Nolan.  Lighting, action sequences, and most of the acting was very well done.

It was very much an action-orientated story, and if you're into that then this is the film for you.

As for post-production, the score was what I expected and not very typical movie score.  I understand that's what Zimmer was likely going for, and it personally wasn't my favorite, but it also wasn't bad.

I guess my conclusion is that this movie is objectively good, even great.  Subjectively though, I don't like action so it isn't my favorite of Nolan's films by a long shot.

But you'll have to wait until the last day of Christopher Nolan week to see what my real ranking of all his films is!

You should go see this film because--come on, it's Nolan.  Let me know what you think of Dunkirk and keep coming back for eight more days of Nolan-enjoyment and conversation!!!

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