Sep-19-2017

Reel Snippet – Dunkirk

Summary: Dunkirk, France was the site of a historical event of human triumph, where civilian boats from England helped evacuate British soldiers under danger of Nazi attacks. Here, we focus on three stories of the event: the story of a soldier named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) desperate to get off the shore to safety; the plight of a civilian boat crewed by Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and a city boy named George (Barry Keoghan) heading to the rescue and picking up a shell-shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) along the way; and the tale of an RAF fighter pilot named Farrier (Tom Hardy) and his wing mates giving air support. Land, air, and sea are all harrowing battlefields and it will take every fiber of all their beings to come out the other side.

Review: Dunkirk is a great movie, if a bit slow at times. It captures the gritty realism of war in a way that gives living until tomorrow a real feeling of triumph. And I don’t mean the immature view of gritty realism that adds gratuitous violence and “adult” themes to appeal to a broader crowd. I mean gritty realism where you actually feel the struggles of war taking their tolls on the characters’ minds, bodies, and souls. In short, it’s all of what Christopher Nolan excels at.

Of the film’s many quirks and tricks, one of them is that the three stories are out of synch with each other in the narrative’s timeline, also of which span different periods of time. It took me a bit to figure out what they were doing, but once I did, I could really appreciate the different interlaced threads that carried over from one another. Some might call it gimmicky, but honestly it’s just nice to see a gimmick that works with the story rather than distracts from it.

Another clever trick is that you never see the Nazis (apart from one quick scene at the end, but that’s beside the point). Sure, you see and hear their gunfire, planes, and submarine implements, but no people or faces. This is great because it makes them feel more like an unbeatable force that our heroes need to escape rather than defeat. Giving a face to something feared humanizes the threat and opens up the possibility of killing or reasoning with it. But here, the dread is real and very present, thus giving us a high tension escape where anyone can die.

The acting is simply superb, bringing in British juggernauts like Kenneth Branagh or James D’arcy (Edwin Jarvis from Agent Carter), Cillian Murphy representing Ireland in this British bouillabaisse. Oh yeah, and Harry Styles from One Direction’s in this too. There was a big hullabaloo about this, but he’s honestly one of the best actors in the movie and it wasn’t distracting at all for me. It’s the same deal as when Ed Sheeran cameoed in Game of Thrones: he was fine, so why make a big deal about it?

My only complaint would be that it was kind of hard to tell the soldiers in the beach story apart. There were too many generic white dudes and I wasn’t sure who had survived in the end, with a few exceptions. Really, though, it’s a return to form for Christopher Nolan, who’s had a questionable string of movies recently. It doesn’t reach the level of, say, The Dark Knight, Inception, or Memento, but it’s still a strong entry in a great filmography.

But seriously, why does Tom Hardy always have to act with something covering his face?

Fun Tidbit: Oh, but it wouldn’t be a Christopher Nolan film if Michael Caine wasn’t in it. Though you won’t find his name in the credits, he provides the voice of Fortis Leader, who leads Tom Hardy’s Spitfire squadron in the film.


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