The Three Reviews: Dunkirk (2017 Christopher Nolan)

‘…full historical disclosure be damned…’

The mastermind behind Memento and those latter day Batman movies, Christopher Nolan, takes on his first significant British-centred film (it’s his country of birth after all) and there is an inescapable tinge, or should I say cringe, of Union Jack waving at work here – very inappropriate timing one must say. Essentially he has offered us the British version of Saving Private Ryan, except instead of Tom Hanks coming to Matt Damon’s rescue, we have several British small boat owners helping evacuate the Allied army off the French coast. Yes, some of this actually did happen but full historical disclosure be damned, says Nolan. In his increasing descent into full-Spielberg, the focus is not on history so much as it is on the viewer’s experience. This is what it is all about these days you see – 4K, IMAX, ‘video game feel’ and what have you! It certainly is a bombastic experience (pun intended) and yes, it is extremely intense, deeply gripping and beautifully shot at times. Alas, it is no modern masterpiece. In fact it barely registers on the Dram-O-Meter, if such a thing were to exist. The stories behind many of the characters are baseless. And at the end of the day, it is just another war movie. We have seen it all before. Instead of the super-cool Steve McQueen and his motorbike, now we have the sullen and inaudible Tom Hardy flying a non-propelled plane through the sky. Good on him. Having said all that, Dunkirk is a film that feels and looks a whole lot better than quite a substantial amount of other shite these days. On this basis, I would recommend it.
Reviewed by JJ McDermott – Rated 3.5/5

22

‘…they really needn’t have bothered…’

To continue the trend of minimalist war movies which Christopher Nolan has begun with Dunkirk: Imagine a movie where four men meet in a bleak, windswept field. Two are French and the other two are a Belgian and an Englishman. They fight. There is almost no dialogue. The two Frenchmen initially overcome their opponents but ultimately lose because a German guy walks in from off camera near the end of the movie and punches one of the French guys in the side of the head. The movie is called Waterloo (1970 Sergei Bondarchuk). Unfortunately, Dunkirk is a movie that is so minimalist that they really needn’t have bothered. With very little character development, very little dialogue and very little story there is very little left for the audience except the visuals. Unfortunately, the visuals are bleak and often devoid of movement. The soundtrack is intrusive and uncomfortable to hear. This is an unpleasant viewing experience which, although inventively shot, will stay with the viewer for all the wrong reasons. Not historically accurate enough to be informative or enjoyable enough to be entertaining Dunkirk is a movie to watch once, just to say you were there. Watch the 1958 version instead.
Reviewed by Alan Matthews – Rated 2/5

Bodega Bay

‘…remarkable score and superb sound effects…’

This is a photo-magnificent homage to the legend (or myth) of Dunkirk; those ordinary soldiers and brave civilians who came to rescue them from the northern shores of France in 1940. The film follows a series of vignettes of individuals – soldiers and civilians – at Dunkirk. Beautifully photographed, with a sterling crew of actors, the film is paced with tension by use of a remarkable score and superb sound effects. War is loud, and the tension is great. Indeed, the scenes develop in orchestral-like (Beethoven’s Ninth comes to mind) climax.  Is it a masterpiece of film making? Hmmm … nah. But it is a worthy cinematic tribute (with touches of propaganda) to those thousands of unnamed people at a pivotal event whose collective self-sacrifice helped change the course of the war.
Reviewed by Robin Stevens Rated 3.5/5

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