After Reflecting for a bit, here is why you need to see Dunkirk

It’s not easy to make an epic war movie…making a good is even harder.  In the last twenty years,  only one director has accomplished that, Steven Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan.  But Christopher Nolan has matched that feat with Dunkirk.  Now, I won’t go as far as to say that it’s a perfect film…to do that is the rarest of rare.   However, Dunkirk is a film masterpiece that’s  beautifully shot, and one of the must see movies of 2017.

Dunkirk is not a typical war film where you have heroes do extraordinary things in battle.  This is a war movie about survival and just like the blind man in the film tells the British Soldiers as he’s passing out food, “You’re heroes because you survived.” Dunkirk is about the Allied Evacuation of ground troops from France in 1940 when the German Army had them surrounded.  By a stroke of luck British and French troops were able to escape France after German Field Marshals halted their advance to consolidate forces in order to stop an Allied breakout in the Battle of France.  This gave the Allied force enough time to escape and build a defense line.  The Movie Dunkirk centers on the evacuation all that soldiers went through in the face of impending capture and defeat while trying to escape. It also focuses the call to duty by British citizens with boats to cross the English Channel and help rescue allied troops.


The best part of the movie is the cinematography and much like  a John Ford film, the wide open landscape acts as a third character.  For Dunkirk it’s a beach of isolation and the open waters of the English Channel where nothing is safe from the German Army. The wide open shots lend to the perspective of desolation that the soldiers fell in the hopes of being rescued.  There is not much character development because you don’t have time to get to know the characters and their individual stories.  All the soldiers are in the same boat, no pun intended, trying to survive and waiting to be rescued.  About the only character development really comes from the father and his son and son’s friend who race across the channel to rescue the soldiers.  Oscar Winner, Mark Rylance is brilliant as the father and is what helps make the story work, especially his explanation of duty to his son on why they must take their pleasure boat to France and aid in the rescue of Allied Forces.  Tom Hardy is also very good in the film as a British pilot and his flying scene are some of the best shots.

What doesn’t work in the movie is the score,  which is unusual for a Christopher Nolan movie and for Hans Zimmer.  Normally Hans Zimmer writes a beautiful score, but for most of the movie, it doesn’t feel like a traditional score, it’s this very grinding and eerie music that is supposed to represent the desolation of Allied Forces. While experimental music can good sometimes, it doesn’t work for Dunkirk.  Only in the last quarter of the movie do we get a beautiful score that truly represents the greatness of the movie.  This is one of my chief complaints about the movie.  The other issue Dunkirk suffers from,  is the non-linear story and all the jumping back in forth in the timeline just to tell some of the individual storylines.  It’s an interesting method,  but gets annoying after a while.  While it doesn’t take away from the film to where one couldn’t enjoy it, I do think the story would have been much better if it was more linear.

Overall, Dunkirk is a great movie and one of the best war movies in the last twenty years.  All the performances are great.  Kenneth Branagh has some of the best lines in Dunkirk as the Admiral who refuses to leave until the last man is out of France.  The story is not about winning battles, but soldiers coming together to survive and given the way the films was shot through a wide scope this makes it a beautiful story.  It gets to the realness of war, especially when all hope is lost.  Christopher Nolan may not tell the most happiest of stories, but it’s a true story and doesn’t give some Hollywood version of war…certainly not some propaganda film about war. If nothing else, this  is why you should see Dunkirk and hopefully you will see the masterpiece within the film. If you see it, then see it on the Big Screen and you won’t be disappointed.



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