Thursday, July 27, 2017

A Review You Can Use: Dunkirk





I don't generally give up the point of the review in the first sentence, but if you read nothing else regarding my opinion of Dunkirk, read this:  See it. See it. See it.

There, now you can move on with your day, or keep reading to know why I'm so excited about this film.

If the first twenty minutes of "Saving Private Ryan" and the nearly last forty minutes of "Titanic" had a baby, it would be this film.  And coming from me, that's high praise since I hold both films up in very, very high esteem.

There is no respite from the tension, not from minute one.  The music, provided by the genius Hans Zimmer (Gladiator), is a constant ticking of time, the underlying clock that drives every second of the movie.  Overall, the sound on this film is spectacular, sharp, alarming, and surprising.  This is NOT a film for small children, simply from the standpoint of the sound.  Someone brought a four year old to the movie last night (it's rated PG-13) and the kid didn't last long. Every sound battle sound is highlighted and not to be ignored. You very nearly feel each bullet.

While the sounds of battle are in the fore, the dialogue gets a tiny bit lost. But it's okay. There is very little in the way of dialogue, which might be a good thing for American audiences because the accents of the UK are sometimes a little difficult to sort out and the film moves too fast for some of the lines to fully register in the brain.  (I suggest you see this movie more than once.)

It takes a little time to realize, even if you're prepared for it, that the story is told from several viewpoints and not in a traditional linear timeline.  We see the battle as it unfolds for each of the four main views of the story: Tom Hardy, the fighter pilot, Kenneth Branagh, the commander on the dock, Mark Rylance, the private boat owner just trying to help, and Fionn Whitehead, a British soldier risking everything to get himself and his friends home.  Their stories wind in and out of each other's and are presented in a fresh way that keeps the audience from tuning out.

I saw this in 70 MM film, and if you have the chance, see it this way, because the extra flicker of the film just makes the experience that much better.  If you can't, then shoot for Imax or Ultra Screen. This is one of those rare films worth the extra cash to see it on the biggest screen you possibly can find.

While the battle scenes are loud,  director Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight), uses a light hand on the blood and gore factor.  Mindful of the pg-13 rating, the film hearkens back to a time when we didn't need bloody water and severed limbs to get a point across.  That's not to say there aren't disturbing images, there are.  But it's the human emotion and overall aura of tension pushes forward and carries the film.

"Dunkirk" gives US audiences a piece of history we are not all that familiar with...because America wasn't involved in World War II in May of 1940.  But it's a landmark moment in the world. Christopher Nolan and a cast full of British heavy hitters and surprising new comers do beautiful job of honoring the hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians touched by the battle and the evacuation.

See it.