Movie Review: Dunkirk

DUNKIRK

There aren’t a lot of directors out there who can get an entire mainstream audience excited to see a movie. Except for maybe Steven Spielberg, James Cameron or even Michael Bay, most directors get lost behind the faces of the actors starring in the movie. Christopher Nolan however, happens to be one of those directors who when his name is seen in a trailer or on a poster entices audiences to line up to see whatever movie he’s putting out.

With hit films such as “Interstellar,” “Inception” and the “Dark Knight Trilogy,” Nolan has definitely made a name for himself among the average movie-goer. That is perhaps why when trailers for his latest work, “Dunkirk,” started to be released, people started to get excited despite not knowing a whole lot about what the movie was really going to be about.

Looking at the past five films Nolan has released, “Dunkirk” is easily his weakest film but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad film, at least not entirely.

In May 1940,  World War II is underway and German troops had advanced into France, trapping 400,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Told from three perspectives, “Dunkirk” tells the story of the rescue mission put into place in order to bring home as many troops as possible while being surrounded by German troops.

On paper, this movie sounds like it’s going to be really exciting to watch with a lot of tense moments to keep us on the edge of our seats. Strangely though, “Dunkirk” is a slightly boring movie with not a lot of exciting moments that audiences may be hoping to see on screen this weekend.

The first three minutes of the movie open up with a rather thrilling scene that right away throws you into the movie and gets you engaged. Once those three minutes are up though, the movie falls into a bland, boring, uneventful film that doesn’t really provide us with anything worth watching. It isn’t until about 30 minutes into the movie that it actually starts to get interesting and we’re given a story to actually watch and care about. Until then though, I found myself yawning quite a bit.

A friend of mine described this movie as Nolan’s worst written script and I’d have to agree. The narrative of the film is completely all over the place and with Nolan trying to tell three different stories at the same time, they don’t really mesh well together. What was harmful to it was that each of the stories take place at different time periods and the end of the movie tries to tie them together. Whatever magic Nolan was hoping to hit with it didn’t quite work. It would’ve been better had he written the movie to be in real time and introduced each story when they were meant to come in at the proper time.

Another thing about the film is that we are given absolutely no backstory to the characters we follow. Maybe Nolan was trying to give us the feeling of being thrown right into war and not knowing what is going on but it just didn’t quite hit the right spot. Instead, not knowing anything about the characters makes me not really care who lives or dies because I have no investment in them. To be honest the only time I cared about a character was whenever One Direction’s Harry Styles (making a surprisingly good film debut) was on-screen and I only cared because I kept seeing him as Styles, who in real life seems like a pretty cool guy with a good sense of humor.

It sounds like I hated this movie. I didn’t, honestly I enjoyed it. When it was good, it was really good. The one thing about the way Nolan wrote this film that I really liked was the lack of dialog spoken. The characters hardly ever really speak and most of the movie is a silent performance film where most of the acting comes from facial and eye expression and each of the main actors do a great job at it. Their emotions and feelings are really laid out on us because we can see their entire performance within their eyes which I thought was a nice touch for a film like this.

Something else about this film I enjoyed were the war sequences. Once they really started coming into play, they were extremely well done and did provide for a few moments of intensity. There’s a scene in particular where a group of soldiers are trapped inside a beached boat that really had me on the edge of my seat. In fact, I got so nervous during it that when the scene was finally over i had a minor headache due to being so stressed out.

Every single time a German airplane is approaching and you hear the engines roaring, your heart slightly picks up as you wait to see what’s going to happen. The effects are really well done and there’s a water sequence that really gets your blood pumping.

“Dunkirk” is a good movie. It is. It’s just not the epic that every critic is making it out to be and it’s not going to be the phenomenon Nolan’s fans are probably hoping it is. This movie is a testament to Nolan though because it shows us that even when he makes a lackluster movie, he’s still a good director and can still manage to make it enjoyable to watch.

The bottom line: “Dunkirk” isn’t going to make the list of top five war movies ever made and despite it’s messy narrative, “Dunkirk” is still going to be one of the better films you see this summer and not a bad way to spend an hour and a half of your time.

—keithariaz1@gmail.com