“We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.” – Winston Churchill, read by Tommy, in Dunkirk.
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, Best Production Design
Well if the title doesn’t give it away, this movie is about the evacuation of the allied forces from Dunkirk during World War II. At this point in the war the allied troops – consisting of the British, French, Belgian, and Dutch – are effectively trapped on the beach of Dunkirk as Germany has advanced into France. The evacuation is slow and excited by both naval and civilian vessels. The movie follows a few different storylines from the air, the beaches, and the sea. So yes, this is your blockbuster 2017 war film, but with a more technical take.
My Largely Irrelevant Commentary
I am a big fan of war movies- although there are some classic ones that I find difficult to watch (Platoon for example – I actually stopped watching it because I found it to be really cruel; I had also recently come back from Vietnam on a study abroad program which certainly contributed to that). It’s a mini series, but I think Band of Brothers is out-of-this-world good and tough to top for WWII subject matter (in terms of war-related action – there’s obviously a ton a subject matter to pull from WW II).
But before I jump into the movie and my unofficial opinions, it’s that every two year, two-weeks of sports and competition bliss I love the Olympics. Even-numbered years are my favorite. And there are few sports during the Winter Olympics that I don’t enjoy watching (i even watch the biathlon skiing and shooting thing from the edge of my seat – I don’t understand it, but it’s fascinating).
But let’s talk about the men’s slope style snowboarding and Team USA’s first gold medal for a quick second! I’ve been befriended by walking pneumonia so have had the opportunity to watch all of the qualifying runs of this competition on my nbc sports app. Silver lining if there ever was one. I gathered from the commentators that the course was very tough but Oh. My. God. was that some great tv. The technical rails were intense but those high-flying jumps and spins n such were ridiculous. The crashes were insanely cringe-worthy, and the sportsmanship was super refreshing to see. There were a lot of loud “Oooohhhhhhs!!!!” and “Son of a Bitches!!!” (sorry mom and dad) and “Holy Craps!!” happening from my household. Major major props to Red Gerard and the Canadians – their runs were so insane to watch! Bring team USA their first gold with some legit style!
Also, welcome back shirtless, oiled-up, Tonga man!!
Sorry for the aside…
Although a pretty notable cast as far as names go – Cillian Murphy (for all you fellow Peaky Blinders fans), Tom Hardy (for all of you hardy fans), Mark Rylance, James D’Arcy, and Harry Styles (who knew – wouldn’t have known he was in the movie other than for the credits…probably a good thing because it means he didn’t break out into song) just to name a few – this is definitely not a film that is carried by stellar performances. And I don’t necessarily mean that in a negative way. There really is no lead actor here, it’s all a supporting cast and minimal character development, which is fine – it works for this film. No big surprise that there are no Oscar nominations for acting coming out of this one.
I thought each of those listed above did a great job with their characters. Mark Rylance is always solid in his roles and I enjoyed his character in this movie. Although somewhat biased because he’s such a looker, Tom Hardy’s character was my favorite; his storyline felt the most silently heroic of the movie.
Remember my tip from my Darkest Hour review? If you listened to me (and no offense taken if you didn’t – this is a blog followed by like 9 people so my reach is limited lol) that should have provided more context on this story as this movie, aside from a few lines of text at the beginning and end, doesn’t give any backstory nor does it stray too far from where the action takes place to give you an perspective about what’s happening on the British leadership and parliament side (i.e. what is Winston Churchill up to). Honestly if I hadn’t seen Darkest Hour first, I’d have been a little lost at least on the context of Dunkirk.
This movie is intense and there’s a lot going on. There is very little dialogue in the movie; I think I even told a few people that is was the quietest war movie I think I had seen (not a critique, just an observation). And the lack of dialogue gives way to a really great score and really great sound effects and sound editing. It’s no surprise to me at all that this movie racked up a lot of technical nominations, especially sound and editing related. I think they are really well deserved.
Bottom line – this is not a typical war movie. It definitely captures the story of Dunkirk, but it’s clearly a demonstration of using technical aspects of film such as sound, editing, and cinematography to create and develop a story and to take viewers through the highs and lows of the film. If you enjoy that side of filmmaking than you will definitely enjoy this one. If you are wanting more of a Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers WW II era film where there are really well developed characters, this movie may leave you wanting more. From a technical perspective – I thought it really delivered. This one comes down to personal preference; I enjoyed it.