I don’t really feel that I can add all that much new to the chorus of praise that Christopher Nolan has rightfully received for his tour de force action film Dunkirk. Just go out and see it. You don’t need me, or anyone else, to tell you how superb it is. I thought it was a stunning technical achievement, with every single image looking flawless to the eye; I truly don’t understand how a vast majority of this film was accomplished, especially the aerial combat footage. Tom Hardy is the coolest cat around, the wall to wall music by Hans Zimmer is stressful, striking and sort of odd in certain spots, and I loved how Nolan just couldn’t help himself and had to create a folding-in-on-itself narrative even within the confines of the war genre. The film didn’t hit me with the same sort of emotional wallop that other films from this year have but that’s not to say it’s a work bereft of feeling. And I’d be lying if I said that I could understand all of the spoken dialogue, not that the imagery wasn’t enough in terms of telling a complete story. But the British accents combined with the thundering score reduced a lot of the line readings to unintelligible blather.
Which is odd, as you’d think that maybe ONE EXECUTIVE at Warner Brothers MIGHT HAVE SAID, hey Chris, um, yeah, we don’t understand what HALF OF YOUR CAST IS SAYING. But no worries, it’s a wonderful cinematic experience of pure sound and fury, a grim portrait of impending death and military blunder and unpreparedness. It’s also the sort of film that could only get made by a handful of filmmakers, and is likely to be best appreciated by action film junkies and Nolan buffs more than the common viewer. It’s sort of like a very artsy version of Black Hawk Down except set at sea and in the air, and minus that film’s opening 40 minutes of character building and scene setting, as literally zero background or context is given for any of the events that are shown minus a few lines a few instances of on-screen text. This isn’t a “history lesson as cinema,” but rather, an experiential journey of steely-grey doom. It’s a superb piece of craftsmanship that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Review by Nick Clement