Before seeing Dunkirk, Director Christopher Nolan could have poured boiling hot soup in my lap and I would have thanked him for it. He could do no wrong in my eyes. However, after seeing this movie, if he did that, I would be mildly upset with him. I was somewhat disappointed with Dunkirk. I’m surprised there is so much praise from critics, and it makes me wonder if we saw the same movie.
Fionn Whitehead = Tommy
Tom Hardy = Farrier
Mark Rylance = Mr. Dawson
Barry Keoghan = George
Cillian Murphy = “Shivering Soldier”
Harry Styles = Alex
- Zero character connection
We are 40 minutes into the movie and there were a handful of lines spoken. We are meant to care about these helpless men, but it was hard for me to give a crap about the characters. We hear Tommy speak a couple times and then we follow him around for an hour and a half watching him try to weasel his way off the beach. There is nothing you can gather about Tommy and there is no back story to add a sense of relatability or consideration for the character. The same goes for George, Farrier, Collins, Alex, and “Shivering Soldier.” This style of story was intentionally constructed by Nolan, and it worked for many people’s viewing experience, however I didn’t enjoy it.
Every single one of the characters could have died and the movie would have had the same effect, and that is a red flag for me. Alex almost gets crushed by a ship, Collins almost drowns, and Farrier barely gets his landing gear down in time to land his plane, and all the same I felt little stress to their almost peril. The stress I felt came from the score and not from the character’s situations. What great war movies do (i.e. Saving Private Ryan, Fury, The Patriot) is connect us to the characters so we care about their struggle and eminent death, but this movie failed to do that for me.
2. Subtitles please!
Can film makers stop muzzling Tom Hardy’s voice (i.e. The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road) because I cannot hear a single thing he says. The characters barely speak in the film, and when they do, their thick British accents made it impossible to make out what they said.
The whole movie follows three different view points. You follow Tommy and the men on the beach, the fighter pilots Farrier and Collins, and the civilian hero Mr. Dawson. All three viewpoints are in different times of the battle and Nolan weaves you in and out. That method added to the tension, but it was disorienting and distracting. It accomplished what Nolan was trying to do, but it didn’t resonate well with me.
For example, Tommy and Alex are trapped on a sinking boat, cut to Mr. Dawson arguing with his son, cut to Farrier checking his fuel tank, cut back to Tommy and Alex still trapped and almost drowning. I wanted to care about Tommy and Alex’s situation, but then I have to watch other important, yet distracting scenes before cutting back to see the fate of Tommy and Alex. It was a movie filled with discontinuity.
- Cinematography & acting
Despite my mostly negative review so far, there were many aspects of Dunkirk that were absolutely solid. There were tons of extraordinary shots and high tension sequences. We haven’t ever seen a war movie quite like this before. The shots were done with such elegance and precision that I couldn’t help but admire the scenes. Dunkirk is meant to be seen in IMAX, so I would recommend finding one near you.
With shortened dialog, more is demanded from the actors and they all deliver. There is much fear and tension throughout the actors’ performances. Harry Styles can act btw! I was skeptical when I heard the casting choice, but he did a good job.
Hans Zimmer has been the composer for most of Nolan’s movies, and his score was intense to say the least. The music made me feel so much pressure and tension throughout the scenes. This would not have been the same movie without Zimmer’s score.
Despite all of the hype and critical praise around Dunkirk, I was a little disappointed. This is not Nolan’s best work in my opinion and I don’t believe this is a masterpiece. I hope that if I go a second time to see this, I might have a different experience, but that seems unlikely. None-the-less, don’t let my review completely turn you away from the film. Check it out for yourself and then let me know what you think. I give this a 7.0/10.