Dunkirk (2017)

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Rating: A-

Official site: http://www.dunkirkmovie.com/

Another visual feast of a movie from Nolan. But compared to his other films, this film deceptively feels simpler.

A master class in cinematography, color, pacing and tone-Dunkirk may not pack the same emotional punch as other war films like Saving Private Ryan or Schindler’s List but the film’s subtlety more than makes up for its rather opaque characters. Besides, this may exactly be the point. War films as we know it, tends to center on the emotional burden and horrific travails of an individual. And although Dunkirk throws focus on the individual sacrifices and decisions of some of its characters-the sheer immensity and impersonality of the war experience is what is reflected by the film. The wide sweeping shots of the beach where thousands of soldiers wait to be evacuated, the immensity of the rather short travel across the English channel, and the breadth and width of the skies all serve to heighten this perception.

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The three part narrative separated and at the same time unified by its disparate timelines is a deft technique to remind us yet again of the scope of what Nolan is trying to portray in the film. An hour in sky dodging and chasing enemy planes is a lifetime and a week of waiting and devising an escape from the Dunkirk beach is an epic story. And yet many more stories that remain untold in the time between.

At first blush and despite the film’s display of technical mastery, the characterization of the film’s protagonists may not what many expect. The characters do not have back stories nor is sufficient time given for traditional characterization. Which given Nolan’s extremely tight traid of timelines makes sense. However, despite this limitation, the film manages to include a number of understated moments that portrays not how a “Hollywood” war film is supposed to be but rather an approximation of the actual experience of surviving a war. Of alliances made in the spur of the moment, the choices one makes and the repercussions it has for the individual and for others, and the minute acts of heroism and the transcendence of cowardice and selfishness.