At the Movies: Dunkirk

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Christopher Nolan’s latest film Dunkirk recounts the invasion of Dunkirk, France between May 26 to June 4th 1940 during the Second World War. It was the evacuation of Allied forces from France when the German war machine was ravaging Europe. Dunkirk captures the frantic, near hopeless struggle of the British troops and civilians scrambling to rally a defense and evacuation plan from a crushing Luftwaffe bombing raid.

First off, the best way to see the film is in 70mm if possible. Why 70mm and what even is 70mm? Without the elaborate cinephile explanation, it’s the version Nolan would want you to see. Which makes sense since so much of the film are sweeping shots of massive landscapes, intense aerial battles then sudden shifts to claustrophobic environments made tighter thanks to the format.

Dunkirk isn’t a summer blockbuster like so many of this year’s films. It does give the appearance of one with it’s beautifully shot scenes and tense action moments. However it doesn’t linger on the violence long. Violence happens quickly and suddenly then the audience is pushed onto the next situation without too much reflection on it. Masterful sound editing really drove home the terror of the bombing raids, and the helplessness the infantry felt against bombs being dropped.

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It’s important to remember Dunkirk was not a terribly heroic moment for the Allied army and the movie conveys that clearly. There were themes of heroism and sacrifice to be sure, but they are subdued. Dunkirk is more concerned with showing the wide-scale destruction and cost of battle than the usual war-film tropes of ham-handedly preaching duty, heroism, or attempting to shift the narrative from a historical piece then to a set of improbable action set-piece moments.

There really isn’t a single story to track but instead a collection of smaller stories interwoven into the battle: a father and his two sons answering the call to aid in the evacuation attempt; two ace pilots attempting to stave off the Luftwaffe air units; a deployment of young soldiers attempting to survive mentally as well as physically against not just the enemy but against panic-induced soldiers within their own ranks.

All these stories intertwine together and are even called back later in the film subtly thanks to wonderful sound and visual editing that Nolan’s production company, Syncopy, has become well known for. But you won’t find yourself getting too attached to any of the characters, as Dunkirk doesn’t spend too much time concerning itself with singular characters but instead the bigger picture at play.

At times it may be hard to feel involved with the movie as it dwells perhaps a bit too much on the larger picture. A great deal happens within the movie’s hour and 46 minutes run time, from start to finish. Some audiences may be turned off to the fact that a lot will happen and at times it can be hard to make sense of it all without much tying you emotionally, but the film resonates in a much stronger way through its masterful use of sound and perspective. Nolan found a way to deftly tell a story of bravery without lecturing on it.

Pic Source: http://www.dunkirkmovie.com/

 

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