Thursday, July 20, 2017

Christopher Nolan Presents a 'You are Here' Approach to 'Dunkirk'

Movie review of "Dunkirk"
Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)

MOVIE REVIEW

Christopher Nolan has had the distinction to have become one of “those” directors. The kind that when you see their name listed, you have a pretty good idea of what you are about to see. He has a distinctive look and feel to his movies. It might have something to do with the fact that he writes many of his own scripts as well. However, up until this point, all of the stories that Nolan has shared have been fictional. Dunkirk is the director’s first stab of writing and directing a movie based on a real-life event.

Movie review of "Dunkirk"
Fionn Whitehead as Tommy in Dunkirk (Warner Bros)
This story takes place in May 1940 when the British Expeditionary Force, along with the French, Belgian and Canadian troops were forced back to the beaches of Dunkirk. The large naval ships had a hard time reaching the troops due to the long, shallow beaches. There was a call made for civilian “little ships” to come to their aid and unbelievably, they came.

The movie Dunkirk focuses on three distinct storylines: The view from the air, the view from the beach and the view from the civilians on the boats. Unlike most war movies, this one thrusts you into the action without giving much information on the background of the story you are about to watch nor is there any character development of the main players. There is very little dialogue and the film causes a struggle trying to figure out who is who. This might have been by design as Nolan gives this film a real “you are there” approach. It feels as if you are there working alongside these men who aren’t completely sure of their surroundings either. We don’t even learn every character’s names.


Movie review of "Dunkirk"
Tom Hardy as Farrier in Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)
Up in the air, Tom Hardy plays Farrier, a pilot doing battle with the Luftwaffe planes that are attacking the soldiers on the ships below. Newbie actor, Fionn Whitehead plays Tommy who barely escapes a nearby town only to struggle over and over again to survive getting rescued. Aneurin Barnard plays Gibson, an fellow soldier whom Tommy briefly meets before more chaos strikes. Though they have just met and barely know each other, you know that the two will be looking out for each other. They soon meet Alex, played by Harry Styles in his feature film debut. The Commander Bolton, responsible for organizing the troops and keeping them in line while watching for rescue boats.

On the civilian side of things, Mark Rylance plays Mr. Dawson, owner of the Moonstone, a small wooden yacht. He is just one of hundreds of other civilians who risked their lives to save the lives of the soldiers who have been risking their lives for them. Along for the mission is his 19-year-old son, Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney, also making his big screen debut) and Peter’s friend, George (Barry Keoghan). There adventure starts out pretty unremarkable, but soon they find themselves in mission bigger than themselves.

Movie review of "Dunkirk"
Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson in Dunkirk (Warner Bros.)
Dunkirk features the same type of music used in movies like The Dark Knight also done by Hans Zimmer. Actually, the soundtrack is less music and more ticking timebomb which seems fully appropriate for this kind of movie.

Since Dunkirk is rated PG-13, some may be concerned that it may “soft” when it comes to portraying the war. However, once again, Nolan proves that it is possible to pull off a serious film without being overly vulgar in terms of both language and the violence that is shown on the screen. And while it is debatable if this movie has a happy ending (it is a war movie after all), there can be no denying that it does indeed end on a positive and inspiring note. While I prefer a movie that explores more of the actual characters, it seems to me that we have just witnessed the first film up for an Oscar nomination for 2017.

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