Dunkirk provides an incredible movie-going experience, but may not be the best way to treat the subject material.
During World War Two, in 1940, German soldiers surrounded British and French soldiers on the Dunkirk beach. Dunkirk tells the story of the soldiers’ evacuation from three perspectives. The movie shifts between soldiers trying to leave the beach, fighter pilots trying to stop German planes, and British civilians on boats to pick up soldiers.
As usual, writer and director Christopher Nolan creates an incredible experience out of Dunkirk. He tells the story in a unique way, interweaving three timelines to tell multiple perspectives. The timelines are established right at the beginning of the film, but it is easy to lose track of them, making it incredibly impressive when the three clash.
The audience is bounced among these timelines, all filled with intense action. Although the film occasionally shows larger views of the situation, the audience is usually given a small group to follow closely. This creates a successfully immersive experience, putting the audience right into the action.
This is especially noteworthy because this works even when not seen in IMAX. Although IMAX and the other more premiere styles would heighten the experience, it is still incredible seeing the film on a standard screen because it is shot so beautifully.
Dunkirk perfectly captures the chaos, yet it still makes it understandable to the audience, while distinguishing the timelines. The chaos and action are masterfully paired with a score from Hans Zimmer, heightening the tension with a constant clock tick integrated into the score.
The visuals are highlighted through the sparse dialogue. Dialogue is only used when completely necessary to carry the plot along. It is outstanding how much storytelling Nolan is able to achieve without the use of dialogue.
However, dialogue becomes somewhat of a distraction, as it is crafted nowhere nearly as carefully as the rest of the film. Generally, the dialogue either feels artificial or sentimental, or often both together. The dialogue unfortunately highlights how inspirational the civilians’ actions were, instead of letting the action speak for itself.
While the innovation of the multiple storylines is outstanding, it does take away from developing any of the characters. The audience is given multiple characters to follow, so there is a general focus to the story, but there is nothing there to empathize with. This takes humanity out of the war, turning it into more of a spectacle.
There is not much for the actors to do, but Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and Mark Rylance all give incredible performances as expected of them. The newcomers all give equally fine performances, but the biggest wild card that everyone is wondering about is Harry Styles.
Apparently, Styles was cast for his acting talent with no knowledge of his fame, and his presence in the film shows that. Again, there is not much for him to do in his role, but he plays it perfectly fine.
Nolan succeeds in exactly what he set out to do, but it does not seem like the best way to go about making this movie. With a PG-13 rating, Dunkirk is pure enjoyable excitement, which is a disservice to the subject material. War movies should be difficult to watch, not just fun experiences. Even last week’s War for the Planet of the Apes is more successful in this.
Dunkirk does not feel like it is disrespecting World War Two, but it is not giving it all the severity it deserves. None of the characters we are introduced to are killed directly by Germans, and German soldiers are never even seen, making this unseen villain not all that scary.
Dunkirk is a wonderfully exciting movie, and an incredible experience, but is too shallow to actually be an amazing film.