Forgive me if I sound too positive on Dunkirk. Its late and I just recently arrived home from watching in full IMAX. So there’s that. Here are some initial, quick thoughts:
An eloquent, boldly structured portrait of the chaos and madness of war from roughly five perspectives; Dunkirk is a full blown, eye widening experience. Nolan’s reach as a director is beyond doubt and at this point its safe to bump him to the “greats.” Dunkirk is ambitious, not only in scope but also in construction, as this film weaves in and out of past or present, loosely tying together disparate events with mere visual recollection. Exposition is limited to perhaps two conversations and some brief text early in the film; Dunkirk is about basic survival instincts and how people react in the face of overwhelming odds.
But the key to me, the incredible feat Dunkirk pulls off, is that there is no blame cast, no preachy moralizing at all. Some of the heroes in Dunkirk face the odds with selflessness and bravery, some others with quite the opposite; fleeing from combat or putting their own survival before others. But if Dunkirk has a lesson, it’s to give pause before labeling anyone a coward, and to more readily hail others as heroes. The Germans are never glimpsed, even for a moment. I loved that. No reason to show them. The old Alfred Hitchcock quote kept coming to mind; “I don’t want to show you whats behind that door, your mind can do that just fine.” In Dunkirk, the enemy is an abstract fear, almost as demonized here as the circumstances that landed these 400,000 men on this beach, stranded without hope of escape.
I think its safe to state Dunkirk is one of the best war films period, and its easy to see why. It’s a flawless, masterful exercise in immersion and spectacle, desperately searching for meaning and order in absolute chaos and carnage still unfathomable 77 years later. A search for the meaning of life surrounded by the utter meaninglessness of war. It’s an intimate, harrowing epic; a rare beast of a movie the likes of which I haven’t seen before.
Those fundamental contradictions are what make Dunkirk so fascinating, so stimulating both emotionally and intellectually. I don’t really have the words for this movie because of how recent I watched and hopefully I can unwrap a little more following a rewatch. But on my end, it’s safe to say Dunkirk is more than worth the price of admission to see in full 70mm.
Its hard to say Nolan and Dunkirk won’t be major contenders at the 2018 Oscars and rightfully so. Christopher Nolan has made one of those rare movies that reminds you of the heights great cinema and great artists can reach when pushing boundaries and exceeding expectations.
Go see Dunkirk in IMAX for the full experience. You won’t regret it.