At long last, a film you might still care about. If you’ve already gotten through the first 21 of my “24 reviews in 24 hours” film day, you’ll likely be more interested in this…
What Works: Christopher Nolan is a huge advocate for movie theater viewing, and especially IMAX viewing, and I am glad I watched this film that way. Would Dunkirk—which barely has a plot, contains minimal dialogue (plus much of the young soldiers on the beach have dialogue that is hard to make out), and you more or less already know the story—have been as impressive on an airplane or IPad? Of course not, and seeing this beautiful film on an IMAX screen truly did another dimension to the beach’s ironic warmth, the ocean’s blue majesty bleeding into the light blue of the sky, and the riveting action sequences.
Plus, you’ll either go along completely with “Dunkirk”‘s time jumble—the land sequences take place during a week, the water during a day, and the air during an hour—or you won’t, but I was pleased with the added wrinkle to this somewhat overly-straight story. And you can sense every effort was made to realistically portray the ordeal real soldiers must have gone through, in the rat’s eye view of a sinking ship or the caged anxiety of Tom Hardy’s ace pilot, a new standard of realism has been set, free of dramatic monologues, memories of home, or war-time strategy exposition.
What Doesn’t: Some critics are already calling this the best film Nolan (one of the best directors alive and active) has made, and it just simply isn’t. Sadly, it would be closer to the lower-middle for me and for some may be closer to the bottom. The score is tonally jarring and punishingly loud, and although that works in an immersive experience during a first-viewing, it’s hard to imagine I won’t mute certain sequences when watching this years down the road. And the ultra-realism (indecipherable dialogue, minimal plotting, and lack of characterization) will frustrate as many viewers as it delights.
What I Would Have Done Differently: Haha, this is a Nolan film all the way, and it’s likely no one else could’ve made it at all, and any attempts to streamline the plot or jettison the complex structure would take away most of what makes the film so unique.