REVIEW: Dunkirk (2017)

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CHRISTOPHER Nolan’s films are known for their ‘break the bank budget’ and his much-anticipated Dunkirk is certainly no exception.

It was clear from the offset that not a penny had been spared, in terms of the quality of cinematography and the star-studded cast including a cameo for One Direction singer Harry Styles plus the likes of Peaky-blinders star Cillian Murphy and of course, Tom Hardy.

Aesthetically and visually, this film is high-end and incredible. Internally and historically, it screams for more depth and feeling.

While Nolan may have splashed out on the realism of the explosions, for me, he didn’t do the one thing that makes film making so important – the ability to tell a story for those who can’t.

Dunkirk follows three perspectives of the evacuation – the soldiers trapped on the beach, the RAF pilots in a dog fight in the skies above and the crew of one of the small boats commandeered for the rescue.

The severity of the situation and the vast number of people involved is conveyed in some scenes which are emotionally  hard hitting – especially with such young faces.  But the impact is all about the visual. The dialogue is extraordinarily sparse such that the overall enormity of the event is difficult to grasp.

Obviously Nolan couldn’t tell the story of each individual involved in the evacuation of Dunkirk. However to truly capture history for people, you have to get it right. There was no mention of how the soldiers came to be on the beaches. The non-linear narrative, combined with little context about the story of Dunkirk and even the characters Nolan put in the spotlight, makes it a rather confusing watch.  

The limited scope of the film is disappointing. It is concerning that this is the latest representation of the largest evacuation of soldiers in WWII.  Where was the thirst for survival in anyone except the main characters? When watching a film based on such a huge historical event, we expect to learn more. The scale of the Dunkirk evacuation was huge and this was poorly represented by the focus on relatively few  soldiers, RAF planes and boats.  

Even though Nolan doesn’t like to use CGI,  this could ironically have allowed the film to portray actual events with much more realism and impact.

Visually Dunkirk is stunning but we needed to hear more to gain a deeper understanding of its hstoric significance. Seeing is not always believing.

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