365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Dunkirk (2017)

Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises, Inception) might be the best technical director we've ever seen. His precession is perfect. His attention to detail is unmatched. His brain operates in a way that it is always a step ahead of his actors and two steps ahead of his audience. We've seen technical masterpieces throughout his, already, storied career. At 47 years of age, he already has masterpieces like Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Prestige, Inception, and Interstellar all underneath his belt. His "worst" movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes, is Interstellar and that still has a 71% fresh rating. That means his "worst" movie still had five out of every seven critics still gave the movie a positive rating. But for all of the positives associated with Nolan's films (and there are many), he has failed to capture the often needed emotional component with every single one of them. When I am enjoying his films for their near technical perfection, their unpredictability, their vision, etc. (and I have enjoyed every single one), I wonder why I feel nothing emotionally. I'm loving these films, but I'm not invested in any single one of them (well...maybe The Dark Knight because that's one of the ten greatest films ever made). He had the perfect opportunity to create a situation that could have drawn out feelings in the audience with Interstellar. You had the actors for it. You had the story for it. Everything was in place for a story that could have been remembered for years. And it fell flat in its attempt to draw out human emotion. Nolan had the opportunity, once again, to right himself with Dunkirk. But he fell back into his old ways, retelling one of the more inspirational war stories of our time and leaving us completely detached from its characters, many of whom we are unable to differentiate from each other anyway. It is one of nine nominated movies for Best Picture. I believe it should be there. I think it could even win. I don't think it will. And I hope that it won't. It was by no means a bad film. In fact, it was a good one and even great in some ways. It just wasn't an overly memorable movie all around. And with all of the hype associated with it, I don't know how you can't be disappointed with the end product.

Honestly, the movie is confusing from the very beginning. I think that the more you have to explain a movie before it actually begins, the more of a whole you are putting yourself in. But in this case, it was completely needed. I was honestly puzzled throughout the movie. How was I supposed to know that there were three different stories being told? How was I supposed to know that the story being told with the land characters (or the mole) took place over one week, the story in the sea took place over one day, and the story in the sky took place over one hour? Even if I had known that going in, I would have been lost. I don't know what the purpose of trying to confuse your audience when you don't have to. Nolan has made his movies more complicated in the past than he needed to. It's his greatest strength and also, maybe, his Achille's heel. We go back and forth between these three stories and it becomes frustrating to follow. Couple that with characters that are either underdeveloped or, worse, never really defined, it becomes a history lesson more so than it does a movie. I still don't understand why an actor of Tom Hardy's (The Drop, Mad Max: Fury Road) caliber was doing in a role that, literally, I felt anyone could have played. Still...despite my frustrations, there was a lot that I liked.

Most of us know the story by now. Even if we didn't see Dunkirk, but we saw Darkest Hour (another film nominated for Best Picture this year), we would still know the story. There are 4000 British soldiers who are trapped in the harbor on the beaches of Dunkirk, France during the early portions of World War II (late may of 1940). They need a miracle rescue mission or they'll be slaughtered by German soldiers. The United States is merely a spectator in the war at this point. In fact, most of the world watched on as Hitler's Germany invaded helpless countries. Easily my most anticipated movie of the year, Dunkirk promotes itself as a war film and it is, but it is much more a survival/disaster film. We pick up the movie with the British soldiers, having been trapped by German forces, being pushed out to sea for one final annihilation. The 4000 men are simply trying to wait out a rescue while trying to avoid getting killed by Germans.

This sounds like it has all of the parts to be an amazing movie right? But it wasn't amazing. Parts of it were for sure. But it was confusing as heck. Again, most of it had to do with the three different stories, each operating on a different timeline. The second was the actors. Sure you had Hardy, Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One), Cilian Murphy (Red Eye, 28 Days Later), but the majority of the other actors (Fionn Whitehead, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, etc.) were so indistinguishable from one another that it was really difficult who was who, how they were related to each other, and what was happening from scene to scene). Sure we got to know them a little bit. We even like them. But there are too many characters that we have to focus on and the screentime for each of them is much too limited. We almost forget what is going one with some of these characters by the time the story comes back to them. It's a little frustrating. Moreso, it's disappointing that the parties that be with this movie didn't realize this and try to fix the problem.

It's a movie worth watching for sure. In fact, it's a movie worth a second viewing. Now that I know more about the format of the movie, I think I would appreciate it much more. In fact, I know I would. Would a second viewing make it more clear? It definitely would. Would it fix the inherent problems with the movie? It would not. Nolan definitely needs an editor that has his ear. Someone who Nolan will listen to and heed their advice. This movie is technically brilliant and I hope it does win some Oscars. I just don't think it's worthy of being Best Picture, but then again, it's a down year, and there is no clear-cut favorite in this category. Whichever movie wins will be one of the poorest movies to have done so in the history of the Award.

Plot 8.5/10
Character Development 6/10
Character Chemistry 6/10
Acting 6/10
Screenplay 7/10
Directing 8/10
Cinematography 10/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 8/10
Universal Relevance 10/10

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