Christopher Nolan is a masterful filmmaker. In his latest film, “Dunkirk”, he delivers some of the most intense, pulse-pounding war sequences ever brought to the big screen. Shot entirely on IMAX and 65 mm film stock, every shot in “Dunkirk” makes you feel like you are right in the middle of the action. From the film’s opening scene, when a soldier is running for cover through an empty village, each gun-shot fired by the enemy makes the theater audience jump. Yes, it’s that intense. “Dunkirk” is filled to the brim with intense sequences like that one. So why is it that I found myself underwhelmed by the film as a whole? The reason is simple, there are no stand-out characters. The cast, including Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, and others do a good job with the roles they have been given, but Nolan focuses more on the perfect shots than he does on letting the audience know more about the characters on screen.
For those of you unfamiliar with the battle, Allied soldiers from Britain, Belgium, Canada and France were surrounded by the German Army on the beaches of Dunkirk between May 26 and June 4, during World War II. Thousands of lives were lost during an evacuation operation. “Dunkirk” is told from three perspectives, one at land, one at sea, and from the sky. Tom Hardy plays fighter pilot Farrier and aside from a few lines here and there, there isn’t a whole lot to Hardy’s performance.
One of the perspectives comes from a fishing boat operated by a father and his son and a boy from the village. They are on a mission to help rescue as many of the soldiers as possible and it’s the scenes with this group that has the most character work.
I find myself on the fence when it comes to recommending “Dunkirk” as there really is so much here that’s done superbly. When it comes to the cinematography and musical score by Hans Zimmer, this is definitely a cinematic experience, but the lack of characters to care about made it difficult for me to emotionally invest in a story that plays an important part in world history. I normally wouldn’t wish a film had a longer runtime, but if Nolan would have added an extra 30 minutes or so and give us a chance to learn more about the people we were following, “Dunkirk” could have possibly felt like a more complete film.
By: Marc Ferman