Dunkirk Screen 77 of 25 reviews

Dunkirk

2017

Dunkirk Poster
  • In some ways Christopher Nolan has become our Stanley Kubrick... It’s rare to find any mainstream director so relentlessly focused on exploring a particular batch of storytelling techniques. Like Resnais, Godard, and Hong Sangsoo (a strange crew, I admit), Nolan zeroes in, from film to film, on a few narrative devices, finding new possibilities in what most directors handle routinely.

  • ...Let’s assume that Dunkirk does arouse emotions in most viewers, though using an approach that departs from that of conventional war films. Let’s also assume that the story being told is fairly simple, though made elaborate by the ingenious intercutting among the three time frames.

  • For the most part of the film’s surprisingly economical 106-minute running time, Nolan, shooting in 65mm and his beloved Imax, relies on the vivid power of his imagery and a near-faultless instinct for pacing to immerse us in his story.

  • This approach might sound chilly, but Dunkirk turns out to be one of the best things Nolan has ever done, a cerebral act of shock and awe that plays into all of his strengths as a filmmaker... It's a film that indicates the tide coming in by showing bodies washing on shore, and that finds its greatest moment of grace in a man coasting knowingly toward doom. It isn't a standard war movie, but it sure is some beautiful, difficult thing.

  • Whether stung by criticism or simply seeing things more clearly, Dunkirk represents a bend in the road for Nolan: a purification of his filmmaking through a deliberate discarding of heavy-handed, bombastic editorializing; in Dunkirk, the characters disappear into the collective, resembling a hive whose only motivation is simply to stay alive.

  • It’s not always easy to know what’s going on—which makes the film seem all the more convincing as an evocation of war. There’s a sharp, cold note of realism in the opening minutes of last week’s release, War for the Planet of the Apes, in which a terrified human soldier, part of a platoon taken unawares in an ambush, admits in a radio call to his command post that he has no idea what is going on. Dunkirk takes that uncertainty and amplifies it a thousandfold, from start to finish.

  • One of the most indelible images in “Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan’s brilliant new film, is of a British plane in flames... It’s a characteristically complex and condensed vision of war in a movie that is insistently humanizing despite its monumentality, a balance that is as much a political choice as an aesthetic one. And “Dunkirk” is big — in subject, reach, emotion and image.

  • It’s different from any other war movie, period. Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is often hailed as a great war picture, and its Normandy-invasion sequence is brutally effective. But its intensity practically burns the rest of the story away. Nolan sustains Dunkirk’s dramatic tension from start to finish. This is a supreme achievement made from small strokes, a kind of Seurat painting constructed with dark, glittering bits of history. Nolan filmed largely on location, at Dunkirk Beach.

  • Like a lot of movies worth writing about at length, Christopher Nolan’s terrific new film, Dunkirk, is powered by an engine of combusting contradictions: it’s at once minimalist and maximalist, cynical and dopey, a big-boy white elephant art film that is actually a lean and mean suspense set-piece machine.

  • Lean and ambitious, unsentimental and bombastic, overwhelmingly guy-centric, Christopher Nolan's World War II epic "Dunkirk" showcases the best and worst of the director's tendencies. The best win out and the worst recede in memory when you think back on the experience—provided that you want to remember "Dunkirk," a movie that's supposed to be grueling and succeeds.

  • The swift-moving, pulse-pounding Dunkirk reveals its filmmaker at his most nimble, supple, and _simple_—all adjectives that seem strange to use in connection with a movie shot in 65mm IMAX format, using practical effects and real stunts to re-create such large-scale events as the sinking of a WWII destroyer and the attempted mass evacuation of more than 300,000 men. But Dunkirk’s simplicity inheres not in its production logistics but in its storytelling.

  • The nerve-racking war thriller Dunkirk is the movie Christopher Nolan’s entire career has been building up to, in ways that even he may not have realized. He’s taken the British Expeditionary Force’s 1940 evacuation from France, early in World War II... and turned it into a nesting doll of increasingly breathless ticking-clock narratives. Some filmgoers might be expecting a sprawling, grandiose war epic. Instead, Nolan gives us one of the leanest, most ingenious studio films in quite a while.

  • A masterful Christopher Nolan flings the viewer into the air, the sea, and that beach for Dunkirk, his tense new navigation of the war film. From script level... to its astonishing technical prowess, this is heart-stopping entertainment. There may be money on the screen, but cash alone can’t guarantee this kind of pulsating, cinematic magic, delivered by a director at the height of his powers, mustering the very best at their craft.

  • Any historical drama is necessarily a summary, and will approach a threshold at which distillation becomes dilution. Nolan doesn’t seem too worried about this, and Dunkirk’s eruptive brevity is almost refreshing. The war-movie milieu serves him well by easing the burden of exposition... Nolan here reduces the laborious explanatory dialogue that’s long been a toxic byproduct of his ambition, concentrating freely on the structural mechanism, those ticking rhythmic units.

  • The confidence with which Dunkirk has been made belies the confusion of its dramatic impulses, which are all over the place, albeit in the most disciplined, stiff-upper-lip manner imaginable. Nolan is an essentially Platonic filmmaker — he thinks in terms of absolute forms, and then fits his characters to their contours — and the talented actors asked to pantomime Cowardice, Heroism, Survival, and Witness are forcibly subordinated to this grand design.

  • This unusual structure... offers just enough narrative interest to obscure how little Dunkirk otherwise bothers with conventional drama. The actors aren’t playing characters so much as they’re embodying impulsive strategies; Nolan’s emphasis remains defiantly experiential, proliferating Steven Spielberg’s harrowing you-are-there approach from Private Ryan into something more along the lines of you-are-there-and-also-there-and-also-over-there-and-it’s-all-happening-both-separately-and-at-once.

  • The images are wet and rugged when we’re on the beach; terrifyingly vast when we’re airborne; and politely claustrophobic when we’re on Mark Rylance’s yacht... Nolan is an immense talent when it comes to giving his images scale, and those practical effects pay off when we’re watching boats topple over onto pools of trapped, stranded men. But by saving the true goods, the best ideas, for the tail end and not giving them room to breathe, Nolan sells himself short.

  • In spite of all the intelligence and technical wizardry on display, I found something lacking in Dunkirk. I couldn't help but regard it as a contraption, a collection of intricate parts that suggests an impressive diorama... Dunkirk is, for better and for worse, an immediate experience—it encourages engagement but not reflection.

  • Aside from some gorgeous shots of planes in flight, most of Dunkirk consists of spectacles of survival, and they pile up in dreary repetition. There are three emergency landings, two on sea and one on land... We get used to seeing members of the minimally delineated ensemble pull through. Hans Zimmer’s score is a manipulative set of variations on crescendos that never crest, mimicking sirens, heartbeats, and ticking clocks.

  • Nolan’s images come on coolly at first but soon begin to pile on with ferocity as hell breaks loose. Yet to make a film about such an event takes a streak of madness, of understanding of what it feel like to have the world drop out beneath your feet, and the capacity to revel in it. And if there’s one thing certain about Nolan, it’s that he doesn’t have a mad bone in his body.

  • I prefer the Leslie Norman version, but then I would (John Mills never shits on the beach). You could say that this movie, with its state-of-the-art everything, bears the same relation to that movie as Cameron’s TITANIC to Roy Ward Baker & Eric Ambler’s A NIGHT TO REMEMBER. Despite the immersive technique of both modern films, the older ones give you more of an emotional feeling of being there. Something to do with conviction.

  • In the film, all the big ships seeking to rescue troops are sunk in dramatic circumstances, leaving small craft to do the business. This is a travesty. The Royal Navy sent thirty-nine destroyers to Dunkirk, of which only six were sunk, although many were damaged. Two thirds of all the men brought home sailed in big ships, notably including the destroyers, just one third in smaller ones.

  • The sensory overload of “Dunkirk” is also an anti-intellectual barrage that effaces the actual differences that were overcome with difficulty in pursuing the war... “Dunkirk” seems, rather, like one of the self-censoring exhortations of wartime itself. Nolan’s sense of memory and of history is as flattened-out and untroubled as his sense of psychology and of character.

  • For Nolan, the central conceit is everything, and the film exists to justify it. Memento and Inception generally succeed because Nolan is a gifted enough filmmaker to craft a framework justifying his conceits. Dunkirk, like Interstellar before it, fails not because it errs too far in one direction, but because of the same fundamental flaw — Nolan is not a gifted enough filmmaker to justify these films’ more demanding conceits.

  • The film's fussy ambition ultimately results in aesthetic and thematic sloppiness.

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