Film Review: Dunkirk

If I had to summarize Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in two words, “intense” and “confusing” do a pretty good job. That seems mean, but I honestly had no idea what was going on for most of the film. It was emotionally charged and engaging, but very confusing.

Despite being a feature-length film, Dunkirk does not have much dialogue. Apparently Christopher Nolan didn’t want to use a script at all, and that’s not without its downsides. With little dialogue and narration, it’s really difficult to sympathize with any of the characters in Dunkirk.

Obviously, we’re supposed to be rooting for the Allied forces in the film, and that comes across fine, but for the handful of main characters, it is a lot harder to support them and feel invested in their personalities, because we know so little about them.

For one, almost none of the characters have names. If they do, they aren’t repeated often enough for viewers to remember them and makes it incredibly difficult to keep all of the characters straight.

The fact they are all dressed in variations of the same uniform, look very similar (so many brown-haired British men 😭,) don’t speak or say their names often, and in the case of one French character, are using aliases in blend into the British ranks, it makes it nearly impossible to differentiate one character from the next.

Just imagine Mary Kate and Ashley times 200,000.

Tom Hardy’s character spends most of the film with a mask covering his face. Which I suppose speaks well to his acting ability that he is able to portray emotion and tension with only his eyes visible, but when there are also two other British pilots, it gets really confusing.

Despite the lack of character development and engagement, the film is still very visually appealing and does a really good job with practical effects and creating tension. However, it’s also a very stressful movie-going experience. The minimal use of soundtrack and powerful explosions and gunfire made my anxiety go through the roof, but I couldn’t look away.

Actual footage of me in the theater.

Dunkirk is a very emotional movie and is already being hailed as the greatest war film. And that’ how you should approach it, not as a character study or of the impacts of war on a group of people. Which I guess makes a lot of sense. The evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk, France was a group effort.

It was about an overwhelming sense of hope and community among the British people and armed forces and while the actions of certain individuals did have lasting affects on the lives of other people and how the evacuation took place, at the end of the day it wasn’t really about any one person.

That’s not to say the lack of focus on specific characters wasn’t somewhat damaging to the overall experience, but it didn’t break the movie. If you like action, explosions, and tension, this movie is good. But it’s not exactly a movie that you’re going to want to watch over and over again.

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