Thursday, December 28, 2017

"Dunkirk" Beached

Two days ago I got around to watching the 2017 Christopher Nolan "epic", Dunkirk. Generally I was unimpressed.

While watching the film I got the impression that director Nolan did not know his story, or he lost it during the production or editing phase.

There is some parallel cutting that, while fine on its own as an exercise, adds little to the greater narrative.

There are some interesting bits -- like an appreciation of a fighter-plane's loitering time, and what happens when a ship sinks -- but the film as a whole flies over what happened on that beach. Where are all the ships and aircraft? And soldiers?

By the way, Junkers 87s did not release their bombs like that. They were dive bombers. Also, level bombers could not hit ships with the frequency depicted in the film.

The various characters read and resonate as real people -- Nolan has stated that he wanted to render a documentary feeling. There's a downside. As is so often the case with war films -- men in matching uniforms and haircuts -- it's sometimes hard for the audience to keep track of and quickly identify the characters.

One thing I particularly liked about Dunkirk was the casting of appropriate-age actors. Those guys were young. My dad was a teenager when he flew on Lancasters with RAF Bomber Command.

Dunkirk could have been a great film. Perhaps someone should try again with Dunkerque.


Unknown said...

As it's been said again and again by many movie directors (and I just heard it again last week while attending the online master class of Ron Howard):

Nobody sets out to make a bad movie. No matter the conditions. The aim is always the sky. You just sometimes derail on the way. Once you start shooting, you just hand on for dear life…

Dunkirk is a fine movie. It focuses very thistly on key characters and let's see the events trough the very limited and disported vision of these characters, and never let's go. I would say, very well done Mr. Nolan.

The film presents us a less glamorous and less hocus-pocus Hollywoodien depraved image of that passage of the war, such as Saving Private Ryan, which is also a fine film but often falls in the trap of "flashy bits" for entertainment for the sake of entertainment.

We like this most serious, almost meditative approach you presented us in Dunkirk.

Francois Aubry

Simon St. Laurent said...

I appreciate very much your sobering perspectives on art, especially unwieldy feature films. No one sets out to make a deficient film. So much goes wrong, certainly on pictures with heavy logistics. As you know, the matter is whether or not what comes out of the editing room works for us on a personal level. (I think "Wild Angels" is a great film.)

Thanks for the notes and charmed opinion!