Saw an early screening tonight in Denver.
I don't know where to begin. So I will start at the weakest link. The acting. Still great, but any passable actor could have been given any of the major roles and done a great job. I know almost no more about the battle of Dunkirk after seeing the film than I did before, and I am not exactly a WWII historian. Truth be told, I learned all I know about the battle of Dunkirk from the movie poster. Does that weaken the film? Hell no, this is a film about survival. The opening scene tells it all and sets the stage as we get our first glimpse into a young soldier's need to stay alive, and his creative attempts to do so. That actor may even be considered the main character of the film. More words have been written so far in this review than he speaks. And I have no clue who the actor in that role is. It is humorous that Tom Hardy looks like Bane through most the film in the role of a pilot wearing an oxygen mask throughout. Kenneth Branagh is the only officer with any lines in the film, so that should give you an idea of the POV that we experience. We are the enlisted man trying to find a way to stay alive in a chaotic and harrowing battle. Though I believe Dunkirk will win every single technical Oscar, I would be surprised if it has any acting nominations at all.
How does Nolan elevate this above other films of a similar nature? I think he says it best himself, when he describes Dunkirk as a thriller more than a war film. He pulls that off superbly.
When a ship starts to take in water as numerous bullets penetrate its hull, I wanted to jump out of my seat and cover up the holes myself.
The film has three separate stories that are titled Mole, Sea and Air. And we all know where Moles live. The way the narratives of the three stories unfold and how they are all tied together is what makes the film a masterpiece. Much has been said about Nolan using IMAX film cameras and how the film is enriched by this. I don't know. I doubt I saw actual film being projected at my screening. Every frame looked terrific though.
So what is the most superlative aspect of the film? Gotta be the soundtrack. Hans Zimmer will win the Oscar for this without a doubt. So , so brilliant. This is not a soundtrack that I would buy at the store and play on my stereo. This is a soundtrack that weaves throughout the three narratives seamlessly and creates this phenomenal sense of tension. There are times when a two or three minute tense orchestral passage plays continuously as the story shifts from the ground to the sea then to the air and the music draws the three stories together. Zimmer's soundtrack reminds me of the way that Bernard Hermann's work was so vitally important in building suspense in most Hitchcock films. Though that description almost sells Zimmer short. His soundtrack is that good.
I don't think this is a film that will retain even half of its strength in your home theater. No folks, this is a film that you cough up for an overpriced IMAX ticket and rationalize it by knowing that experiencing Dunkirk in any other fashion will just not cut it.
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