I try to avoid negative reviews when I can because I don’t really dislike a lot of movies. Going into Dunkirk, I was really excited to see a film using modern technology to capture the feel of the world wars. Unfortunately, what I left the theatre feeling didn’t quite line up with the expectation I had going in. I also deliberated how to approach this review several times because I don’t want to shit on a movie if I can avoid it. Obviously there are some exceptions (Trainwreck and Rough Night or whatever it was called) but generally I try to avoid flat-out complaining about the films I see.
Basically, the battle at Dunkirk was a failed operation by the allies that left troops stranded, surrounded, and without much hope. A full-scale rescue of the stranded troops was mounted by local fishing and leisure vessels. I guess the scale or the rescue was somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. Suffice it to say, it was grand. The rescue involved British and French troops predominantly but there were some other nations that had troops stranded and rescued.
The film took a couple key points from the rescue and attempted to make three relatable and personal stories to put on film. Three people got focus within these stories and they had various supporting cast surrounding them. A pilot, a naval captain, and a troop on the ground had their personal stories told over a week, a few days, and on the day of the rescue respectively. The film pays very little mind to this time scale, rather just hopping from scenario to scenario as needed. As such, I feel there’s a disconnect between the three stories and the rescue all together.
I’m on the fence when it comes to movies done by Christopher Nolan. I have mixed feelings about his Batman trilogy and have to watch Inception again to really get a fair opinion of it. Admittedly, I am a fan of Interstellar, despite the totally sci-fi ending. While I didn’t mind the ending, I felt it took away from some of the credible science involved in seemingly every other aspect of the film. With Dunkirk, Nolan wrote and directed it. I don’t know that he has a signature aspect to him film style (like Woo with his doves or the Neveldine brothers with their hyper intensity) but there are some things I noted. The main cast seems to have been used in other Nolan films (you can hear Michael Caine over the plane radio for example) which is unsurprising since said cast happens to be really damned good (Branagh, Cillian Murphy to name a few) always add something special to the films they’re in.
I guess I was hoping for something focused on the grandness or the rescue operation instead of a personalized filming of three stories that happen to take place in the same timeframe as the rescue operation. I didn’t particularly find any of the stories exciting or at least relatable which is what I feel was the main goal. I wasn’t moved by the protagonists and didn’t care to dislike the antagonists either. The special effects weren’t particularly exceptional (the plane flying over the beach at the end looked pretty phoney) which I was quite surprised at. I guess when all is said and done, the movie fell flat with me and left me wishing I’d just watched World War II In Colour on Netflix instead. Fans of war movies might find redeemable points to the movie but it fell short for me. I’d personally recommend a hard pass to people inquiring.