I wasn’t going to for various reasons, but here are a few rambly, off-the-cuff thoughts about Dunkirk. Please don’t read this and think I know anything about anything, because I don’t. But I did really enjoy this film, and I’m in the mood to share.
This film was – to quote someone at my cinema today – non-stop from start to finish. It starts and then it doesn’t stop until it’s all over. It really captures the feelings it’s trying to depict, it makes you feel trapped when the characters are trapped. Makes you feel the hopelessness and the cruelty of being on that beach, and of knowing that when the bombs come the only thing you can do Is lie down and hope you’re not the one to get hit this time.
One of the things I appreciated most was that It focused on a range of character in a way that let the film be about the events at Dunkirk, about the bravery of the many, and about the fear and the hope and the hopelessness of everything that was going on, rather than about one or two individual soldiers. Which was great, both because it made it easier to sit through all of the horrible acts of war, but also good because it felt like the truest way to tell this story without making it into an overly sensationalised story about one person’s death/sorrow/heroics.
I also really appreciated the intertwining of the three perspectives: the mule, the sea and the sky. It was a great way of showing different perspectives of everything that happened. I will say, though, that aside from the visual appeal of the aerial shots of the planes, I did fine the bits in the sky to be the least engaging parts of the film overall. I enjoyed the different time perspectives. It was very Nolan-esque to make them all span across different amounts of time, and to show how they intertwined and how the things that happened appeared from various perspectives.
Fionn Whitehead was amazing, and should probably win awards for this film. He and Tom Glynn-Carney were the stand outs for me, and I very much appreciated Mark Rylance’s character. I really liked that in a film so packed with big name actors, the ones that got the most time to shine were the fresh faces. Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy, all got their moments to shine – some more than others – but for me the heart of the film was the younger cast. Perhaps because they were in the water, more directly in the midst of everything that was going on. But perhaps also because we were given more insight into their characters. And while we’re at it; I was really impressed with Harry Styles. I’m a fan, I adore him, and I would admittedly not have cared much if he wasn’t that good, but I honestly think he did really well, especially with his nonverbal acting.
I also appreciated how mild the violence was. That feels like a strange thing to say. What I mean is that in depictions of war, sometimes the scenes become gruesome because the war was gruesome. But I appreciated that it didn’t linger on it, didn’t make it about the blood and the horror. It is one of the least violent war movies I’ve seen, and I love a good Hollywood movie that can stay away from gratuitous violence even when they so easily could have justified including it.
Another thing that was really interesting was how every character was not a “good guy”, but also none of them were bad. The bad decisions, the cruelness, came from a place of fear, despair and trauma. It was earned, and nuanced, and met with understanding. I loved that.
I’m definitely happy I went to see it, and Christopher Nolan is still my favourite director. Please feel free to talk to me about it if you’ve seen it! I’ll be sat over here, trying to figure out which film to look forward to now that this is finally out.