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Wick's Review

Created Jul 29, 2017 02:19PM PST • Edited Feb 03, 2019 07:01PM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Really Great 4.5

    Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk sets a new standard in faux cinéma vérité, so extreme is its IMAX-sized verisimilitude. As to its subject, it’s not as if the Miracle of Dunkirk has been ignored in World War II movies, most recently forming the backdrop of Their Finest. But it’s never been recreated at THIS SCALE.

    Nolan deftly folds his super-sized film in on itself, as its three focus-areas flash forward and back. You end up seeing key events from multiple points of view, e.g., a Spitfire shoots down a Luftwaffe bomber at the last second, after which the RAF fighter ditches in the English Channel. Dunkirk gives it to us from the British pilot’s POV and from the POV of the sailors watching helplessly from below. As Brits say, brilliant!

    Nolan plays it straight – and brief – for the first time in his career. Yet the editing and reverse chronological storytelling he perfected in Memento come in handy. The man is a master of time, equalizing one hour of Spitfire flight time with one day for a yacht sailing to Dunkirk, with one week for the blokes on the beach.

    Dunkirk is thus well worth the prodigious hype it has received, and is a must-see for war movie buffs and seekers of cinematic spectacle alike. Sure, the cast are mostly interchangeable, save for a few big names in formulaic roles. Yet, it chronicles a hinge-of-history event at a scale commensurate with its importance.

  3. Great 4.0
    • Kenneth Branagh plays a Royal Navy officer directing the evacuation as a classic stoic. His character is based on Canadian officer James Campbell Clouston.
    • Tom Hardy plays an RAF fighter pilot. Hardy’s terrific performance is largely through his eyes, as his face is covered by an oxygen mask, bringing to mind his masked performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. More on point as a comparison is this peerless actor’s performance in Locke.
    • Mark Rylance plays a civilian mariner and father who pilots his pleasure yacht across the English Channel and into war. Rylance rules British acting at the moment.
    • Tom Glynn-Carney jumps offscreen as his teen son.
    • Barry Keoghan affectingly plays a young boy who tags along on the trip to Dunkirk.
    • Cillian Murphy plays a soldier with PTSD.
    • Harry Styles, pop star, plays a British Army private.
    • James D’Arcy as a British Army Colonel
    • Michael Caine appears in a spoken cameo role as Fortis Leader.
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Christopher Nolan is known for long movies that play with reality. Yet, Dunkirk is a short movie that explores actual reality, notwithstanding still taking some creative license.

    His creative choices include never mentioning Germany, or even Nazis. Further, Churchill’s name warrants just two quick mentions, while his voice is never heard. Instead, a soldier reads excerpts from Churchill’s famous We shall fight on the beaches speech following the rescue at Dunkirk.

    Instead, Nolan focuses obsessively on the experience of those who went through the Miracle of Dunkirk, thus his decision to keep his film largely devoid of character development.

    Dunkirk has also been featured in two other 21st century movies.

  9. Direction Really Great 4.5
  10. Play Great 4.0
  11. Music Perfect 5.0
  12. Visuals Perfect 5.0

    Well worth seeing in IMAX. I was fortunate to see it at the Hackworth IMAX Dome in downtown San Jose, where the scale truly was boggling.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.1
  15. Sex Innocent 1.0
  16. Violence Brutal 3.5
  17. Rudeness Salty 1.8
  18. Glib 1.3

    Christopher Nolan plays with time and available ammo in his mostly realistic Dunkirk. Andrew Roberts has penetrating insights to such flaws in Dunkirk Undone at Commentary Magazine.

    As to the underlying story, the Daily Beast examines the mystery left out of Nolan’s Dunkirk: why didn’t Hitler go in for the kill.

  19. Circumstantial Glib 2.0
  20. Biological Natural 1.0
  21. Physical Natural 1.0


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