Dunkirk

July 26th 2017

Today I watched Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk. It’s important that you call it ‘Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk‘ and not just ‘Dunkirk‘ because Christopher Nolan wants you to know that Christopher Nolan made Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.

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Now that we’re all clear on who made Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, let us review it. There will be spoilers, but in case you hadn’t figured it out, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is based on a true story. Well, true events, at least.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of British soldiers at Dunkirk (the real one) during WWII. We follow three stories in (for some reason) three different temporal spaces.

The ‘one week to go’ story shows a group of young, predominately unarmed soldiers repeatedly trying to get on boats that keep blowing up and/or being shot at with bullets and/or torpedoes. There’s lots of swimming. Oh and one of them turns out to be French, and he drowns.

The ‘one day to go’ story shows a British sailor-man, his son, and his son’s mate George sailing over to Dunkirk to pick up some soldiers. George falls down the stairs and dies.

The ‘one hour to go’ story shows three Spitfire pilots flying about over the English channel. Apparently by this point in the war the entire RAF had been depleted to just three pilots and three planes, and the Navy was just two Big Boats.

The planes shoot down some other planes for a bit, but two of our planes get shot down. One pilot is presumed dead, and the other one ends up on the boat with the sailor-man and George, the fella who fell down the stairs. This is the point where the three timelines converge and the film reaches its climax (still unsure why they were separate in the first place, but I guess it takes longer to sail over the channel than it does to fly over it). 

I guess that’s the plot covered. If you’re thinking ‘that doesn’t sound like much of a plot’ then I promise, I haven’t missed anything out. That’s basically it.

The young boys join the downed pilot on the sail boat, and everyone ends up back in England.

Yeah.

My main gripe with the film is that no one relevant died. That French fella drowned about twenty seconds after saying his only line of dialogue in the entire film ‘Je suis Francais’, and George died because he fell down the stairs. Neither of them were killed by Germans.

In fact, there are no Germans in the entire film, they’re shooting and bombing, but you never see them. Also, there is also no blood in the entire film. And, for the duration of the 2 hour biopic about World War II, no Englishman fires a rifle. The closest anyone gets is when Harry Styles puts a rifle in a Frenchman’s face and calls him a frog.

Again, I promise I’ve not made that up.

All that being said, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a fantastic film. It’s really special. It’s just not very good. Does that make any sense?

It’s beautiful, and chilling, and haunting, and harrowing, and traumatising, and stressful. At one point we have to watch a young British soldier make the ultimate decision, and choose whether he’d rather drown or be burned alive. He chose the fire.

It’s haunting, and so so powerful, it’s just not very good. We’re not made to care about any of the characters except for maybe Tommy, who escapes death about 14 times during the film. Personally, I think it would be far more effective if Tommy did die. Because then there’s a death that actually connects with us. It would make us feel something more than just uncomfortable.

Also, I thought it was kinda weird that the film ended with Churchill’s ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ speech, after it had just showed two hours of British people standing around on beaches, literally queueing in a line, waiting to get on a fishing boat.

Until tomorrow, who am I to tell Christopher Nolan how to make Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk?

Jacn

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