Jan 22, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
By Diane McCurdy
If your missed Dunkirk at the movies, it is now available on DVD but it is a big screen type of film. Conceived on a grand scale, it is a cinematic event that is immersive, a massive spectacle of battle on land, in the sea and in the air. Directed by Christopher Nolan who stunned and delighted audiences with his innovative piece,Memento, in which he basically told a story backwards, he again uses a more constrained non-linear technique in telling this account.Dunkirk is impressionistic which probably gives the viewer a more immediate experience of the famous evacuation of more than 30,000 Allied troops who were cornered on the beach in France. Although Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance are in the cast, most players do not have recognizable names. Anyway, the film belongs to the writer/director, Christopher Nolan.
The scene opens with six soldiers casually walking down a street. Five of them soon meet their demise. We follow the sixth for a while as he runs to the beach. The setting then changes to a British port where a rag-tag melange of sea going vessels is being assembled. A third narrative takes place in the air as British spitfires attempt to stop the German planes headed for France. The director weaves back and forth amongst these three scenarios switching between day and night, unfolding different time frames and then pulling them all together and then apart for great dramatic effect. Because the canvas is so large it could be that intimacy is sacrificed but this is not true. The audience’s experience is visceral. Dunkirk is an epic and will be remembered as such.
While all the action was on one side of the channel, the mindful machinations were on the other side. In Darkest Hour (releases on DVD late February), a companion piece, Winston Churchill in the person of actor Gary Oldman has just been named Prime Minister. He has taken over from Neville Chamberlain who had believed in appeasing Hitler. If Dunkirk belongs to the director, this film belong to Oldman. Brusque, whiskey swilling, cigar toting and sporting pounds of make-up, the actor re-imagines the statesman.
Both movies function almost as propaganda. They want us to feel the white-hot patriotism that is inherent throughout. As Americans we can share the Bristish pride but probably we are more impressed with the creativity and craftsmanship that brought these two stories to the screen.
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