Review: Dunkirk [2017] (Spoiler-free)

a spoiler-free review by the Crow.

DUNKIRK

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OPENING THOUGHTS

We went to watch Dunkirk some time ago, but haven’t been able to talk about it up until recently. The reason I’m only posting this the day before its official worldwide release is that I’ve been deathly ill. Thanks to being so ill, I’ve been quite creatively stunted of late.

But here we are with our spoiler-free review of Christopher Nolan’s latest movie.

As you might know from my previous review of a Nolan movie, I’m quite a fan of his. I consider him one of the best directors of the current generation of cinema. However, excited as I was when heading in to Dunkirk, I left any bias I might’ve had at the door. After all, what kind of person calls themselves a movie analyst/reviewer and brings their predispositions into the theatre for a first viewing? A bad one. That’s who.

Dunkirk is just a place I know of. This is about World War II. I don’t know anything apart from that. That’s the mind I went in with. That all said and done, let’s find out what I thought of the movie:


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REVIEW: DUNKIRK

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS VERY MINOR SPOILERS

The first thing I want to say about Dunkirk is how good it looks and sounds.

Hoyte van Hoytema teams up once more with Christopher Nolan and scores a hat-trick. Interstellar, Spectre (soon to be torn into on The Corvid Review), and now Dunkirk — all of these are gorgeous movies.

The editing (by Lee Smith — who also worked on all three of the aforementioned movies) is crisp and efficient. And as always, Christopher Nolan’s controlled, restrained influence is apparent in the background.

The sound design (Hans Zimmer once more) is masterful, as expected. The soundtrack (to be released on the 21st of July, 2017) comes highly recommended by us if you’re at all interested in film scores.

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Everything technical is done with a very straightforward approach. Dunkirk features some of the slickest, simplest film-making I’ve seen in some time, especially when it comes to war movies.

And yet, despite this simplicity, one can truly feel the sheer scale of the situation. The movie assembled some 6,000 extras, according to some sources, boats that participated in the actual event, and aircraft that appear accurate down to the very last detail. The shooting and production of this movie has been quite complicated (I’ve been following it), but the final cut scales itself back down to reality.

Everything is handled as it would happen in real life. I’m sure that on a closer viewing, some discrepancies might become apparent, but nothing is dressed up. What I mean by nothing being dressed up means that nothing about the combat (the explosions, the fires, etc.) is made to look glitzy.

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Now that I’ve covered all those bases, here, I run into a problem.

I can’t tell you anything much about the story.

I find Dunkirk to be a movie that is very easy to spoil. And it’s not all about the plot. Dunkirk utilises a very interesting narrative structure which is crucial to the entire movie. As a writer myself, I loved what Christopher Nolan has done with this script.

The Brown-Necked Raven has had one question ever since he found out I’d viewed this movie. It was: “So, will you tell me now who’s playing Churchill?”

He’s been wondering after this since the very beginning, and while he’s stayed away from reading anything up about the movie online so far, he’s now dying to know who the actor is. I can’t tell him anything, since even that would be a kind of spoiler.

What I can tell you, however, is that the choice of main character (should I be using that word?) is interesting. This movie stars a pretty loaded ensemble of actors, and I loved each and every one of their performances. However, none of the actors announced for the movie actually play the main character. We get close to a few of them, but never quite close enough. There’s also very little dialogue, and much of the character moments are based on silent, far-off reactions to what’s going on.

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The sheer scale of the operation is what separates these characters. We go between patches of people, we find out what we need to know about them, and that’s about it.

And I’d like to talk a little about this ‘all we need to know’ business.

I said earlier that I found the editing to be crisp, and much of the technical aspects in the final cut (despite how complicated shooting this movie was) to be simple and efficient. Dunkirk is a very efficient movie. Not a thing happens that is unnecessary, and not a thing that is necessary fails to happen. The movie is tightly-wound from the first moment to the last (or as my mum would say, “compact”).

It seems a short movie, at 106 minutes long (Nolan’s second-shortest movie after Following, which I’ll review next), but it is so well-paced, masterfully edited, and so edge-of-your seat that the running time vanishes into thin air. This is the kind of movie that I can honestly say grabs you by the wrist and rushes you along with it.

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I’m not being one bit hyperbolic when I say Nolan and his team have crafted a masterpiece with Dunkirk.

War movies are not movies I hunt down. I watch them as they come. Saving Private Ryan is possibly the movie I could say is closest to Dunkirk, but it’s still far, far away. I mention Spielberg’s movie because it’s a movie I can name as a good war film (and there are many other examples, of course). Dunkirk rewrites the very nature of war movies and delivers a spectacle of the kind that hasn’t ever been attempted before.

I’m going to go ahead and say it: Dunkirk has just become my favourite war movie. It comes highly recommended by myself and the Azure-Winged Magpie, and I implore you to watch it in the theatre. Nolan’s movies have progressively been becoming the kind that must be watched in the theatre, as the man has always claimed movies should be watched. Don’t rob yourself of the sense of scale Dunkirk delivers. It’s not just a movie, it’s an experience.

I’ll stop here, since I’m worried I might give too much away. But in closing: Dunkirk is stellar, and you really need to watch it.

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FINAL RATINGS

THE CROW: 9/10

THE AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE: 9.5/10


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