Film: Dunkirk – (3.5/4)
Christopher Nolan has long become a household name. A popular director who, every other year, releases a big-budgetted, ambitious, and original blockbuster.
Reminiscent of Spielberg’s career from “Jaws” on through “Saving Private Ryan,” Nolan has a knack for ambitious filmmaking and often succeeds critically. He excels to new heights with “Dunkirk.”
I’m always intrigued to see an artist work outside their comfort zone. Sometimes, we see something amazing. Dialogue had become Nolan’s comfort zone, often reliant on screenplays written or co-written by his brother Jonathan Nolan.
“Dunkirk” is the third film with a solo Christopher Nolan writing credit along with “Following” and “Inception.”
Through the years I’ve enjoyed his films as much as the next guy. I have, however, held reserved criticisms of the dialogue and on-the-nose exposition in his films.
The dialogue in “Dunkirk” is minimal. We know early on we are witnessing 3 separate stories and as we ease into the film we start to see how these stories are connected. It’s exposition through action and pace as opposed to dialogue.
In discussing the Oscar battle last year I would often tell people there are 2 types of films. The kind that, when the credits roll, you are overjoyed and ecstatic about (“La La Land”), and the kind that take a few days or even weeks to fully register (“Moonlight”).
Nolan’s films are bombastic. They are loud films with loud action while Zimmer bangs a loud drum right by your face. “Dunkirk” is a loud film, but it also fits snuggly into that second category.
The more time that has gone by, the more “Dunkirk” has registered with me. While the action remains loud, the characerizations are subtle; the overlying message also subtle. All while making it easy to draw home a satisfying conclusion.
I also can’t review a Nolan film without excessively complimenting the sheer brilliance in filmmaking. The last thing a financing studio wants to hear about are scenes shot on open water or with excess amounts of water. There are also liability risks to consider to both actors and equipment.
Having gone to film school, I often felt stressed (more than usual) witnessing these scenes. Are you really going to stick a beloved One Direction band member underwater in a potentially dangerous situation? Well, he did it and nailed it.
“Dunkirk” is the kind of bombastic film that earns a directing Oscar while losing the Picture Oscar to a smaller film. Could Nolan’s first Oscar reflect Spielberg’s first when”Saving Private Ryan” lost to “Shakespeare in Love”?