DUNKIRK | REVIEW

I had the privilege of returning to my old work place last night and viewing DUNKIRK in 70mm with the man who trained me as a projectionist 26yrs ago. As a projectionist for many years 70mm is what kids of today think of Super Ultra Mega 4K HD. It is the most visually entertaining way to view film and something that has projection people beaming with glee to see back on the big screen. It has sublime depth of field and contrasts that some still prefer over digital. “Some” includes Quentin Tarantino and , the director of DUNKIRK. 

These two directors have so much Hollywood pull that Kodak is continuing to make film stock in answer to their demands they will only film in 70mm (and IMAX) stock. The transfer from the 70mm to digital is superb and I am glad these two directing legends stuck to their guns. It is like a cinematic rebirth equivalent of vinyl and I love it. Screening 70mm film is an art form and a skill is required, seeing it run through a perfect screening was wonderful to see last night at the George Street Event Cinema. Excluding the sound – it was way too loud and distorting in the centre channel. 

DUNKIRK released today in 70mm at The Randwick Ritz, The Cremorne Orpheum and Event Cinemas George St in NSW. Tomorrow, Thursday 20th July, it will release in Digital at every other cinema in Australia. It is rated M and is Nolan’s shortest movie coming in at 106mins. Roadshow/ Warner Bros release this film in Australia.

 

Dunkirk Boedga Bay image

 

BY

DUNKIRK PLOT AND HISTORY:

The Dunkirk evacuation, code-named Operation Dynamo, also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk, was the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk, France, between 26th May and 4th June 1940, during World War II. The operation was decided upon when large numbers of British, French, Belgian, and Canadian troops were cut off and surrounded by the German army during the Battle of France. There was close on 400000 troops stranded on the beaches and they were being picked off by German planes, guns, subs, you name it. Many departing ships were sunk and many lost their lives but overall it was one of the greatest and pivotal evacuations in history.

The amazing thing about it was the rallying of the civilians across the channel who all jumped in whatever boats they could find and and headed over the channel to bring their boys home.

Christoper Nolan doesn’t so much as make a fiction of the evacuation, instead he recreates it and drops you in it. He tells three parallel stories. The film focuses on Tommy (), a young boy desperate to get home and ingenious if not unlucky in his many attempts. It then looks at Mr Dawson (), his son and his son’s friend, as they travel across the channel in the family boat. And finally it embraces the one movie-hero Farrier (), a pilot who gives more than anyone would ask. Good to see Hardy wearing a mask again in a Nolan film.

 

Dunkirk Fionn Whitehead image
Fionn Whitehead as Tommy

 

NOLAN IS MY FILM GOD:

Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest directors in cinematic history. With every film you are guaranteed nothing but pure quality and DUNKIRK is his SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. He is a filmmaking chameleon jumping in to multiple genres and delivering every time. Nolan had the idea to make this when he was a student. He sailed to Dunkirk with this girlfriend in 1992 and the idea was born. This movie could have been made before MEMENTO but he decided to do it justice he needed to hone his skills and learn how to make large scale movies first.

The screenplay is influenced more from silent movies than other war movies. There is very little dialogue and for 90% of this movie I was on the edge of my seat with my gut in knots and my hand over my mouth. This doesn’t put violence or exploding limbs in your face, there isn’t even that much blood or focus on the dead. There is plenty of times I thought I was watching one of the old war movies set on the Pacific but this felt more like realism. The pure terror these men must have faced wondering if they would in fact get home was painful to see. It is all about survival, nothing more, everyone is scared and everyone is desperate.

TECHINICALLY OUT OF THIS WORLD:

Technically DUNKIRK is sublime, I don’t think anyone could ever technically fault a Nolan movie. They are real destroyers he is using, limited CGI and some of the scenes involved up to sixty boats at once, some of those actual boats were ACTUAL BOATS from the Dunkirk evacuation. Add to that 1500 extras, a real working Spitfire and hundreds of cardboard cutouts in the background to give the illusion of many more soldiers and DUNKIRK looks as real as it is going to get. Scenes with boats sinking and people getting trapped in what looks like vertical water movement was new and really took my interest.

Hoyte Van Hoytema is back lensing again following his masterful work on INTERSTELLAR and his cinematography with the IMAX camera was visually epic. Not sure how many people actually have strapped an IMAX camera to a Spitfire plane before and I would love to see cameramen actually floating in the water with cast, crew and another IMAX camera. Nolan isn’t one for making things easy on set but boy he makes them good!

Last but not least technically is Hans Zimmer and his score. This one is dark and tragic and heavy in typical Nolan/Zimmer fashion. As opposed to the bellowing drum from INCEPTION you have a ticking clock constantly – said ticking clock Zimmer took from Nolan’s own pocket watch. One of the most powerful scenes in the movie is when the ticking stops. It actually makes you realise just how much it was present in the movie.

And special mentions to art design and costume departments – stunning recreations.

 

Dunkirk Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton
as Commander Bolton

 

THAT CAST:

It’s a hell of a cast. No one can be faulted. Kenneth Branagh is the old sea Commander who we occasionally visit to see the “brass’s” side of the story and catch up with for some narration. Tom Hardy is wonderful with most of his acting being his eyes while engaged in dogfighting in a plane. Mark Rylance is superb, I love this man on film, as I do – a wonderful small role for him. His story broke my heart.

I loved Fionn Whitehead – if anyone was going to survive the audience needs it to be him. I think we will see some more of this young lad in the movies, well I hope so anyway. Surprisingly also nails his role. I was so impressed by him in this movie. 1D represent! And special mentions to both Jack Lowden and Barry Keoghan, the two boys on Mr Dawson’s boat, they didn’t need to be in war but they were and it was beautiful and sad.

It was such unique roles for everyone to play. It wasn’t like there was much obvious character development, with limited dialogue they were recreating Nolan’s vision of the evacuation. No massive script direction, just character actions and reactions when their lives and their country’s boys lives were put on the line.

SMALL GRIPES:

A few small gripes, ok, besides the bellowing sound that distorted a couple of times in the George St cinema. 1) Kenneth Branagh saying there was 400000 people on the beach – um nope – not even close – it looked like about ten thousand at most. I couldn’t suspend that belief. 2) We didn’t need the end hero shot of Hardy, it felt a little bit too Hollywood for me and didn’t fit the movie. 3) The Tommy reveal during the dash from the oil was predictable and dragged on for too many frames. So minor but they needed to be mentioned. Minus half a pop for these.

 

Dunkirk Harry Styles as Alex
Harry Styles as Alex

 

IN CONCLUSION:

DUNKIRK is an incredibly tense war time recreation of a phenomenal and pivotal evacuation. If these men weren’t evacuated the Germans would have taken London. It is Nolan’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN but it feels more real, more bleak and less staged. This is purely about survival. I love that it’s told mostly without dialogue and more with heart and desperation. I don’t think it is Nolan’s best movie but it is one of the better war movies made for the screen. The sad part is that it’s so tense and harrowing I don’t know if I want to repeat view it. It was splendid seeing it in 70mm but to be honest this will look more crisp and probably better in digital.

 

 

 

 

YOUR CRITIC:

 owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. He is a movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict. He is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the  industry for 26yrs. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.