In a year where films are turning out better than we’d hoped, who would’ve thought Nolan’s latest entry is one of the weakest films I’ve seen this year? Dunkirk follows the true events of the evacuation of about 330,000 soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk during World War II. From the trailers, it was obvious Nolan and company were aiming for a visceral vibe with how everything is shot. With a cast including Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Harry Styles, how could this go wrong? Sadly, in place of any real connection to the story, we just get a really heavy story by itself. If that’s what you go into “Dunkirk” for, you’ll be fine, but a ticking score can only keep this writer in tune for so long.
Before getting down and dirty, the one component of this movie that went above and beyond is the score composed by Hans Zimmer. A frequent collaborator of Christopher Nolan, Zimmer is no stranger to writing epic scores. Besides the annoying ticking that goes on for the entire run time, I couldn’t help but sit up in awe of the music. If I could close my eyes and not fall asleep, my movie experience would’ve been better. It’s unfortunate that while there is an award-winning composition for each scene, I can’t tell you what song is for which scene.
The tragedy of the score’s forgetful scene placement comes as a consequence of a script stacking its chips all on the heaviness of the story and doing nothing about the characters. Every actor in this did a good job with what they had. Tom Hardy did the best facial expressions he’s ever done since Bane. The problem is that I can’t tell you much about any character besides what they did. Cillian Murphy’s character is given a dangling plotline that offers no real payoff by the end of the movie. Yes, this is a spectacle, but it’s so dour and nothing keeping me engaged with these characters. While these are true events, in its movie form, I couldn’t care about any character. I’m going to keep saying “character” because there’s no way I remember anyone’s name.
As a technical feat, this film is great. I give major kudos to the cinematographer and the composer. Christopher Nolan definitely hit the intense beats. It wasn’t until those beats ended that I realized that I just don’t care. Silence is a powerful tool in any movie and directors like Scorsese are masters of this art, but it seems this team relied too heavily on silence that it made the film disconnect. I probably would’ve liked this more if it was a documentary, which I hear this is one for this, because all this did was recount the epic tale of the evacuation. Nolan is no stranger to using an out of order time sequence in his films; “Memento” was a story told backwards. That’s another aspect of this movie that was milked too much and became hard to follow.
I think most people will enjoy this movie. It’s definitely not “bad” in comparison to a lot of garbage that comes down the drain every year. However, this is Nolan’s weakest film to date. With all the issues that “Interstellar” had, at least I gave a damn about Murph and Cooper. I fell asleep for a minute here.