Dunkirk

B+

This movie has gotten some pretty amazing reviews, with a 94 at MetaCritic during its first week of release. The director, Christopher Nolan, chose to film most of the movie in IMAX on real film and in the other 25% of the movie where IMAX cameras wouldn't work, he still used film. Now it is released in a number of different formats, with the rarest being 70mm film IMAX. It is also available in digital IMAX. There are also widescreen versions played back on 70mm and 35mm film and I would guess widescreen digital projection which is how almost all movies are presented today. I read an article saying that if at all possible it is best to see the movie in 70mm IMAX, but I decided to settle on 70mm widescreen since the only 70mm IMAX presentation in Georgia is at the Mall of Georgia, 36 miles away. However, after picking up my nephew a little late and telling him about the IMAX version, we decided to make the trek to get the ultimate version of the movie. When we got there they told us that all but the first two rows were sold out (they sell reserved seats). Also they did not offer a 70mm widescreen version so we decided to get better seats for the next morning's first IMAX show at 10:45, then drove home disappointed but hopeful for the next day. The next morning we found out that the IMAX projector had broken the night before and that we could see the movie in digital IMAX instead but the top and bottom would be cropped (which sounds like digital widescreen). So we got refunds and headed back to downtown Atlanta to watch the 70mm widescreen version, which thankfully was not a problem. We called this ordeal our own Dunkirk.

The movie. Nolan also wrote the movie and thought it would be better to tell the story only through action on the screen. And since real life battles don't have much dialogue, the movie doesn't either. Also he chose to tell three stories: one on the beach, one at sea on one of the famous little ships of Dunkirk, and one in the air aboard an RAF Spitfire. To further complicate the story, the beach story is one week, the sea story is one day, and the air story is one hour. But it all looks like it is happening at the same time and there is even some interaction between the different stories. We also don't see a lot of strategizing or know much of what is going on. The music adds some tension, but there are also all kinds of tragedies happening as rescuers and evacuees are constantly attacked by German forces, mostly from the air. Another interesting choice is Nolan had the movie rated PG-13, so there is a distinct lack of gore even though plenty of people get killed.

In the end, the movie is a little confusing. It is also a little slow despite quite a bit of tension. It doesn't seem like that much is happening at times and some of it doesn't make much sense, mostly the made up stuff. It never looks like there are 400,000 people being moved despite there being thousands of extras, maybe partly because the evacuation took place over a week. So while I respect a lot of what Nolan was trying to do, I am left a little underwhelmed, despite Dunkirk being an amazing story. The 70mm movie looks great though everything happens on overcast days so it is mostly gray, though maybe the film gives a little blue saturation. Air battles are really difficult to do well because the typical audience member doesn't understand the techniques involved and even if they did, it is hard to show them. So it seems like you just shoot at the other plane until it makes smoke. That's how most movies are, but to devote a third of the movie to that and not be able to come up with anything that much better seems like a missed chance. I enjoyed the movie, but I don't think I value Nolan's approach as much as the critics have, so I am giving the movie a B+.