Movie Reviews: Dunkirk


Like many of my movie reviews, this is really a half movie review, and a half tangent rant on something related to the film. If you truly want to know about the synopsis of the film, there are many other blogs or media reviews to read.

It’s also a little personal.

This was the first Christopher Nolan film since Batman Begins that I did not see in theaters. I saw the the hype. I knew the history. Nolan is one of the best directors in the business today. But I couldn’t bear to watch it.

It has nothing to do with the film, but more to do with the content.

I’m a veteran. By choice, I simply, don’t watch realistic war films often. Before the service, I did. Saving Private Ryan was the best in my opinion. World War II was the war to end of all wars, and the greatest generation, steadfast brits, key allies and resistance groups, fought the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan, all while The Soviet Union fought and bore a huge cost on the brutal eastern front of the war. Who broke the Third Reich? (Hint: land wars in Asia are brutal) Since doing my share in OIF and OEF, I don’t really want to watch war films. I think since I watched The Hurt Locker, which itself was a preposterous action film, my interest waned the moment I saw Jeremy Renner lost and confused in the supermarket aisle.

That was me. Or is me. I don’t know. When the war idealism fades, and you enter your 30s, your taste in cinema evidently changes to. At least it did for me.

I have not seen American Sniper, despite liking and respecting Clint Eastwood films.

I have not seen The Lone Survivor, despite thinking Peter Berg is a good director.

I did watch Kathryn Bigelow’s follow up with Zero Dark Thirty, but that wasn’t really a war film. It was really a spy movie, which are still fun in my book.

Maybe I have Post Traumatic Movie Syndrome.

So, it took a lot for me to watch this movie, and its from a different era. To drill down to the cause, maybe it’s because war isn’t a glorified thing when you are part of it. Young and predominantly determined people fight wars old people lead. I wouldn’t go as far as to say poor people fight in modern day, since really, Armed Forces of the US are middle class after a few years, with education opportunities that can propel them to the higher rungs once you make it past 4 years (most don’t, especially in the Marines, statistically). We come in as idealists and usually leave a change person, for better or worse.

We learn ¬†few universal military maxims. First and foremost, healthcare sucks: incompetent and motrin-pushing when you are in, and incompetent and ailment-denying when you are out. Politicians won’t truly ever care. If you are a vet, try writing a congressman and see if you ever get an answer. The VA is literally filled with healthcare bureaucrats who run it like a DMV. Instead of the entire VA and their $70 billion budget, they could gut it all and cover all retiree’s insurance with a top program, and make it law to deny coverage. Would benefits be abused by some? Maybe. It happens under the VA now (with disability shopping) and with Medicare (which the country covers for older retirees). But really, what is the over abuse when it comes to healthcare? Electing to have more knees surgeries …. fuck. You got to me one tough motherfucker to want a knee operation that you don’t need. They say 39,471 veterans are homeless any given night in america, which is a shame. Many of these people have serious problems. Some, are post traumatic stress syndrome related … something that was frowned upon as a sissy psychology-pushed diagnosis until the Iraq War. Help them before the sands of time turn them into a shell of their former selves.

Nevertheless, wars are fought and always will be fought. In this movie, we watch a retreat unfold. Nothing is truly explained. Nolan expects people to know their history other than the few lines of introduction the film opens with. I read somewhere that Nolan wanted the film to have no script, which I guess was unique, and perhaps ambitious if this was an intended documentary style recreation.

I didn’t love the film. I actually will go as far to say, I think the narrative is disjointed. Nolan seems to be watching too many Kubrick films. If Interstellar was like a Space Odyssey tribute, Dunkirk is an homage to Paths of Glory. Every frame is beautifully shot and could be hung in an art gallery. I just didn’t see a story. Nothing felt compelling to me. There isn’t a single narrative. You don’t really root for anyone. There is no villain. It doesn’t really demonize or talk bad about the enemy. The movie is 90% visuals and a Hans Zimmer score.

Not even his stable of trusted actors can save the story. Between Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy (who is one of the few saving graves of the film) there just isn’t much for them to do, along with the 400 other white male actors (this is a Christopher Nolan film, so go figure)

The film is simply a retreat, and afterward, I felt tired.

Maybe its genius because it doesn’t glamorize war. There is no real victory. There is no real point.

Movie Rating: 5/10 low tides