Grim Visag'd War
August 5, 2017
Chirstopher’s Nolan’s Dunkirk is a masterpiece, best of the year. Two main points:
Turn’s out that Nolan’s Inception wasn’t just a movie, but re-introduced a new way to frame story-telling, not with flash-backs, but with multi-track, multi-timescale story lines. That’s sounds bizarre but it enables three different stories, with three different time-spans to be told and intercut in one linear narrative. In Inception, that was just a cute plot gimmick, weird and fun. Here it is the critical form of the movie, driving forward the function of the film’s dramatic tension.
(I say re-introduced in order to acknowledge Last Year At Marienbad which uses a similarly inter-mingled multiple time-signature style to tell it’s story of a rekindled (or not) romance)
A criticism of the film is that it doesn’t tell enough history. Correct - it’s not a history film, and not even driven by characters. It’s actually a symphony of sound and vision designed to overwhelm you with a story of war. There’s a hint of a moral arc, a touch of development, some glimpses of success, but mostly just the brutal truths of terrible wars fought at great cost.
Nolan and composer Hans Zimmer use their technique of extremely slowed down music, turning Elgar’s Nimrod Variation in to the films droning crescendo of victory, barely recognizable but still, somehow, totally effective.
This bravura and confident filmmaking makes the film strikingly compelling in all dimensions.
Meanwhile, disaster after disaster, breathtaking moments of Spitfire dogfights (that puts shame to Spielberg and Lucas), sand-swept and grey-skied dunes littered with bodies and lines of waiting soldiers as the fate of World War II unfolds.