A relentless cinematic symphony, Dunkirk (2017) is evidence again that Christopher Nolan is indeed the top filmmaker of the human experience.
Dunkirk (2017) Synopsis
Following the invasion of France in 1940, thousands of Allied soldiers are marooned and surrounded by Nazi forces in Dunkirk. As the situation worsens, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill orders the acquisition of private vessels to rescue the stranded men. Using the three different perspectives of air, sea, and land, Dunkirk (2017) tells the story of what would go down in history as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
There are so many things to geek over about Dunkirk (2017) that I’m not even sure where to begin.
A mere two hours after watching, I was engaged in a heated debate with a youngster over what exactly the three perspectives represent; a debate that lasted one hour. With embarrassment, my young friend made me realised that though I sensed it, I largely missed the deeper depths of this spectacular storytelling masterpiece. They are just so many layers in it. Some themes are also not immediately obvious and thus the movie is well-worthy of a second or even third viewing.
On the surface, you have splendid cinematography and thrilling dogfights, as well as truly chillingly drowning scenes and superb music synchrony, the latter of which imbuing the entire movie with a lyrical realism that is impossible not to be moved by.
Beneath all these, and the real engine of the story, lies the steadfast dissection of the many precepts of war. Contrary to what I initially thought, the three perspectives of air, sea, and land do not merely represent different positional reactions to the Dunkirk Crisis. Neither are they summations of what I interpreted to be the resilience, resistance, and retaliation toward the crisis.
Instead, they are the same reality expressed through the experiences of different individuals. Realities so similar. Yet also so starkly different.
- There is the hapless soldier, who’s only concern is escape. Never mind that it involves stealing from the dead, jumping queues, or sneaking aboard the vessel meant to save the lives of others.
- There is also the grieving father. Whose stoic determination to save the stranded soldiers might be his only conviction that his son was not lost for nothing.
- And finally are the frontline heroes i.e. the pilots. Whose skill and bravery saved the day, so to speak. But as Churchill himself reminded, one must be “very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory.”
These realities, individually or as a whole, do not invalidate the experiences of those who partook and survived the crisis. Instead, they do the complete opposite. They convince you that this was what happened in 1940, and why you must know and remember.
Together with perfect mastery of camera, sound, and effects, these three elements also reaffirm that Christopher Nolan is indeed the leading filmmaker of the human experience. It might feel too early to say, but Dunkirk (2017) is likely to be one of the top films of this year. Possibly, of our generation too.
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