Dunkirk is a very hard film to rate. Visually it is stunning and once again Christopher Nolan has created an experience that deserves to be seen in the cinema. However I do think the spectacle comes at a cost.
For those not aware it tells the story of the battle in the Second World War as the British and French soldiers were pinned back by the German advancing army where thousands of soldiers were successfully evacuated.
While Nolan’s direction and Zimmer’s minimalist score work fantastically well its short 1 hour 40 minute running time mean we don’t get the level of character that I was hoping for in a cast that includes Mark Rylance (who admittedly is probably the most well fleshed out as a man in charge of a requisitioned boat), Cilian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Kenneth Branagh.
Ironically for me I wanted more of a character study while my friend felt that the events of Dunkirk were not sufficiently represented in terms of scale, in terms of amount of planes and boats for example. While this didn’t bother me he did make the reasonable point that Saving Private Ryan managed to do this both in terms of representing the scale of the event while at the same time delivering a satisfying personal story.
While there are some great personal moments (such as Cilian Murphy’s shell-shocked officer) the back-and-forth nature of the story means we only seem to get snippets and moments intermingled with the grand set pieces. It feels very intense and real though some may not feel there is the same level of “heroism” you hope for in a typical war film.
It’s difficult to really rate this as it depends what you want from it. Equally I want to be able to champion something that is different from an animation or a comic book film. But to be honest most of the best films I’ve seen this year have been comic book films and the relative letdowns I have seen have been outside the genre.
In short so long as you go in hoping for the spectacle you will get what you want but if you want a bit more character, depth and emotion then you may be a bit disappointed.