“Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Sweetest sound you could hear out here.”
I don’t claim to be a professional film critic, quite the opposite. I like to talk about my views on films that I have seen. Sometimes I agree with others, sometimes not. Filmgoing is a very personal experience for me (which is why I like to go alone) and I know that films affect people in different ways and that is what makes them special.
I always see films more than once. If I don’t it normally means that I disliked it so much it’s not worth a second viewing. The first time I see a film I concentrate on the story. Does it make sense? Are there huge, gaping plot holes? That kind of thing. The second time I pay more attention to how it was shot, the acting, soundtrack etc. If I do see a film multiple times (For example: Rogue One 7 times and Wonder Woman 9 times) then I must REALLY have enjoyed it!
On to Dunkirk by Christopher Nolan (Director of Interstellar, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception) It will be short, spoiler-free review (I hope!).
I really enjoy war films based on real events, providing they are as accurate as is possible. I know that time constraints mean that events have to be condensed or altered slightly and I’m fine with that as long as they are accurate as possible. One example of this are two films based on the same event, The Battle of The Alamo. One of the most popular films based on this event was the 1960 movie starring John Wayne. Whilst this was a good, entertaining movie, it was highly inaccurate. The 2004 version of the story, directed by John Lee Hancock (No relation) was much more accurate. The director had taken the time and effort to do his research. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a lot more accurate than The Duke’s version.
My initial worry with Dunkirk was that it would be sensationalised like many of today’s films, so I purposely avoided any teaser/trailer, right up to the final 4-part trailer that was released back in April this year. I was able to see the film without knowing a great deal which was a bonus.
My first screening was in 70mm at The Odeon Leicester Square. I can wholeheartedly say this is the best way to see the film. There is so much going on over such a wide area that it needs 70mm to do it justice.
What struck me first about the film was the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer. There wasn’t a loud score, drowning out dialogue as can sometimes happen. Don’t get me wrong, it works for certain films like Star Wars but with Dunkirk I think it would have taken away from the story. There was a soundtrack, but it was subtle enough to not distract. The volume was just right. For example, the track “Supermarine” which played over the dog-fight was at the perfect level to really enhance the scene.
The second thing that struck me was the dialogue, or should I say lack of. Sometimes I’m sure that scriptwriters and directors put in dialogue just for the hell of it and it can come across as cheesy (ahem George Lucas!). Not here. There was dialogue when needed. I don’t want to say more as it will spoil it.
The story was great. It takes place over three time periods, based on different locations. The first was ‘The Mole’ (Similar to a breakwater, to protect harbours) which took place over the course of a week. The second was ‘The Sea’ which focussed on the Small Vessels Support and takes place over the course of a day. The third and final location was ‘The Air’ which focussed on a small group of fighter pilots and takes place over the course of an hour. By the end of the film, these three intricately woven stories have all become one and makes, for me, a moving, accurate as possible, story about sacrifice, loss and the stubbornness of the British people during World War 2 and Operation Dynamo.
The visuals are breathtaking. From the scenes on the beach or at The Mole, to the sky and down to the sea. There are times you will find yourself holding your breath.
Stand out performances by Sir Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Mark Rylance and Aneurin Barnard. But, the best two performances throughout the whole film, for me, were Cillian Murphy as the shell-shocked soldier, and Tom Hardy as Farrier, the Spitfire pilot who could give across so much emotion during this film with just his eyes…
The one performance that I thought was hyped-up by the media was Harry Styles. He just didn’t do it for me. It wasn’t that it was a bad performance, it was that anyone could have done it in my opinion.
Keep an ear out for a special voice-cameo by Sir Michael Caine.
If you can, see it in 70mm at The Odeon and receive a free-film strip!
I’ve seen it twice. Will I see it again? Most definitely!