Dunkirk, 26th July 2017
Regular readers of this blog (soon to be counted on the fingers of more than one hand I confidently predict) will have worked out that I am not a committed film buff, preferring the theatre, art exhibitions and, within limits, classical music concerts. And I am a bit random in what I do end up seeing at the cinema, though with a bias to the kind of foreign language efforts that the Guardian approves of.
Dunkirk though was going to be an obligatory view however largely for the subject. As I observed in my review of the rather pedestrian Churchill (the film not the bloke – see here Churchill film review **) the mythology of this history is deep-rooted. What I didn’t do though was pay much attention to director. cast or the much vaunted production choices which underpin Dunkirk the film. So the absence of CGI, the focus on character as metaphor, the absence of blood and guts, the intersection of time periods, in fact the whole Sunday morning 1950s matinee quality which pervaded the whole affair was a welcome surprise.
Nothing wrong with using technology to create visual drama and spectacle for the cinema audience but, in my experience, it can mean plot. character and meaning can take a subsidiary role to the visual extravaganza. Not here. You are not going to be surprised by the depth of psychological introspection revealed in the dialogue nor should you expect a devastating indictment of the politics that lie behind what was a humiliation for the Allied forces. This is a straightforward telling of the “story” but smartly avoids moralising or mythologising precisely because of what is not there. Instead it is an engrossing impression, complete with banging score and some cracking camerawork, of a sequence of events. Branagh does a Branagh, Rylance does a Rylance, Hardy does a Hardy and the somewhat lesser known cast members (all blokes) all fall into line (including that Tom Glynn-Carney who shines in The Ferryman on the stage).
I couldn’t tell you if director Christopher Nolan’s non-linear storytelling is the mark of an auteur or just a way to cut down editing costs but it is effective for me. Too much mainstream cinema is boring for me because it is linear and predictable so this was a welcome diversion.
Anyway all I up I wandered in. sat down, got caught up in the film and the people in it, came out and broadly forgot about it. That’s enough for me and way more than I normally get when I inadvisedly see a “blockbuster” film.