Movie Review: Dunkirk by Guest Reviewer Yaseen Fawzi

I know it has been a while since I have posted a guest review by Yaseen Fawzi, but here is the first one by him in months. Personally, I would have given Dunkirk * * * * (out of * * * *) stars, but I do highly appreciate his take on the film so without further ado, here is his review of director Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk below. P.S. he wrote this review back in July.

Dunkirk (2017)
Director: Christopher Nolan

July 21, 2017

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is set during the real-life evacuations of Allied soldiers in World War II. It’s May 1940, and the Battle of France has left many troops trapped on the Dunkirk beaches while the German army advances. Evacuation arrives in the form of British and French forces utilizing ground and air cover, along with the services of all civilian and naval vessels available. 330,000 soldiers from France, Belgium, Great Britain, and the Netherlands are rescued, but at the heart of all this comes a great deal of sacrifice and skepticism that leaves the outcome of the evacuations at risk.

Those who are familiar with Nolan’s previous directorial efforts, including Memento and Inception will know that the narrative is depicted in a non-linear fashion, splitting between the perspectives of fighter pilot Farrier, army privates Tommy and Alex, and mariner Dawson. In contrast to many other World War II films, there is far less emphasis on action and more focus on suspense, putting it on par with Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line. The film is also minimalistic in much of its dialogue, with large sections being emphasized by the visuals that showcase the more intense aspects of the characters’ survival. There is a relentless energy to the battlefield scenes and they leave you bearing witness to the events at hand. We, as an audience, are experiencing the exact same feelings of dread and uncertainty as the soldiers, pilots, and naval officers.

Much of Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography employs wide and medium-angle close-ups on various film stocks (including IMAX 70mm), which add to the claustrophobic and bleak atmosphere. The sound effects, as designed by Richard King, heighten the intimidating nature of the ongoing warfare, whether they be the roaring rumble of the airplanes, the sonic blasts of gunshots and explosions, or the splashes of the ocean waves. The score by Hans Zimmer has a pulsating effect on the auditory senses with the addition of a ticking clock filling the background and usage of Elgar themes. Most of the main cast consists of anonymous characters, and although there is effort to maintain focus on the primary players, strengthened by exemplary performances from Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy, they are not entirely fleshed out, which contrasts heavily with Nolan’s prior films that greatly emphasize character.

Dunkirk isn’t quite as effective as Nolan’s previous works, but is generally redeemed by its suspenseful action scenes and strong visual compositions, proving how an average Nolan film is still better than most modern directors best work.

* * * (Out of * * * * Ya-stars)


3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Dunkirk by Guest Reviewer Yaseen Fawzi

  1. Yaseen’s review is very good and he is much more familiar with Nolan’s body of work than I, but I would give Dunkirk a significantly lower grade. In my view, the strategic drama of the situation was poorly conveyed and the drama of the individual struggles to resist the German onslaught and to survive was obscured by a poor narrative structure. Fine performances by Rylance and Hardy were wasted and I had the sense that the actors, generally, were striving — perhaps too hard — for understatement. But a successful war movie requires a few sympathetic characters whose peril can be followed more easily. And on the flip side, the Germans were essentially faceless. It’s hard to have sympathetic protagonists without stark antagonists.

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