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In Dunkirk full movie 2017, Christopher Nolan has made a harsh and distressing war film muddled by his signature “Nolan Time”, that arty temporal mess that he believes is more illuminating than it actually is.
Shortly, Nolan Time involves several parallel temporal lines that seem to be out of sync but prove to match a Higher Synchronization – not the work of God or Fate but of faithful individuals bravely exercising free will. However, I’ll credit him in Dunkirk movie as getting many of the externals right.
His springboard is an event that is praised by Brits and less familiar to Americans, who usually think of World War II as starting with Pearl Harbor and the delayed entry of the United States. It turns out to be one of the most victorious military retreats in the world history. By mid-1940, the Nazis had dominated across Europe and forced at least a quarter-million Brits to the beaches of northern France, almost close enough, as the characters in Dunkirk cravingly insist, to see the Mother Country throughout the channel. By then, the Royal Navy had lost almost 30 huge ships, the Luftwaffe ruled the skies, and the waters filled with U-boats. Churchill and the crew couldn’t dare to lose more warships with the big German invasion of the homeland – Operation Sea Lion.
I watched Dunkirk 720p HD movie in IMAX, where the harmony of size and a gigantic, square frame made even the panoramas appear like close-ups. Nolan and Hoyte Van Hoytema, director of photography create one of the most vibrant opening scenes I’ve seen. A group of soldiers moves cautiously along a street, away from the camera, encircled by falling leaflets – warnings dropped from German planes to give up or die. Soon later, all of them are dead, except for one. The survivor, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), is classified in one of Nolan’s ambiguous titles as “the Mole”, which is easy to remember as he has a huge one where his cheek meets his chin. Identifying himself as English, he travels past French defenses, onto the beach, where the Brits are waiting in line with patience. He wastes no time in using a stretcher and attempting to sneak onto a medical boat holding the wounded.
Nolan and his editor Lee Smith start their crosscutting song and dance. Above the sky, Spitfire pilots Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden take off to defense the ships by shooting down Luftwaffe planes. Across the pond in England, Mark Rylance fills his tiny pleasure boat with life vests, helped by two young boys, his son (Tom Glynn-Carney, a handsome blond kid who seems as if he’s on leave from Slytherin) and his son’s pal (Barry Keoghan) – steps ahead of soldiers trying to requisition the craft. Rylance isn’t heading out on a break. He wants to make the run to Dunkirk himself. He will later declare, “Men my age dictate this war, why should we not fight it?” and he has another, more predictable reason.
Over his movies, Nolan has features little talent for making and editing action, but he’s incredible at creating single shots, in this case the dizzy plunges of planes and a series of petrifying beach bombardments. The explosions come in a wave, moving toward a lead at near-precise breaks, all but vaporizing the next man over. The soldiers rise from the ground, briefly observe the damage, and return in their lines, as Brits are wont to do.
Nolan has pointedly neglected the mass of gore and guts that have become so common in recent war movies. There are a few dried, red stains on the injured, but I don’t recall a drop of actual flowing blood. Turns out, Nolan doesn’t need explicit bloodshed to make you sick over the death. The terror is reflected in the face of Kenneth Branagh as the naval commander who stations himself on a pier and witnesses some of his men fall, the others perhaps on the verge of death. If Dunkirk movie 2017 has a hold, it’s Branagh, to whom all narrative threads lead.
What we don’t aware about the crossing threads is that the cutting is not just among various locations but also different time periods. That hits us hard when Cillian Murphy, whom we’ve met as a shivering, traumatic soldier aided from a mid-channel wreck by Rylance, returns in a following scene as a vigorous boat commander – so vigorous he’s capable of telling depressed survivors of another sunken boat that there’s no more room and they have to keep swimming.
There’s a great deal to keep in mind: connections to make, holes to fill, people to keep straight. (One Direction’s Harry Styles appears somewhere, another smudged face with glorious cheekbones.) Tying the contrasting shots together is Hans Zimmer’s credit, which holds a steady 4/4 beat while never resolving a chord. The brass is muffled, the strings saw but don’t cut. The churning sound effect acts as a reminder that time is running low but the soldiers is stuck in a void. As the dim waves become even more rebellious (Branagh’s commander says he’d rather dealt with them than the dive bombers), the view of a cruel and implacable nature approaches real disaster.
The issue is when Nolan turns upbeat, when narrative threads start to merge and cold fear turns into warm sap. The appearance of England’s small boats is much heart-swelling, testament to the courageous and ingeniousness of “the common man” that makes Dunkirk full movie one of the few highlights in a war whose savagery still eats into the mind. But Rylance’s strong but moist determination at the helm and Hardy’s impassive Spitfire maneuvers are another matter. For all Nolan’s modernist skills, his cavalry-is-coming cliff-hangers are distressing – lengthy, corny, and poorly edited. When the structure of Dunkirk movie becomes visible, when it serves as a mathematical illustration of brave individual choices lining up in a tidy row, you might realize that you’ve been had.
Or maybe not. Although I find most of Nolan’s projects to be pulp bloated by arrogance, many intelligent people adore his work. Apart from its philosophical weight, Nolan Time has the advantage of psyching audiences out, keeping them so busy trying to figure out what they’re watching that they miss the obviousness of the plan. Nolanoids I know talk about needing to return and watch the films again as if to show how challenging he is. But needing to rewatch something because you can’t understand it the first time doesn’t exactly prove a director’s skills as a storyteller.
What Nolan and IMAX can do is go huge. Spitfire swerving, boat tippings, men dropping onto the sand as planes roar – it can’t get any better. That first scene of men on a street in a shower of paper on which their deaths are predicted is exceptional. Somewhere inside the mess that is Dunkirk 2017 is a decent film.