Dunkirk ★★★★

Anyone who knows me knows that I like ripping on Christopher Nolan. Not so much him though as his rabid fanbase of contemporary film nerds who severely revere him as being close to this generation's Stanley Kubrick. Such a belief is held by the same people who can't name a film considered one of the greatest if it isn't American, in color and made in the past twenty years, so naturally any work that spells out its intentions to the audience (as Nolan is aught to do) will make these individuals believe they're watching a cinematic masterpiece, when in reality, it's like any other dumbed-down blockbuster but with talent. This isn't to say Nolan isn't a craftsman, because he clearly is. Batman Begins not only functions as a good origin story, but a solid example of filmmaking that's only emphasized by The Dark Knight. There's several aspects that justify enjoying his work and you can believe that he cares about film, not just the ones he's making. With Dunkirk being his latest, he proves why he has such a respectful reputation, over-appreciation aside, and he does so with what could be slightly divisive among his big supporters. Slightly.

Nolan works three aspects into Dunkirk that stand out from the rest of his filmography. The first is an emphasis on silence. The first moments of the film are eerily quiet up until the bombs start dropping. You can feel tension without music and without any chatter when the situation speaks for itself, something that all three of these aspects exist to serve. Second is the lack of character development. Everyone is a blank slate, but intentionally so. You don't need to know if Kenneth Branagh or Mark Rylance are retiring in two days, if Harry Styles will ever get a letter he's writing home sent, or whether or not Tom Hardy has a pregnant wife at home. There's no time to speak and no time to relate, because as a human being, the idea of being trapped on the battlefield is universally horrifying, which brings us to the third aspect: in the entire runtime aside from towards the end, the Germans are never onscreen. In war, the enemy is priority but in Dunkirk, it's irrelevant, even to points where fellow soldiers are mistaken for the enemy in the confusion. Nolan isn't interested in the harsh imagery of war that could recall a particular sequence in Saving Private Ryan, but rather the ticking time bomb and different time frames between men on land, sea and air.

End results give audiences something of a chamber piece with the intense execution of a thriller not seen from Nolan since his 2002 remake of Insomnia. Since then, his technical aptitude continues to grow, and nothing shows more than it the sound department. I didn't see this in the highly recommended IMAX 70mm projection, but the idea that can exceed an already engrossing standard screening with some of the most top notch audio in my filmgoing history is a delightful one, so it's something to keep in mind. There are a couple things that don't do Dunkirk any favors, but nothing to harm the film. The non-chronological storyline that Nolan sticks to does render some scenes redundant, one especially involving the RAF pilots who show the same sequence from a different perspective within ten minutes without purpose. It felt needless in that specific moment but works with the rest, so nothing to squander it.

As much as it's out of character to adhere 100% to Nolan's skill as a director, there's no better justification for the praise he gets than Dunkirk, which can easily make the grain as his best film with some reservation. You can joke about the circle jerk until the cows come home, but when he makes a good film, he makes a great film which is plenty to say for the directors that more common movie fans know of, because he's consistent in his work.

So in short "Bravo Nolan."

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