Dunkirk

Dunkirk

There's good news! It's Nolan's best film, and increasingly claustrophobic throughout the majority of its run -- Styles especially grounds the film and Rylance & Whitehead are effective conduits for Nolan's formal concerns (it feels so good saying that because I've never felt Nolan was particularly worried about the effect of cuts), but this does stutter in a few places: the air sequences are notably weaker than land and sea: anything involving water in this movie is pretty miraculously handled, but the sky is cluttered, inconsistent and almost extraneous until the end (more on that in a moment) - nevermind, we get such brilliant moments as the bombing that opens the film and the sideways-flooding views.

Still, I can't help this itching feeling that the film could have been more responsible -- the resolution, in true Hollywood fashion, is clean-cut and leaves no strings dangling (except The Air...), great for all the ticket-buyers wanting to leave the theatre excited and repulsed but also satisfied, not so good for me. There are more similarities to Mad Max: Fury Road than any other film in recent memory, but the ending of this one is effectively a statement that settles for an ideology that would have shot Max in the foot: imagine Fury Road's inexhaustible fury, the same non-stop movie, only puttering out in the final ten minutes with a simple resolve: "we have water now, so we don't mind the Fascists." Ick. There's minor relief in the final Hardy-centric image - a burning symbol of freedom - that suggests a minor hint of subversion. Too little, too late, Nolan cuts back and the final shot is standardized and predicated. In comparison to the insanity of this film's opening sequence, filled with thoughtful composition after thoughtful composition (it's raining the enemy!), it's only regressed. More dizzying non-verbal nihilism, next time, please, less 'inspiration'!

Close this film off ten (even five!) minutes earlier and it's a highlight of its genre. As it stands, it's only close.

Josiah liked this review