Sunday, December 17, 2017

Video review: "Dunkirk"

A very atypical war movie, “Dunkirk” shows us the plight of the Allies during the lowest point of World War II, when hundreds of thousands of British troops were trapped on the shores of France with no way to get home. It’s a story of heroism, rather than individual heroes.

There are characters – the cast includes Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Jack Lowden, Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles and Mark Rylance – but they exist more as archetypes than specific people. Most of them are not even named, and their dialogue is restricted to the mission at hand.

There are no wistful remembrances of girls back home, or what job you had before the war, such as in “Saving Private Ryan.” Director/writer Christopher Nolan keeps his camera’s eye focused on the immediate peril, the mad dash to survive, and the nobility that ensued.

You might be surprised to find how little fighting there is in the film. Aside from an aerial dogfight and a few volleys of gunfire here and there, the movie’s intensity comes from the fear of death more than the actual depiction of it. Hans Zimmer’s musical score gives us beats and notes without much clear semblance of a melody.

If it sounds like I’m criticizing the film, I’m not. I appreciated how “Dunkirk” took a very different approach to depicting war, focusing more on the you-are-there experience of it rather than the geopolitical forces or personalities.

The film’s true triumph comes in showing us that, nearly 80 years on, there are still new stories to tell about that terrible conflict, and new ways of telling them.

Bonus features are quite extensive, and are the same for the DVD or Blu-ray editions. They consist of 16 making-of featurettes, each focused on a specific part of production. Like the film itself, they are divided into sections of Land, Air and Sea, along with another section dubbed “Creation.”

Collectively they essentially form a feature-length documentary about the making of “Dunkirk,” covering everything from camera work to the air battles and conjuring a flotilla of small private boats.



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