Chris Nolan has a pretty successful track record of hit movies. I now wish I had seen all of the Batman films in the theater. Inception and Interstellar were mind trips on the big screen.
Dunkirk is his first foray into historic events and quite a good one at that. I never learned about the Dunkirk evacuation in high school or college history classes. WWII in general history classes was a summary of major events and not all that informative.
So Dunkirk the movie was an ambitious big budget movie that intentionally does not resemble most war movies. It is more of a docudrama than a feature. Dialogue is kept to a minimum. The sound design was the best part, especially the bullets hitting metal, I jumped out of my seat a few times. Nolan is known for practical effects work and used actual airplanes, ships and 6,000 extras.
Also it was filmed on the actual beach where the events happened.
I have not read any reviews or criticism though I'm sure there will be some as you just can't please everyone.
Overall I would say Dunkirk was a bit slow at times and maybe not for everyone, but an important entry in the cinematic catalog of WWII films along with Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, The Longest Day and Band of Brothers. See it in the theater before it goes to DVD next week.
I liked Dunkirk a lot. I thought it was an interesting way to do a WWII movie without it just being the sprawling epic journey that most war movies are. It felt very self contained (in a good way). It started in the middle, and it didn't even have a full resolution.
It was the smarmy indie movie version of a WWII story, only it *also* had the budget of a blockbuster WWII movie. That could be a turn off for some people, for sure. But I dug it.
I would also recommend that if you plan to see this at all, see it in theaters for the sound design alone. I can almost guarantee it will win Oscars for Sound Design and Sound Mixing. Possibly cinematography and editing as well.
SEE. IT. IN. IMAX.
I really liked this movie and I'm glad I was able to see it on the IMAX before it was too late. I really liked how they structured the story, I can't get into it because it will ruin part of the movie. It had very little dialogue and that didn't bother me at all. If you haven't seen it yet race to the IMAX before it is gone.
On a side note, the theater I was in had a trailer for a Marvel TV show called the In Humans. That felt out of place.
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[Stephen Smith] "On a side note, the theater I was in had a trailer for a Marvel TV show called the In Humans. That felt out of place."
This was an interesting test case, though. The idea is that TV can work on a cinematic scale, and that movies are increasingly working on an episodic scale. That's why I think it's silly to lament "sequel-itis" while praising shows like Game of Thrones as peak-era TV. Same deal: large scale storytelling broken into pieces.
Game of Thrones has actually had some success with theatrical presentation of some episodes -- typically premieres and finales -- and I'm thinking that The Walking Dead may have done this a time or two, too. The fact is that the premiere of Star Trek Discovery would have worked out extremely well on the big screen. Certainly a far sight better than Star Trek: Into Darkness!
Inhumans was in fact shot in IMAX, and was intended to be as fully epic as anything anywhere. It's larger problem is that it wasn't very good. It's ironic that Marvel is doing a great job with episodic storytelling on the big screen and on Netflix, but has had middling success at best on network TV.
I gotta tell ya, though, The Gifted (four episodes or so along into its run on Fox) is a better angle on the X-Men storyline than almost anything Marvel has put out to theaters in ages. (I did really love the benedictory Wolverine picture, though, and think it sets up a compelling post-Jackman world for itself, which I'd have never predicted. EVERYTHING is better with Hugh Jackman in it.)
Of course, The Gifted works for the same reason I think the Netflix Marvel shows work (and, frankly, why so many of the DC network shows kick the ass of so many Marvel TV shows): they're all intimate. GoT notwithstanding, intimacy will always be TV's long suit, and The Gifted gets it right. There's plenty of time for it to run off the rails of course, but so far, the only new show I'm digging this season.
So I'm not at all opposed to seeing TV and movies crossing streams. I'd rather see a trailer for a TV show I might want to watch, especially if it's going to be in theaters, rather than a commercial.
[Stephen Smith] "If you haven't seen it yet race to the IMAX before it is gone."
IMAX was ideal, with a proper home theater surround set-up is next best, but honestly, an iPad or a good-sized phone will do if that's all you've got. The best part of the IMAX wasn't the scale of the imagery, but how close it allowed us to get to the action. There's never been a better view inside a cockpit, and I almost felt like I was the one drowning in a couple of very close quarters.
Little details like one guy's quest to poop without anyone looking at him (played not at all for laughs, and I wish there was a better way to say it), and what happens when two guys bump into each other in a tiny space are what set this movie apart as much as anything else. It's HUGE, yes, and really DOES reward being seen on the biggest, loudest screen possible, but really, there are only a handful of "epic" shots.
In fact, another favorite shot of mine toward the end is when there's a hint of something epic coming at the edge of the frame, but the camera cuts IN to the subject of one of our three interlocking stories, rather than pulling out to see the epic thing actually unfold. That's almost always this movie's impulse: to come in closer.
Frankly, that's one of the things that really works with the squared-off aspect ratio. I saw it in digital IMAX (which I'm fine with, thanks), with most scenes at 1.9:1, and several I'd swear were even closer to square than that -- probably at the 70mm IMAX aspect ratio, which is dang near 4:3, at 1.43:1. (To be precise, 4:3 is of course 1.3333).
Numbers aside, the point is, none of that crazy widescreen stuff. For Inception, Nolan wanted you regularly leaning back to crane your neck to soak in the enormity of the images. Here, he wanted you IN these frames, so he tightened them up and pulled the seats closer.
To speak to the matter of running length that I addressed on another thread, I didn't think Inception was a single second too long at 148 minutes (got an extended cut? I'll give it a spin, sure), but it's astonishing how much story Dunkirk was able to fit into 106 minutes, while also spending what felt like an almost luxurious amount of time on all three storylines.
The fact that they were working in three different timeframes (one week, one day, one hour) yet fit together so snugly, almost like a little music box or a watch, underscores the emphasis on specifics and details -- the opposite of epic in its own way.
That's why I'd absolutely consider this a front-runner for a writing Oscar at this point (before a number of prestigious pictures open of course, but there's surely at least a nomination coming, if not a win). Even though there's barely any dialogue, and certainly no showy speeches or elevated language, there's soooo much storytelling here!
And I do love that this was a July release, as was Inception. This is old-school, substantially gimmick-free, mainstream, adult Hollywood filmmaking, presented as mass-market entertainment. Every penny of the $100 million production was on screen (and in the orchestra pit!!!!), and with a US opening of $50 million and a worldwide gross of over $500 million, there was plenty to go around. Big budget, big pictures, big entertainment. I found it enormously satisfying on every level.