Dudkirk

Christopher Nolan’s latest film, Dunkirk, opened to mostly positive reviews this past weekend. Although it had been one of the more highly anticipated summer releases, I am not a Nolan fanboy in the least and was on the fence about seeing it. I have seen most of his films and have mixed feelings about his writing and directing sensibilities. I thought Memento was somewhat entertaining, yet very confusing. Interstellar pretty much lost me with all of the black hole theory, time shifting, and multi-dimensional acrobatics. I thoroughly disliked the Batman trilogy, or at least the pieces and parts I saw. The one bright spot was Inception, which still had me scratching my head, but I kinda got most it and I convinced myself that I really did get the rest, if only on a subconscious level.

So Dunkirk was on the horizon and I’m thinking how bad can you fuck up a Word War II story? No outer space, alternate timelines, or other genuinely weird stuff. Just a bunch of British soldiers on a French beach trying to get home before the Germans overrun their position. I waited for the reviews, which were curiously held up until just a day or two before Friday’s release. The movie received a 92% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Some called it Nolan’s best film to date. Others called out Mark Rylance for an Oscar nomination. Hmm, sounds like it might be worthwhile.

I went to see it. I did not like it. I had read that the film drops you right in to the action and never relents. I kept waiting for that action, conscious that the film had a relatively short running time for a war epic. As the credits rolled I questioned what the hell the point of the movie was. Okay, so it did relate, more or less, the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk by a motley flotilla of civilian boats. Well, for the most part it really showed all of the people waiting for that to happen. There were German planes bombing and strafing (now and then); British planes dog fighting with the enemy; men freaking out, drowning, getting blown up; ships sinking. It presented all of this in a most boring, uninteresting fashion. There was very little dialogue, character development was nonexistent and I didn’t really give a hoot about any of the people on the screen.

I should have known better; there were signs that I might be disappointed. Woven throughout the reviews was a common theme regarding some of Nolan’s tendencies that certain critics do not care for. It was a tell that I knowingly chose to ignore in the hope that the movie would be akin to Saving Private Ryan. It was not, obviously. In fact, there really was not that much action. The only shooting were the planes strafing and shooting at each other and some random gunfire from unseen German soldiers. It might have made a great psychological thriller if the audience could have been vested in any of the characters.

One of the reviews teased “Can Harry Styles Act?” I still do not know the answer to that question. They could have used a cardboard cutout to the same effect. Maybe he will get a chance down the road. Does Mark Rylance deserve Oscar consideration? I think not. His work in Bridge of Spies was so much better and he did get the supporting actor statue, deservedly, for that. I know the British have a reputation for being dry, but this was a crouton of a film. At least The Remains of the Day had some simmering romantic tension and yearning you could sink your teeth in to. Watching this film was like chewing on beef jerky, minus the flavor.

I am hard pressed to understand why so many critics gave the movie high marks. Of course the Batman movies got pretty good reviews as well, so I should have known better. As I got ready to walk out the door to go see the movie it occurred to me that I might enjoy the comedy Girls Trip more. There is now no doubt in my mind that I would have. I should have listened to my inner voice. It rarely fails me.