Dunkirk: Chris Nolan’s Big-Budget, Epic Spectacle

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is an example of good, big-budget, special-effects mainstream Hollywood, albeit one that tells a fact-based tale of defeat.

For the film’s detractors, it’s an epic spectacle, with no real characters, or dramatic story to tell.

A master of spectacle, Nolan is at the top of his form, demonstrating complete control over each and every aspect of his production.

The movie, which runs over two hours, is never boring.  The sheer physicality and panoramic depiction of a crucial WWII event are nothing short of brilliant.

But I would claim that Dunkirk is a post-modern picture, one that doesn’t believe in the necessity of dramatic arc, or in a narrative structure composed of three acts.   Nor does it care too much about the degree of truthfulness or factuality of its chronicle.

The film’s verisimilitude is impressive–from the first shot to the last, Dunkirk grabs you by the gut and never lets go.  To its credit, Dunkirk doesn’t pretend to be an intellectual film of ideas, or a feature with new revelations about an event that’s been well documented in books, non-fictional, and fictional movies.

Instead of relying on a central coherent story with well-developed individual characters, Dunkirk opts for a sensorial experience, relating in short, fragmented vignettes personas that we care about.

And it does justice to the various fronts of the battle, on air, sea, and land, putting the viewers

It is therefor no surprise that the film’s most powerful moments are visual and aural–the score is astounding–sans words, dialogue or speeches about the need for victorious heroism, or the human toll of fighting.

It’s a war film, like no film you have seen before, a spectacle without an anti-war message, showmanship of a savvy director who’s in control of every frame and sound bite of his picture.

Here is a film that requires its viewing on the big screen to absorb all the components involved in the production.