Monday 24 July 2017

Film: 'Dunkirk'

Now that my dear, desperate-ly missed Blackso is no longer (I think of him a hundred times a day), I don't have to arrange my 'away' times so that I'm back to bring him inside before the nearby school is out, when he might get taunted or scared by passing kids, though most of them loved him. I could always count on his waiting outside at front for my return. When I came within sight, about 250 yards away he'd recognise me no matter what I was wearing, and I'd see a little pink area appearing on his face as he gave me a welcoming 'miaow' right over all that distance. (Noodles and Patchie use the open kitchen window so I don't have the worry about them in the same way.) 

Anyway, I decided to use the opportunity to travel west 20 miles to Chichester, to see this hyper-praised film on the nearest Imax screen - the combined cost of rail fare plus inflated cinema admission for the Imax experience costing more than six times what I would have paid had I stayed in this town and seen it on a small screen just five minutes away. I'm satisfied that it was an experience that justified the cost.  

Just in case there are people who don't know what this is about (and there will be some!) it concerns the short period in 1940 when allied troops in France (about 400,000 men, mostly British) found themselves entrapped and encircled on the north French coast by Nazi forces, almost within sight of England - and the attempt to evacuate as many of them quickly before they were overwhelmed by the enemy. 
This is certainly a harrowing film, though not quite as extreme as I'd been led to believe. I don't think there was any point where I couldn't bear to look. It's going to be the opening scenes of Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' which are seared in my mind deeper than the scenes in 'Dunkirk' are likely to be, even though in the Spielberg it's just that opening sequence whilst in this the distressing scenes go on throughout the entire length of the film.
It's a bitty film, running three threads together, one covering a week on land (on the Dunkirk beaches awaiting rescue), a second covering one day at sea (one small boat focussed on to represent the many, many such vessels sailing as fast as they can over the English Channel to assist with the evacuation) and the final thread covering one hour in the air - two particular air force fighter planes trying to keep the enemy bombers at bay and prevent their attack on the hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers, waiting for rescue like sitting ducks on the Dunkirk shore while the enemy keep trying, and sometimes succeeding, to sink the ships moored close to, but frustratingly only just out of reach, for the stranded men. 

The 'biggish' names in this film include Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy. It's Rylance who has the meatiest role though even his is a part that requires uttering little more than a few sentences - often with Cillian Murphy as a shell-shocked soldier picked up from the sea - then the scene changes to one of the other threads. Branagh has little to do other than to stand around with a suggestion of a half-smile on his face, suggesting that he knows something that we don't - even though he doesn't. Tom Hardy is the principal fighter pilot, unrecognisable for most of the time, as are some of his words, by his wearing a pilot's mask.
But if there's no really extended scenes for any of the actors to really get their teeth into by displaying a range of emotions, that's okay because it isn't the kind of film that would entail such. 

If there is one 'star' of the film it's just got to be the sound in the shape of Hans Zimmer's astonishing chug-a-chug score. It really keeps the tension up at a very high level from first to last - and without being overly distracting. It's a marvel, and if he doesn't get an Oscar for it I'd love to hear what beats it.   

The scenes of bombing and air-fights are totally spectacular, both in those requiring a panoramic scale and in those reduced to individual human reactions. 

Christopher Nolan works miracles yet again, and with this film he surely confirms that he's got to be in the world's Top 5 of current film directors. 

I really do wish I could this film a higher rating - I was fully expecting to - but I have to admit that seen on any screen smaller than Imax I think it's effect, drama-wise as well as in visuals and sound, it would have a correspondingly reduced 'punch', and might, for that reason, not be as highly valued as some are suggesting it ought to be. Nevertheless, it still remains a remarkable achievement.....................7.


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, thanks W.Q. He lives on in my mind and in my heart.

  2. Replies
    1. I hope you're seeing it on a suitably big screen, J.G. It doesn't HAVE to be Imax, though if it is it would help a lot. Hope you like it as much or, better, MORE than I did.

  3. I just can't summon the interest for this one; the previews show several battle scenes and those just make me want to stay away.

    I love your memories of Blackso, by the way; it's funny the routines we get into with our pets.

    1. It probably means a lot more for Brits (those who have a basic knowledge of WW2 history, that is) than for non-European nationalities, Bob. 'Dunkirk' in a word engraved in the psyches of some of us. But what you call 'battle' scenes are unusual in this film in that they are so one-sided (apart from the air skirmishes), the allies able to do little more than wait helplessly, hoping that a bomb doesn't land near them - but many do. It's very raw and hits you in the gut. But if it doesn't appeal, then there's nothing more to be said.

      Now without Blackso, I've got one less person to talk to, and he was my most important 'listener'. However, carry on we must.

  4. Like Bob, I like your memories of Blackso, sad and yet good memories of him to think about each day. I like that.

    Dunkirk is not my sort of film but I enjoyed reading your review Ray. Thank you.

    1. The memories of B are so bitter-sweet, Rachel. I want the pain to go away - and yet I don't. It's the guilt at my negligence which gave arise to his accident, putting him on a rapid downward spiral, that I'll never be able to accept unforgivably. Even being as as old as he was, he MIGHT have still had a fair bit of his life before him.

      'Dunkirk' isn't for everybody, but if you're into the kind of thrills it has, it delivers them non-stop and full throttle.

  5. Ray,
    Thank you so much for your review of "Dunkirk." I've been looking forward to seeing this film but I was hesitant for two reasons. I'm didn't want to see extended gory scenes like I heard about in "Saving Private Ryan" and I definitely didn't want to see Kenneth Branagh scream and shout his way through another film. Branagh is one of those actors who thinks scenery chewing is acting. I vowed many years ago never to see another film with him in it but maybe I'll make an exception this time because your review indicates that Branagh isn't scene stealing and letting others act. I notice you didn't say anything about the latest Flavor de jour, Harry Styles (I'm not a fan). Hopefully this film will still be in the theaters when I visit Pat in Hamilton in September. It's interesting, every time we get together (four times a year) we can't find a good film. We both like good "thrills" and spectacular cinematography.
    Thanks again for another very helpful review.
    Also, thanks for sharing your memory of Blackso.

    1. Ron, the good news for you is that there are no 'gory scenes' at all in this film. Lots of bombs for sure, but there's no lingering on the effects of the blasts. The other good news is that Branagh has very little to do. Other than hovering around looking bemused, puzzled or sightly angry, I think he hardly raises his voice at all. And, yes, I was going to mention this 'Harry Styles' who everyone is jabbering about quite positively, but I've no idea which one he was, and am not interested enough to find out. Must be a generation thing that's left me behind.
      I do hope the film is still playing in Hamilton when you go - but better still if it's on a really BIG screen, and one with good sound, because that is what will really knock you back in your seat. If I had decided to save money by seeing the film on a small letter-box screen I'm sure I wouldn't be singing its praises half as much as I am, if I was doing it at all.

      Yes, Blackso's memory with me is as alive as ever. There are things like his leaving small mud-prints when he last jumped up onto the piano stool, and which I don't want to wash off. I'm also carrying his collar around in my pocket. Worst times are when waking up in the dead of might, when his presence seems extra-real. Still missing him dreadfully, Ron.


  6. I am quite the Colin Farrell fan but not sure that is enough for me to see this one...We are off this weekend to see The Big Sick. I am looking forward to it.


    1. No Colin F. in this film, P.S. I assume you mean 'The Beguile'?

  7. Like Bob, I like your memories of Blackso, sad and yet good memories of him to think about each day.


    1. Bitter-sweet, S.S. He'll live on for evermore in my heart.