Woeh! What do I LOVE to visit the cinema every now and then. To me it is like a little therapy: seeing a movie on such an enormous screen while sitting in those big chairs is so comfy and most of the times mind-blowing or just pure entertainment. It really gives me a feeling of living in another world for a couple of hours; just letting yourself go with the story and forget about all the rest. That is why I treat myself with a good one once a month – and I admit it may happen that I secretly visit two of them in one week – but for me the prize is totally worth it. And though I adore entertaining movies like the Marvel series or the newest Pirates of the Caribbean, I do love it even more when a movie not only plays with my emotions, but also leaves me off-hooked with a big impact. And last weekend – after watching Dunkirk – this impact hit me so hard that I left the doors of the cinema completely speechless. I was overwhelmed and really needed some time to make it land in my mind… what a gorgeous, stunning and powerful movie.
This latest warmovie – directed by the beloved Christopher Nolan – tells us the story about one hell of a week in Spring 1940, Dunkirk. British and French soldiers were surrounded by Nazi’s on all sides and it looked like there was no way out for them. But it was one of those turning points in history, when Churchill came up with Operation Dynamo: the evacuation of the men trapped on the beaches, what gave them hope. Of course it is always interesting to see historical war movies and I do have seen a lot. But the way this historical moment is set up is new to me. It has a lot of original aspects, which makes it so unique: 3 perspectives with switching timetables, fantastic sounds and music, no character development and a lack of dialogue, and strictly told from only one face.
Puzzling perspective and time
You follow the whole operation from three different fronts: as soldiers on the beach, waiting to be rescued (1 week); as British civilians on a sailboat, trying to save as many men as possible (1 day); and as pilots in three little Spitfires, trying to protect the British ships below them (1 hour). The story structure of these perspectives is not linear, but jumps between the three and falls back in time in front of your eyes. And this may make you a bit puzzled in the beginning – not knowing exactly at what time you are and what is happening meanwhile at the other two fronts – but it will all makes sense when the storylines get interwoven. I think this way of telling the story is brilliant: it causes an extremely tensed build-up – which to me was almost unbearable in the end – and makes you wonder why you have never seen such a thing before. It played with my nerves.
The second original aspect is the powerful music, composed by Hans Zimmer, inspired by the sound of a watch that Nolan owns. This peculiar music is build on the principals of the three different timelines: an increasing of a ticking clock, what makes the thrills very intens. It explains perfectly – together with the cinematography – what is happening in every scene, cause it has such a dramatic power.
No character development
During the movie you get introduced to many characters who serve as guides across each battlefield: beach, sea and air. You follow their paths through this hell, but you never really get to know them: no past stories, no out-spoken fear, no romance and almost no dialogs, and yet you feel so emotionally connected. The stunning acting of the cast (which couldn’t have been any better!) and how they were pictured and – of course – the beautiful, gut-wrenching music tells you enough. I felt their fear, I felt their pain, I felt their courage. And I so wanted them to fulfill their goal – whether that was to survive, rescuing the trapped men or hunting down a German bomber – no matter what.
The last aspect makes the movie even more interesting than it already is. I only realized it afterwards, but the story is strictly told from only one side: the face of the Allied forces. And yes, you feel the fear for the enemy deeply inside your bones – which makes you anxious the whole movie – but their faces will never be in the picture. The only close shot you get is a couple of their bombers. And yet you know the Germans are everywhere around you… This way you experience how horrific it was for the British men.
All by all I cannot stress enough how special this movie is. All these named aspects make the movie work. That is why I also recommended to watch it in cinema, because every detail – music, shotted scenes, sounds and special effects- will come to its rights in there. I was frozen on my chair and wasn’t able to look away from the screen – not even in the worst moments. Nolan made it possible to threw me inside it more than any other war film ever did to me. It is pure art and no words can describe that better.