Cmovies has finally arrived! A big thank you to my friends who berated me into writing this. I’ll do my best to make this site tolerable to stave off bilateral brain weakness. Also, a BIGGER thank you to my wife for supporting me and putting together this site. Isn’t it pretty!? Kudos to you Mrs. Moylan. You’re an amazing woman and I don’t deserve you.
But C$, why are you writing a blog? Well, I love to write, I love to watch movies, I love to drink, I love to drink and watch movies, and I like to drink and write. So, what better way to combine all of those things into a movie blog?! Besides, the point of this blog will be to have fun, so while I’ll be posting reviews of movies I’ve seen – both new movies and classics – also be on the lookout for some fun polls, quizzes, and questions so that you can interact and also make fun of me. Plus, you never know, I might just review a porn parody or two! Tits a Wonderful Life would make for a great review come the holidays!
With that said, let’s start with a review of Dunkirk to kick things off….
My favorite director over the past decade plus has been Christopher Nolan, so it’s apropos that I start the blog reviewing his latest installment. Ooh, Colin typed an eclectic word like apropos, he must mean business!! For those of you living on the moon for the past 15 years, Chris Nolan has brought us The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Memento, Insomnia, and the much underrated magician movie, The Prestige. If you haven’t seen The Prestige, that’s the next movie you and your significant other (or mistress) are renting the next time you’re at your local Blockbuster.
Hopelessness. Isolation. Panic. Horny. Okay, maybe not horny, but the aforementioned feelings are what you see and feel as you watch Dunkirk, and that’s Nolan’s purpose. Dunkirk starts with a quick excerpt, which reads: “In 1940, after the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, thousands of Allied soldiers retreated to the seaside city of Dunkirk. As the Allied perimeter shrinks, the soldiers await evacuation, a seemingly hopeless situation.” We then see our protagonist Tommy racing through the streets of Dunkirk, and is the only man from his platoon to reach the safe side of allied perimeter. What awaits him beyond the perimeter is a solemn site to behold. 400,000 soldiers inevitably waiting death as exposed sitting ducks to German fighter planes and U-boats. While they dodge bullets, bombs and torpedoes, they await for an evacuation that may never come.
However, outside of Tommy running for his life and the opening excerpt, we’re not really given much. Nolan is on record stating that he didn’t want to get bogged down into the politics of the situation and he also didn’t want us to see any Germans. Besides the German planes, you NEVER see a German. This was deliberate, because when the evacuation was happening, the allied soldiers never really knew when the Germans would attack, and interactions on the ground were quite intermittent. Nolan wants to keep you guessing and build the suspense, which he does by giving us a bit more information before the action ramps up. Nolan explains on screen that we’re about to see the film unravel in a non-linear narrative, with one side of the story being told from the mole (the beach) which takes place over one week, the other narrative from the sea spanning one day, and the last narrative in the air spanning one hour.
Nolan uses these three story arcs to slowly intensify the suspense and the snowball effect works. The momentum slowly starts to build on the beach, with men trying to secretly board the one British vessel that is docked at Dunkirk. But once that boat is blown upside down like a toddler knocking over a rubber ducky in the tub, the men become increasingly nervous and desperate.
From the sea, the suspense builds with our other protagonist and the skipper of a pleasure yacht named Mr. Dawson. During Operation Dynamo (the name for the evacuation) the British Navy requisitioned civilian boats as the majority of the British Destroyers were too big to land on the beaches of Dunkirk. Owners of the civilian boats could sail with their own boat, but Mr. Dawson decides to venture on his own with his son and a local teenager. Early on in their journey, they save two pilots, one of which is an incredibly anxious pilot who would rather die than head back to Dunkirk. By the way, Mark Rylance, who plays Mr. Dawson, is as good as they come. He brings such a skillful calmness to all of his roles which makes you forget he’s acting. If you haven’t seen Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies, which also stars Tom Hanks, check it out. Rylance won the Oscar for best supporting actor for his role as a Russian spy.
Then in the air we have Tom Hardy, a RAF pilot with two wingmen. Nolan’s cinematography of the aerial dog fights is awesome. They don’t rival Top Gun, but what does!? Anyway, Hardy’s fuel gage is shattered by gunfire early on in his journey, but he continues to move away from home to Dunkirk to supply air support to the stranded men on the beach, knowing full well he is going to run out of fuel in the process. As he finally reaches the beach, our climax (Alyssa doesn’t know what that means) is reached by him shooting down a German bomber that is all but destroying the evacuation. Tommy is saved from a sinking ship and Mr. Dawson saves many men from the sea. With Hans Zimmer’s brilliant musical score – music is playing almost the entire movie – we certainly feel the gratitude for the civilian boat saviors and a sense of relief for these desperate men on the mole. The culmination is worth the wait as the three stories finally converge, but something’s lacking. We never really got to know many of the characters or their backstory, and because of this, an emotional punch is missing. When I’ve had too many beers, I want to watch a movie over and over and cry! It won’t happen with Dunkirk, so Braveheart, Forrest Gump and The Notebook will continue to be there for me when I need a good sob session.
Bottom line: I appreciate Nolan movies because they are always a tad untraditional. Dunkirk is no different as it goes astray from the typical Hollywood formula. This is a big budget film, yet it does not involve Americans, nor is there a victory. You could also argue that it didn’t have a happy ending. They did evacuate, but let’s not pretend the rest of WWII was a ‘happy ending.’ As Winston Churchill reminded England, “We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victor. Wars are not won by evacuations.” In other words, it’s like having sex with your wife but she passes out halfway through it.
Nevertheless, Nolan successfully created a movie with real WWII action and showed us the vulnerability of the Operation Dynamo. What is missing is the emotional response viewers get when they’re attached to specific characters. We’re never really engaged or have enough background to truly develop feelings for any of the soldiers or civilians, so instead we’re left to appreciate his portrayal of a massively successful, yet harrowing evacuation. I can live with that and I enjoyed this rendition of Dunkirk, but due to the lack of emotional character ties, Nolan gets 4 dollar signs instead of 5.
Should you see it? Yes, make sure you see it in the theater to fully appreciate the action sequences and Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack. You’ll lose some of robustness of this film at home unless you’re really high.
- Christopher Nolan got the idea for this movie while sailing the same channel with his wife over 25 years ago. He started the script shortly after, but wanted more experience with a big budget film to give Dunkirk the respect he felt it deserved.
- Hans Zimmer is Jewish and his mother escaped the Germans in WWII. Therefore, the scoring of the music was very personal to him. He grew up in Frankfurt, Germany where he took only two weeks of music lessons. That’s it. Before creating the score for Dunkirk, he visited the beach and was found picking up the sand to understand the misery which took place.
- The movie used over fifty boats on the sea, the most that has ever been put on film.