Man at His Best

You Know You're Going To See Dunkirk. But Should You See It in a Theater?

It's not perfect.

BY Tyler Coates | Jul 25, 2017 | Film & TV

Image by Warner Bros.

Christopher Nolan's latest film Dunkirk is a bit of a departure from what you'd expect from the acclaimed director who brought a real-world grittiness to Batman or fucked with time and space in Inception and Interstellar. Telling the story of the disastrous Battle of Dunkirk—which left hundreds of thousands of British and French troops on the shore of France as German troops advanced on foot, in the air, and by sea—the film follows an ensemble of Brits as they attempt to outwit the Germans and bring their boys home.

Is Dunkirk an objectively good movie?

I guess so. It was beautifully shot, and features some incredibly tense, thrilling sequences—it felt less like your standard war movie, more like a horror film in which you're watching handsome young British men on the verge of drowning. The monsters here, naturally, are Germans, but you never see them (beyond the enemy being personified by planes, slowly making their way to our similarly anonymous heroes with bombs). In fact, I think that the word "Germans" is uttered maybe two or three times, as if Nolan figured you already know who the bad guys are. Dunkirk is more about the experience of war that pit these men against each other.

It is also, generally speaking, very intense. I jumped in my seat several times.

Image by Warner Bros.

Did I like Dunkirk?

Not really. I mean, I like a good thriller. But its disjointed narrative was confusing and too gimmicky, with three separate storylines starting at various points in time eventually converging into one simultaneous moment. (Again, Nolan knows you've seen a WWII movie before, so he had to give us something different. And he really loves to play with time as a concept.) I would have liked more story, more reason to care about the men I was following other than the simple reaction: "War is hell, huh?"

I also wish I knew any of the characters' names. There was Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, and of course Harry Styles. But the rest of the men were simply known as Guy In A Nice Chunky Knit Sweater With Floppy Blond Hair, The Guy Who We Saw In The First Frame And Who I Assume I'm Supposed To Root For, and The Pilot Whom, Upon Taking Off His Mask And Helmet, Turned Out To Be A Hot J. Crew Model. There was a teenage boy named George, and I know his name because The Guy In A Nice Chunky Knit Sweater With Floppy Blond Hair kept saying "George" after the kid fell over in a boat and hit his head.

Image by Warner Bros.

I like stories more than action, but this is a big spectacle of a war movie with a (blessedly short) running time of an hour and 47 minutes; with all of these men running, flying, and boating around, there's not a lot of time for storytelling. There are planes to shoot! As a stranger who wandered over to my friends and me after our screening said to us, "Well, I guess your opinion is valid if you don't care to learn anything about the ethics of war and military history." This did not win him favour among my friend group, as the DM I received during that conversation proves:

Despite the comment's insulting subtext, I choose to focus on the positive: I do not care to learn anything about the ethics of war and military history—especially not from a movie, running under two hours, chocked to the brim with hot British actors and one major pop star, and shown on an IMAX screen the size of my apartment building. But hey, that's just me.

Should you see Dunkirk in IMAX 70mm?

You will probably see Dunkirk, who are we kidding? The real question, of course, is if it's the kind of movie you should see in the theater—or, more specifically, the kind of movie you should pay extra to see on glorious 70mm film stock or in IMAX (or both at the same time!). I know the idea of watching what amounts to almost two hours of battle on a giant screen sounds enticing. In theory, it is! I did see it in an IMAX theatre, although I sat on the very left side of the second row, which made it difficult to focus on more than a third of the screen at a time because it looked like this:

Image by Warner Bros.

Image by Warner Bros.

Image by Warner Bros.

No, I did not take pictures during the movie—I'm simulating my view of Dunkirk by taking a picture of movie stills displayed on my laptop using my iPhone, and that's pretty much what it was like. Had I arrived perhaps 40 minutes earlier to beat the crowd and get a good seat, maybe I would have enjoyed watching it more on that giant screen. But I didn't do that, and thus the film wasn't particularly fun to watch. If you're desperate to see it in IMAX, get there early to scope out a good seat. It's what Christopher Nolan would want.

From: Esquire US


COMMENTS