Cinematic Appreciation: Dunkirk

CINEMATIC APPRECIATION OBJECTIVE: I love movies. They are a combination of every art form- visual and audible, textures and colors and singing and talking and everything beautiful. So I thought I would take some time to fully appreciate the films that capture my heart the most.

Each film is scored on several different levels:

CGI (Computer Generated Images, or basically special effects): 0 being terrible and 10 being phenomenal.

COSTUMING AND MAKEUP (speaks for itself): 0 being inaccurate and 10 being perfect.

SCREENPLAY (script): 0 being filled with plot holes and 10 being flawless.

*NEW* CINEMATOGRAPHY (camera work): 0 being boring and 10 being breathtaking.

CASTING (even extras!): 0 being meh and 10 being EVEN THE PERSON ON THE SIDEWALK WAS IN CHARACTER!!!

MUSIC (soundtrack): 0 being a detraction from the film and 10 being an advantage.

And, finally, OVERALL FEELS (my fangirling emotions): 0 being none and 10 being I-can’t-breathe.

Looking for trippy timelines and breathtaking sound design? Look no further.

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Starring Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, and All Of Christopher Nolan’s Besties.

CGI: 10 out of 10.

I’m hesitant to give this any number, because I know the amount of CG in the film is limited. However, Nolan had this to say about the effects in the film, and I think that’s definitely worth a ten:

I’m very proud with the visual effects being as seamless as they are. I worked very closely with my visual effects supervisor, who was there shooting with me on set. He basically was doing himself out of a job because he was able to help me achieve things in-camera that would have actually been visual effects and then didn’t need to be. So, there’s really nothing in the film that isn’t in some way based in some kind of practical reality that we put in front of the camera. We didn’t want anything to go fully CG and I’m very proud to be able to say that of my films this is the first time when we’ve been able to make a film that I actually can’t remember which of the shots are visual effects and which aren’t in some of the sequences. We’ve never been able to get to that point before.

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COSTUMING AND MAKEUP: 8 out of 10.

I’m no costume artist, but as an Average Audience Member, I didn’t see a lot of difficulty in the costuming or makeup for this film. Not that there were problems- they looked period accurate, they didn’t distract from the story, they were great. (But it’s not like the Titanic or Star Wars, which have spectacular, iconic costumes that leave you speechless.) The costumes of Dunkirk forwarded the story and looked historically authentic.

SCREENPLAY: 1,000,000 out of 10.

Yeah, a MILLION out of 10. This screenplay did something very few writers have skill in doing- it was quiet. It relied on silence to tell the story, which made every spoken line even more important. I was on the edge of my seat, visually immersed in a world, waiting for a single word. When the words came, they held a weight to them, because they weren’t lost in a constant cacophony of noise. It was a beautiful reminder that words don’t tell the story. Words are just a vessel.

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The emotion in this film was delicate. Or maybe ‘restrained’ is a better word. Though it takes place in a war zone, the story doesn’t rely on screaming, crying, and fighting. Which is practical- if you’re in the middle of a battle, there’s no time to stop and emote and loose control. When you’re in a place where you can’t see the beginning or the end, there’s a sense of detachment that comes from knowing you can’t force your way through the moment. The story showed me a side of the fight that I forget exists.

CINEMATOGRAPHY: 10 out of 10.

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OH, the cinematography. There were a couple of shots in particular that took my breath away. The shot of the civilian boat crossing paths with the destroyer at the beginning of the film. And in the final act of the film, the camera does a 90 degree spin following the path of Farrier’s plane. ABSOLUTELY AMAZING.

The filming style felt very personal. It took you into the heart of the characters. Instead of showing you what’s happening, you felt the stifled hope and bridled desperation.

CASTING: 9 out of 10.

Christopher Nolan definitely plays favorites, but why shouldn’t he? If someone gets along well and understands his directing technique, yeah- bring them back. Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are both in Nolan’s masterpiece Inception and I really loved them in this film. I think what Christopher Nolan really looks for is people who can do very subtle performances, which is what relative newcomer Fionn Whitehead does.

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Obviously, Harry Styles is in this movie. You can’t deny that his fame influences the audience of this film, but it would be unfair to judge his acting by his previous work as a singer. His performance was surprisingly large and I think he did a beautiful job with the character.

There’s quite a large cast, but with such a quiet screenplay their names are insignificant. The beauty, though, is that I still felt an attachment to each of them. They each had a distinct personality that set them apart, without relying on dialogue. *talks for seven days about the unimportance of words & the beauty of silence*

MUSIC: 7 out of 10.

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I gave this a seven because I would almost not call it ‘music’. Hans Zimmer is an incredible composer, and I think he gave Dunkirk exactly the kind of score it needed, but it veered more towards being sound design than music. The overarching ticking time sound was an amazing theme for the film. The quality of the soundtrack was very reserved and carried the weight of the story.

OVERALL FEELS: Stunning and Satisfying out of 10.

My experience with WWII movies is heavily based on fictional stories- Narnia, Captain America, etc. So seeing this film, which isn’t about the victory or the Leading Man falling in love with the Beautiful Girl, was really… refreshing. I saw someone describe this movie using the word ‘cerebral’, and I think that’s a beautiful word for it.

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I didn’t realize that what I loved about the movie Inception wasn’t just the story, it was Christopher Nolan. Watching this film felt like walking through a museum. It showcased these untouchable moments with grace and dignity, which I think is one of Nolan’s greatest talents and the signature of his style.

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9 Comments

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  1. You just made me want to watch this movie a million times more than I already do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. THAT MAKES ME SO HAPPY ❤ It really is an INCREDIBLE movie.

    Like

  3. I’m really hoping it wins the Best Picture Oscar.

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  4. Yeah- I think it has a really good chance of winning Best Sound Design.

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  5. I just saw this movie earlier today, and it certianly is a masterpiece. I love what you said about silence being an important element of the storytelling. It is very true that words are only one vessel for storytelling, and Dunkirk used them sparingly. I also really liked the perspective of this movie. Like you said, it is a refreshing take on WWII, a historical event that is often dramatized. It was personal and broad at the same time, giving you poignant glimpses into several different aspects of one incident in a much bigger war. Christopher Nolan is indeed a remarkable filmmaker. Spectacular review!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m still mesmerized by this film, actually. I think I do this with every Nolan film though 😝 Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I know! Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors. Have you seen Interstellar? I think that aside from Inception, that one is my favorite.

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  8. I haven’t seen Interstellar but I’ve heard so many good things about it. I must WATCH IT

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This movie sounds so good and I really want to see it!! Unfortunately, last I checked, I was sixteenth in line for it from my library, so it’ll be a while before I get to. I’m looking forward to it though and I enjoyed your review of it!

    Liked by 1 person

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