Film Review: “Dunkirk” (2017)

We live in an increasingly, for want of a more descriptive term, “technological” society that can be effortlessly depicted in soulless, technological terms. Witness the rise of “superhero” films with computer generated special effects (CGI- Computer Generated Interface) to make the impossible (even the ridiculous) amenable to the visual imagination. Comic books for the new Millennium.

One would think that the history of film has come to a real bifurcation. One road, reality in the personal experiences of real people on real film (Manchester by the Sea- 2016) and the other computer creations saving the world from other computer creations (The Avengers- 2012). The “artistic” value of one road seemingly balanced by the pyrotechnic value of the other. However, those roads are melding somewhat as filmmakers learn to judiciously use computer graphics to make very artistic films.

In “War for Planet of the Apes” (2017), one might consider the incredible facial ape morphing to human qualities, including a wide range of emotion, fear, anger and frustration. Combined with a fairly rational plot line and stunning cinematography, the Apes film is really very interesting and worth a look for this masterful use of CGI to mimic an alternate quasi-human reality.



“Dunkirk”- (2017) is one such film that couldn’t have been made without computer graphics, but it doesn’t let that fact interfere with the incredible visual and emotional effect of the film, given stellar ratings by virtually all the critics this week.

The film depicts a campaign that began in late May 1940 in the French port city of Dunkirk, where nearly 400,000 Allied soldiers were trapped on a vast beach by the Germans, whose aircraft picked at them like fish in a barrel. The British faced the capture or possible annihilation of their troops. Rescue seemed impossible as German artillery and torpedoes vanquished any approaching ship.

338,226 men escaped aboard 861 privately owned small vessels, of which 243 were sunk during the operation. British Fighter Command lost 106 aircraft dogfighting over Dunkirk, and the Luftwaffe lost about 135. It was a truly awesome feat.

Directed by Chris Nolan (The Dark Knight- 2008). A world-class cast including Sir Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and especially Tom Hardy whose entire character as a Spitfire pilot is emoted from his eyes and gestures. One of the most incredible performances I’ve ever seen, worth the price of admission just for Tom Hardy’s incredible performance in which he had only ten lines.

“Dunkirk” is one of the most finely textured and nuanced films of this decade. It’s a film where the cinematography tells the story, allowing the audience to understand the goings on with minimal spoken dialogue. It falls into place because the images tell the tale. Yes, there is CGI in place mainly to show the vastness of the scenes that could not have been depicted any other way. But the CGI does not interfere with the artistry which is world-class masterful.

This is the most visually stunning film this year, as good as it gets. I enthusiastically give it five of five burning Spitfires. Absolutely a must see.

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