That would be my viewing of Dunkirk. My brother-in-law and I went to catch this on the IMAX this morning and we nearly walked out mid-movie. I'm not sure if unpleasant is strong enough to describe what sitting through this movie was like. I suppose, given my intense dislike of Interstellar, this should not really be a surprise. Interstellar had the award for my least favorite movie until today. Now it's a toss up between the two. I guess it's fair to say that even though I loved Memento, I'm officially not a Christopher Nolan fan. At all.
The good stuff:
- Tom Hardy, Spitfires, unlimited ammo, and aerial dogfights on an IMAX screen. Best part of the movie by leaps and bounds.
- Mark Rylance.
Not even Ken Branagh, who I adore, gets any marks here. But he's given nothing to do other than be Exposition Man. I suppose if someone has to tell us what's going on, it might as well be him.
I hated, loathed, and despised Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar. His score in Dunkirk (if one can even call the incredibly loud, monotonous, droning wall of noise in Dunkirk a score) made me nostalgic for the incredibly loud wall of monotonous organ noise from Interstellar. Okay, not really. All it did was upset my stomach, give me a migraine, make me want to take a shower to wash the awfulness away (no, I'm not joking), and confirmed my long-held need to run the other way screaming when I see Zimmer's name on a movie poster. (If you think my reaction is strong, my brother-in-law's is even stronger.)
We assumed this incessant wall of oppressive noise that never ever lets up is supposed to increase the tension for movie viewers? (Never mind that if your movie can't be tense without music something's wrong somewhere.) All it did for us is irritate us. It overrides everything. Couldn't hear the dialogue, couldn't even hear the fricking gunfire. It didn't help that our theater was so loud my normal earplugs were ineffective, and earplugs don't help anyway with the overwhelming bass and constant physical vibration from the sound. But even if the volume had been turned down, it wouldn't have made the movie experience any better. I respect the right for the director to make whatever stylistic choices he sees fit to help his vision come true, but these choices flat-out fail for me. We were never tense, never worried for characters, never on the edge of our seat. We were annoyed and looking for the exit.
As to the story... there wasn't much of one. It felt more like a slice-of-life look at Dunkirk rather than a story. That will work really well for some viewers. My brother-in-law is a history teacher, and he was not at all happy with the historical side of it. I'm not a historian, nor am I that familiar with Dunkirk, other than basic WWII knowledge -- big military disaster/trouble getting everyone home -- so those aspects didn't bother me the way they did him. Neither of us liked the script's choice of following those opportunist little twerps as they deceived and lied to get off the beach ahead of the other soldiers. We both were hoping, quite uncharitably I do admit, that they'd get blown up before the movie ended. Every time the movie cut back to them, I groaned, because not only did I not care what happened to them, I actively disliked them. This isn't to say there weren't plenty of men willing to do anything to escape that beach, self-preservation is a strong motivation, and it's not that their story might not be worthy of telling, but this movie made no effort to make me like or care for them or their story. Maybe I'm not supposed to care for them? Maybe their self-serving attitudes are supposed to balance the heroism of the pilots? I really don't have any idea what my take-away from this movie is supposed to be. That might be part of my problem. I came away with nothing but a profound feeling of annoyance.
If I wore a watch, I would have checked it multiple times to see how much more of the movie I had to endure. I know it's running time is supposedly short, but man, it felt endless. Interminable. Painful. This is what happens when there's no emotional investment in the characters... it's boring. And dude, what happened at Dunkirk should not be boring. I didn't get any sense of amazingness or happiness when the few ships showed up at the end. Maybe because there appeared to be only a handful of boats come to help?
I did at least like the two pilots. And Mark Rylance. But I didn't care about them. We aren't given enough to care about them.
So, yeah. This one's a huge ugly fail for me. However, I recognize that the very things that don't work for me personally in this movie seem to work very well for the majority of other people out there, so I would probably still recommend this movie. The subject is worthy, regardless, and people should decide for themselves if they like it, not listen to reviews, positive or negative.