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Thread: DUNKIRK (Christopher Nolan 2017)

  1. #16
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    If lists make you happy, fine,but as in your previous reviewing, just throwing out names of other films doesn't ultimately convey that much info. Several of those are fine films, several are not, but none outweighs Nolan's achievement in Dunkirk.

    There are many interviews about Dunkirk. Kenneth Branagh gives a particularly good one HERE. What a very articulate man he is. So is Mary Rylance; in fact what Finn Whitehead and Harry Styles say is very good too, in another interview. It's evident as intense an experience of filmmaking as this gave the actors clear ideas of what they were doing.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 02:46 AM.

  2. #17
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    "We Shall Fight on the Beaches."

    The final scene is particularly neat in rounding out the story and providing historical perspective without departing from the intimacy that has prevailed throughout. Hence Alex (Harry Styles} calls through the train window to a boy to tell him where they are and give him a copy of the newspaper from the pile. And then Tommy (Fionn Whithead) reads out loud in his own voice the front page story that (in the film's typical telescoping of time) reports the evacuation and Churchill's famous June 4, 1940 "We Shall Fight on the Beaches" speech. As Tommy reads it Churchill says what happened was a terrible defeat, but the saving of 340,000 English and French soldiers was a triumph snatched from the jaws of that defeat.
    Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

    An English paper from June 3, 1940.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 03:12 AM.

  3. #18
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    One at a time I guess

    Chris apparently won't accept just a war movie list that is my compilation of war-like movies that reflect a genuine "you are there" experience that in my opinion either rival or exceed Dunkirk's experiential novelty and in addition offer a stronger and more important emotive story-connection with the audience that Dunkirk lacks, backed up by a multitude of audience members' comments on IMDb. So I must believe that what's in order is a much more time-consuming, detailed one at a time dissection of some of the movies I've listed so that Chris if he so desires can attempt to offer some basis on which his adoration of Dunkirk is so cemented and to refute my contention that Dunkirk is more of a Disneyland ride excursion into a 3-D virtual reality ride with the audience member as the primary character.

    To begin with, most of the movies on my list can be supported and generalized to provide a foundation that Dunkirk is deficient in important ways in being a great war movie. One of the best examples of a movie that enthralls and allows the audience to experience the horror and almost helpless chaos of war, along with a much more visceral awareness of the fleetingness of life is Randall Wallace's "We Were Soldiers" based on a book whose author was both a real authentic Lt. Colonel and who actually oversaw the first major American-Vietcong battle in Vietnam.

    In comparing the opening sequences of We Were Soldiers and Dunkirk, the audience is presented with a beginning scene in We Were Soldiers presenting an isolated dirt road among lifeless trees of la Dang Valley of Vietnam, June 1954 (twelve years before Lt. Col. Harold Moore would take his own American Soldiers into the valley of death) with a somber manís voiceover explaining the setting as a testament to both the Americans and Vietcong who are to die in this war as a background prelude to the main story while in Dunkirk the audience is immediately presented with a squad of American soldiers walking down an small road bordered by apparently abandoned buildings in a small town as a preface to the oncoming scene of the wide expanse of beaches of Dunkirk sometime between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

    What transpires next on the screen is suggestive of just how mutely Dunkirk opens with its images of the backs of American soldierís looking into open windows, taking a smoke, attempting to relieve oneself and later being shot at falling to the street compared to the scary, visceral images of brutal carnage as photographed in We Were Soldiers without seemingly any over the top stylized dramatic presentation making the scene ever so much more riveting and frightening because of its likely connection to reality. The audience is presented in We Were Soldiers the close up a French officerís sweat on his face in hot Vietnam, they get to hear swear words coming from a frustrated commanding officer. Then suddenly there is the sizzling sound of a shot and blood spurting out against a soldierís white hat and the camera pulls back to reveal that the soldier next to him has been shot and there follows an explosion and fire. And then a soldier attempting to rally the platoon is shot in the throat between he can complete a few notes on his trumpet, blood drops splattering in a spherical design from his cut artery. From then on in the space of few minutes the entire platoon will be slaughtered. From the very beginning of the movie it is established that eventually the French will leave it to the Americans what apparently the French could not. Already there is a sense of dread and the possibility of future failure that encompasses what follows next throughout the movie. The Americans are vulnerable. In Dunkirk there is little of the savage viciousness, most of it is unseen in terms of damage and pain. Even the enemy is for the most part invisible, detached. By the time the British soldier arrives on the beaches of Dunkirk, there is an odd sense of detachment from the impending Nazi invasion instead of the visceral fear that was developed in We Were Soldiers of the overwhelming power of the enemy. There is only a tacit scene to acknowledge the French sacrifices they made in keeping the Naziís from slaughtering more British soldiers. In We Were Soldiers, the same French soldiers have already been presented with much overwhelming brutality even as this movie interestingly is primarily about the American experience.

  4. #19
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    Good job tabuno on showing why you like We Were Soldiers better. Indeed Dunkirk is consciously free of the gore and "savage viciousness" of warfare your preferred film has. But it is simply unfair to call the new film "more of a Disneyland ride excursion into a 3-D virtual reality ride with the audience member as the primary character" - an opinion that seems to stem partly from accidentally having wound up in an uncomfortably close seat (but was it IMAX or 70mm?). The Dunkirk audience member becomes more of a primary character, but it is not a "Disneyland ride excursion" but a war film in the classic mold with quite a number of characters we remember very well despite the lack of background on them and despite its structural and conceptual originality. After the introductory voiceover, showing someone getting shot in the neck, the spurting blood, the severed artery, the flying limbs, that is the conventional thing and how Saving Private Ryan got our attention and made its impression. But there's no need to denigrate this great new film or to dismiss the other films you love, either.

    Here's a paragraph from a good review by Dana Stevens, the film critic of Slate, that puts its finger on the main reason why I think you got turned off and some others may too. I recommend reading Stevens' entire review. (It's HERE.)
    The degree to which the viewer does or does not “get to know” the characters in this intimate yet somehow impersonal movie may be a point of contention among audiences. Dunkirk is a portrait of a military and humanitarian operation more than it is a study of a group of individuals. It isn’t that big on characterization or, for that matter, dialogue—a good deal of which is inaudible thanks to the near-constant cacophony of plane crashes, gunfire, and explosions. And the closest thing this ensemble piece has to a protagonist—a very young soldier played by Fionn Whitehead—is not only nearly silent but sometimes difficult to distinguish from two of his fellow survivors (Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles), especially when they’re covered in oil and grime from the various bombed and capsized ships they’ve abandoned.
    And also (this paragraph comes before in the review):
    In a radical move, Dunkirk entirely does away with the narrative scaffolding that holds together most war pictures: the introduction, at boot camp or in battle, of a crew of soldierly comrades. The scenes of military higher-ups debating strategy over maps. The cutaways to families waiting back home or flashbacks to the combatants’ prewar days. Instead, the film plunges us straight in medias res, or rather in the middle of several different res: Dunkirk follows stories unfolding in three separate places not at the same time but in three overlapping time frames: one lasting a week, one a day, and one only an hour.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 01:14 PM.

  5. #20
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    Opening Scene Similarity Flaws

    The opening scene of Dunkirk of British soldiers foolishly running down a town street only to get shot down reminds me of a scene from the updated War of the Worlds (2005) directed by Steven Spielberg as people are running away from gigantic Martian contraptions that just ray gun them into dust. Unlike We Were Soldiers (2002) which opens with Vietcong attacking a French platoon on a dirt road from both sides of the road, the British soldiers in Dunkirk seem to foolishly forget to use the apparently the abandoned buildings all along with entire length of the street to use for cover and even worse as they continue to attempt to reach a fence while being shot at directly even though there appears to be a cross street where they could easily have escaped the bullets by just going around a simple corner. While civilians might have fled in terror, I don't think that trained British soldiers would have simply forgotten basic training of evasion tactics, especially if one is going to die. Too bad actors with a military background in this movie didn't complain to the director of this huge oversight. I guess being you are there experience doesn't include authentic realism.

  6. #21
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    What's wrong with the picture, and other movies.

    I think the big flaw with Dunkirk isn't anything tabuno mentions but omission of the 130,000 French and Belgian troops who were also being evacuated at the same time - we don't know how. Being unable to make out a third of the dialogue also isn't right. This movie has flaws. But it has greatness, and great originality, along with a classic feeling.

    I like some of the movies tabuno listed a lot. Some like We Were Soldiers I've never even seen. Some other war movies I like that tabuno didn't mention: Three Kings (1999), Letters from Iwa Jima (2006), The Hurt Locker (2008),Hacksaw Ridge (2016). Ones I particularly don't like and find objectionable: The Deer Hunter (1978) Black Hawk Down (2001). The first builds on an experience that's completely false, the second is a crude celebration of war violence. I also don't like Alexander ("war movie"?), the Revenant, Fail Safe, and don't see How the West Was Won, Excaliber or Cold Mountain as "war movies." Lawrence of Arabia is a great film, I love it, but it's on a wider scale than just a "war movie," and is also primarily the portrait of a man's remarkable life, of which WWI was just a part. Dances with Wolves, a questionable film, isn't a "war movie."
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 01:49 PM.

  7. #22
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    The genre and outlook of Dunkirk: not so much war, as disaster and survival

    The thing about Dunkirk is that it certainly focuses on a crucial moment for Europe in the Second World War, but it's also peripheral to the War since it has no battle in it, no combat, and is a retreat, an evacuation. It's relevant to mention United 93, others have too, and also many have mentioned James Cameron's Titanic. A lot of the "Mole" segments of Dunkirk that are its the most powerful, are disaster movie material on a grand scale. The central focus, neatly (again) underlined at the end, is not on winning but surviving, which is what you do in a disaster, if you're lucky: you survive it.

    The old man (who turns out to be blind, as Tommy sees but Alex misses - one of Dunkirk's crafty little details) gives the boys blankets and congratulates them.

    Alex says: "But all we did was survive."

    And the old man answers: "Sometimes that's enough."

    So the main action is from the point of view of young soldiers, especially the three, Tommy, Alex, Gibson, going from ship to ship as one after another gets torpedoed or shot up and sunk, and escaping desperately to another, then sent back to the beach, and having to wait in the cold and damp and uncertainty, and struggle again to get onto one of the civilian rescue boats that come, through fire and water, and water that's on fire. Being in the water full of oil when a plane in flames drops into it is one of the most terrifying moments of the long struggle to survive the young men go through - surviving to another day, to go back to war, perhaps to die in battle.

    I think I like this so much because I know that it would be my experience if I was a young soldier (and I was a young soldier, but not in combat, just training), I could see that this was how I felt and would feel in this situation. It is the experience of being in the Army, most of the time. You are helpless, part of a collectivity, but also on your own, and your primary task is your own survival. This is the subject of Dunkirk.

    The smallness of the roles, the lack of detail about the characters, isn't a proper gauge of how memorable they are or how much you might care about them. That's not how it works in this movie. Possibly the most memorable of all is George, the 17-year-old friend of Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), son of Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance). Thanks to Peter, the world would remember George too. Mr. Dawson is humble and ordinary in his determination to do his civic duty, but who can forget him? He is the embodiment of Operation Dynamo, and it's not an accident that he's played by one of England's greatest actors, Mark Rylance.

    This is the way the great English studio films of the Fifties were. Everyone in the cast was fine, without distinction. Everybody was a star, but there were no stars. Christopher Nolan carries out this spirit in making some complete unknown young actors as important in the film as three four of the UK's finest actors, Cillian Murphy, Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 02:21 PM.

  8. #23
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    The Your Are There Approach Flaw

    Knipp's insistence that Dunkirk's primary strength lies not so much on story or characters (which is apparently very diminished in this film) but on the apparently real vicarious experience of being in an actual war scene that individual audience members are allowed to experience has a fundamental problem. The fundamental problem is that film technology isn't yet sufficient to offer what Knipp is really seeking. I'm reminded of, by now outdated, scene from Francois Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451 (1966) where Linda Montag played by Julie Christie, the wife of the main character, is enraptured by a stylized soap opera broadcast on a full wall screen which supposedly allows individual audience members to directly participate as if they, and only they, are part of the soap opera. This fascinating participant technique is supposedly made possible through the advanced technology of spy cameras in every home and the ability of the actors to ask generalized questions of the individual audience members where an obvious gap in the dialogue appears and the name of the audience member is inserted making it appear that the audience member is being personally talked to which is apparently not the case.

    The problem of the audience member as the primary character in Dunkirk approach is that unlike actual characters in the movie, such characters have a comprehensive historical context from which to experience their surroundings and circumstances in the movie whereas as in the case of Linda Montag they remain starkly disconnected from the events being presented to them. Most audience members do not have the military basic training, the prolonged periods of waiting around, of the apparent associations and friendships seemingly developed in the movie, the same motivations and persona as being depicted. Instead of the brilliant use of first person, found footage approach that made The Blair Witch Project (1999) so effective, Christopher Nolan still distances the audience using perspectives that a real character could never obtain if they had actually been at Dunkirk. Dunkirk falls starkly short of Knipp's criteria for you are here experience. We may have to wait at least ten more years for quantum computers to be able to tap in our individual brains to create individualistic movie scenarios in which audience members are likely to stay home and connect themselves up into a Matrix (1999) like virtual world instead.

  9. #24
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    Well, evidently you know better. How much military training these very young soldiers had is one question. Another is whether there were really any safe corners to get around. The scene is saying, they didn't have time. They were in a hurry to get to the line, to the beach. They made a run for it. A straight line is the shortest distance between two points. They didn't know that snipers were aimed at them. They got shot.

    Frankly can't follow what's being said about Fahrenheit 451 and (!) Blair Witch Project. What we didn't need here, witness the great success of Nolan's amazing film, is virtual reality, or found footage. It's all done with bolted or hand held IMAX cameras in realistically recreated scenes in actual locations.

    If you think young soldiers on their own and scared aren't capable of doing a stupid thing, you certainly haven't been in the Army.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 02:40 PM.

  10. #25
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    All these objections to the opening scene say, to me, you didn't like the movie from the get-go. First of all you were annoyed it didn't start out with a voiceover explaining the context, or scenes of basic training, or the families of the young soldiers. Then you thought the scene was staged wrong, that it wouldn't happen like that. I'd say, you should have gotten uop right then and turned in your ticket and gotten a refund. At that point it wasn't too late to escape. If I'm at a movie watching a scene and all I can think of is scenes from another movie that I think were done better, I'm not happy. I'm also not really watching the movie. Luckily I can shut out memories of other movies when I'm watching a movie, most of the time, and enjoy it, at the time, even if afterwards I realize there are other movies I liked better.

  11. #26
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    The Impossible Flying Machine of The Ending Sequence

    A real problem about the ending scene was the improbable, fantasy of a single engine fighter prop plane that continues to glide and glide without fuel forever and forever and even able to shoot down an enemy aircraft, one that still could outmaneuver with its own fueled engine. That whole unbelievable sequence really made Christopher Nolan look overly dramatic and manipulative in trying to come up with some fantastic ending that really should have crashed and which in some ways it did. I'm also reminded of the much more impressive battle scene from Oliver Stone's Alexander (2004) which unlike Dunkirk truly portrayed the epic nature of the thousands and thousands of soldiers involved in each respective scene. Alexander making a sweeping turn with his cavalry around what appeared to be a sea of soldiers. Others have complained about how puny Christopher Nolan's ending scene is regarding the supposedly 300,000 soldiers that were supposed almost stranded near Dunkirk. When comparing these two movies, it is fairly obvious how understated and diminished the magnitude of Dunkirk's underwhelming magnitude of the actual heroic efforts and the immensity of the potential loss to Britain this escape would have resulted in.
    Last edited by tabuno; 07-23-2017 at 04:37 PM.

  12. #27
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    You misunderstood the differently calibrated chronologies, tabuno. It wasn't "forever and forever" the plane's final flight was, merely seems so because part of the one hour expanded to mesh with one week and one day in the Mole and Sea sections. "Puny" ending also is a misunderstanding by some viewers of the method of Synecdoche used throughout, a few individuals standing for the many. Stone's Alexander, one of your list I consider bad, uses CGI for the thousands, of course - it's very obvious; Nolan used real living multitudes and real battleships and planes.
    it is fairly obvious how understated and diminished the magnitude of Dunkirk's underwhelming magnitude of the actual heroic efforts and the immensity of the potential loss to Britain this escape would have resulted in.
    You're getting tangled up in your ideas here, tabuno. The story is about a gain not a loss, of 340,000 saved. But I think the key is to understand the device used throughout, from scene one, of Synecdoche, of a part put for the whole, to provide simplicity and immediacy. Logically failing to escape would have resulted in the loss, not escaping.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2017 at 06:39 PM.

  13. #28
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    People, out there: don't be deterred by this debate or these objections. There are faults in Dunkirk, just not quite these ones, but this is the best movie to come to theaters so far this year, and one of the best war movies you'll ever see. Powerful, stunning, Nolan's best yet. See it - in big format, as it was made to be seen - in a comfortable seat, not too close to the screen - or too far back!

  14. #29
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    Great stuff Gents.
    I'm not sure what Nolan is aiming to do with Dunkirk, but we all know how formidible a director he is.
    "Set the controls for the heart of the Sun" - Pink Floyd

  15. #30
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    Hope you see it soon johann and in large format. Theatres.

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