Hype is a terrible thing. So, no, I did not love Dunkirk. SPOILERS (if there can be spoilers for a movie based on a historical event).
So I have heard way too much positive stuff about this film, including multiple people saying that it is Nolan’s best. I should have just realized I wanted to see it and seen it before I heard all the positive stuff. I suspect I would have liked it more. I am a casualty of my own expectations once again.
First, let’s deal with the good stuff: this is an incredible technical accomplishment. There is a lot of really great live action stunt work that is seamlessly integrated with (the seemingly rare) CGI, resulting in certainly one of the most technically adept depictions of World War II yet filmed. The dog fight scenes are particularly well done but all of the work with the ships is also noteworthy. One the technical level, the film is a bit of a marvel.
But there’s a lot I don’t like about the rest of it.
First, there’s the conceit, wherein Nolan tries to tell the story of the evacuation with three different storylines told over three different time spans. He establishes the conceit then doesn’t adhere to it. At least both the shorter storylines go on longer than their stated time periods. I wouldn’t quibble with this if he didn’t draw attention to it, but he does by stating the timeline for each story.
All of these storylines intersect for the climax of the film which feels contrived. Maybe it isn’t; I mean maybe it’s possible that there could have been a bunch of soldiers who ended up meeting on this boat, but the way it is told feels contrived. I think I would have been happier without everyone meeting up with each other.
Another part that feels contrived are the conflicts, of which there are two notable ones wherein British people fight each other while trying to either leave Dunkirk or rescue people from Dunkirk. Is the story of what happened not good enough on its own? I mean, I’m sure this stuff happened to a degree, but something about these fights feels false to me. I can’t put my finger on it.
Then, there is a moment at the end of the film wherein a fuel-less plane saves Kenneth Branagh’s life. It feels completely unnecessary and fake. I don’t know why it’s in the film, frankly. (Well, symmetry.)
Also, as has been noted about many Nolan films, some of the dialogue is not good.
But despite all of these problems, I am very happy to have watched it in theatres (I suspect I might have not enjoyed it at home) and I still think the film is technically very impressive. Impressive enough that I am keeping my rating higher than I want to.