I really liked Inception. I think that Christopher Nolan is a genius. But his latest film, Dunkirk, is a turkey. This is one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. I’m not just saying that because I sat there and nit-picked the military hardware and special effects and found them lacking. I’m saying it because the movie was just plain bad.
I will point out that I’m glad that some of my favorite actors got some work and were paid “big picture” money to work on this. It’s nice to see some really fine actors get paid. That’s the only good thing I can think of to say. So let’s get started on the bad stuff.
Historical accuracy? Yeah, I’m a war nerd ™ and I study war. I did notice a few “errors” here and there but WHO CARES? The errors in historical baloney such as ships or planes or whatever just fade into nothingness compared to colossal error of making a movie about Dunkirk in which the blitzkrieg is missing. Blitzkrieg may have been real, or may have been some kind of historical fallacy, but it’s a thing. It has to be in a movie about flippin’ Dunkirk or nobody knows what’s going on.
This movie desperately needed a tiny touch of something to explain how all those soldiers ended up on the beach. A hint. Something. You just don’t show “lots of guys on the beach” and not expect somebody to ask “what’s this?”
The blitzkrieg was missing. So were the Germans. No Germans. Just “the enemy” said in such a “suitable for television” manner as to cause anyone’s ears to prick up. “What did they not say? They censored the word ‘Germans?’ What??”
Yes. Dunkirk is a movie that fails to identify “the enemy” as The Third Reich. I’m calling bullshit on that. This is just embarrassing. No mention of Germans or Huns or Jerries or Heinies or Boche. No nothing.
The word is “stupid.”
It gets worse.
The film opens with a stunning display of poor soldiering by a British Tommy. He comes under fire so he stands up in a hot environment and then, failing to get rightfully shot, he throws down his rifle and runs for the rear. I wanted to shoot him myself but the realities of modern cinema make shooting characters on the screen pointless.
We are then treated to some of the worst aerial footage in memory. Spitfires and Messerschmitts shoot each other. There is a discussion about saving ships and planes for The Battle of Britain. It’s a short discussion. There is another short discussion about The Battle of France. Nobody cares, especially the people on screen. It’s all very abstract, cold and meaningless.
But never fear, we’re treated to the inevitable result of shooting and bombing and killing. A man is rescued from a sunken ship, then, in a fit of dementia, he kills a teenage boy. Obviously that’s what happens in war. Men go mad and kill boys.
Well, if you want to believe that–go ahead. Just don’t expect me to join you. I’m sure that a few British soldiers behaved badly during the Dunkirk battle. But that’s not the story here. The fact that the vast majority of them did not behave badly is the story. Get it straight.
They made a good movie about Dunkirk. It was called Mrs. Miniver. Watch that instead. Maybe the British back then were just too stiff and proper to be believable to us now. But that’s not something that was wrong with them then, it’s a symptom of what’s wrong with us now,
ADDENDUM: The music, from the brilliant Hans Zimmer, is just as big a failure as the visual elements. I found it so distracting because it reminded me so strongly of the soundtrack of another film that I couldn’t concentrate on what I was seeing, because I was listening to the music and trying to determine where I had heard something like this before. It took a day to figure out the answer.
It resembles the music from The Bounty by Vangelis. In some parts, particularly the sinking of the destroyer, the resemblance is so strong… well, it’s way too strong. Here’s a sample of the brilliant soundtrack by Vangelis. I hate to suggest it, but Zimmer seems to have had a buried memory of this 1984 work in his subconscious and it surfaced here in Dunkirk.