Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bloody Brilliant! Dunkirk Is The Best Film Of 2017, So Far, And The Best War Movie Since Saving Private Ryan

Christopher Nolan can seemingly do no wrong. The master-class filmmaker, whose "Interstellar" is my favorite sci-fi flick and one of my favorite movies, period, has done it again with "Dunkirk." 

Nolan's new epic, which chronicles the legendary predicament of several hundred thousand British warriors cornered on the Dunkirk bridgehead on the French side of the English Channel in 1940, is a masterpiece. 

The sounds of this film alone bring you immediately into the story. They're unavoidable. Relentless. Every ricocheting bullet. Every Spitfire plane engine flying overhead. And it never lets up. It's impossible to avoid becoming completely immersed in this film. But who would want to? 

Like all of Nolan's work, there's plenty of heart to accompany the sound and fury. Grueling, ambitious, intense, gut-wrenching, claustrophobic, redemptive, "Dunkirk" is masterfully directed, written, shot, edited and acted. It's the best war movie since “Saving Private Ryan,” and easily the best film I’ve seen in 2017. 

There's not much dialogue, but just enough. And if the story seems slight, it isn't. It’s a bit challenging at times to keep up with way the film tells three stories at once, and the characters kind of meld together. But that's clearly by design. 

The fact that the names and backgrounds of the characters are de-emphasized is surely an effort by Nolan, who also wrote the screenplay, to lump these young men, regardless of their bloodlines or home addresses, into the same boat. Literally.

The caviling critics who've called this film unsentimental simply don't get it. It wears its sentiments quietly, until a certain scene late that will bring you to tears and make you hail the Brits! 

Yes, the seminal moment in the film is a somewhat famous if still under-reported event in which British civilians come together to assist soldiers in the most heartwarming way you could possibly imagine. The way Americans did, too, during the same war, but in a way you'll just have to see to appreciate. No spoilers here folks. Just think "citizen sailors."

For me, “Dunkirk” is, above all, a powerful and poignant reminder of the indefatigable pride and character of our best allies, the Brits. These are a people whose homes and offices and landmarks were bombed non-stop by the Nazis. So many civilians died in the German attacks on London and other cities in England. 

This film shows just how much the dutiful, brave English endured and overcame in WWII. When one of the film's lead actors, Fionn Whitehead, playing a Brit soldier and Dunkirk survivor, reads a newspaper article featuring Winston Churchill's stirring and legendary call-to-arms speech delivered to Parliament in June, 1940, you will once again have to fight back a tear. 

"We shall fight on beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills," Churchill memorably pronounced. "We shall never surrender and if, which I do not for the 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, will 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 liberation of the Old."

And that's just what the Brits did. With some help from the Yanks, of course. 

As I watched this film, I could not help but think about my dad, who was a World War II veteran. He never made it to Europe, he was all set to be part of the invasion of Japan when the bomb dropped. I am very sure he would have loved this film even more than I did. 

When it ended, I sat silently for a second just thinking about what I'd just experienced. Then I began to applaud, loudly. And after a few claps, the rest of the good people at the theater joined me. Why? Because this movie is bloody brilliant. 

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.
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