Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dunkirk and the Slow Death: A Movie About Nothing

Christopher Nolan proves once again how easily dazzled people are when something seems deep, because, I suppose, Dunkirk seems like a deep movie, all about the desperation of war and whatnot; but, really, Dunkirk is a movie about nothing. It is a movie that says nothing. It is a movie that does nothing. Well, nothing other than lazily follow the pseudo-protagonist around as he spends the movie running away.

In fact, nearly the whole movie is about running away. It's a movie about running away that is capped off by Winston Churchill's famous we-will-fight-them-everywhere speech.

I know. That's so deep. Except that it's not.

It also contains a bunch of purposeless non-linear elements. And don't get me wrong; I have nothing against non-linear story telling... as long as it serves the purpose of the story, but this felt more like it was there because people expect it of Nolan. You know, it's his signature thing so he has to include it even if it doesn't belong in this movie. So what we get is incongruous shots of a mid-day dog fight cut with scenes of a ship sinking in the middle of the night.

Oh! But maybe that's deep!
No, not really. It's just sloppy, bad story telling.
And that doesn't even touch on how we cut back to the same dog fight toward the end of the movie but seen from a different character's perspective.
Basically, the whole movie is out of sequence. None of it serves the story. And some of it is actually conflicting.

But, you know, Nolan is so deep.

I'm not even going to talk about the acting. Generally speaking, the actors all seemed bored. I think Nolan wanted them to seem bored, so I suppose that's good acting, but it makes a movie that comes in at only about one hour and forty-five minutes feel like you were watching it for three. But, maybe, my problem was that I didn't watch it in the theater. I wasn't fully immersed in the bigness of it.
Except that it's really a small movie.

Look, let's use the potty meter to measure this movie. In a good movie, you don't want to have to get up and go to the bathroom because you're worried you might miss something but, in this movie, you could have gone to take a nice long dump and come back to find that you missed... nothing at all. Maybe some more guys died, because people keep dying all around the pseudo-protagonist, but it's almost certain you wouldn't have missed any important dialogue because there's really not any. Hmm, now I'm wondering how long the movie would be if you kept only the bits with dialogue. 20 minutes?

The biggest issue with the movie is that it is very unclear about who the enemy is. Or any context about what's going on at all. Sure, maybe Nolan just assumes that everyone should know enough about World War II to supply that for themselves, and maybe everyone should, but it's abundantly clear that a vast amount of people don't know anything about World War II and have no context for what's going on. Shithead Nolan couldn't even identify the Nazis as the enemy in the opening text. No, he just says, "They're surrounded by the enemy."

What the actual fuck, Nolan? You can't do better than that? What enemy? Aliens? Goblins? Ravaging hordes of barbarians? No, it was Nazis, and you should have been clear about that.

But, then, it's painfully obvious that this was your go-to for trying to win a best picture Oscar after losing with Interstellar, an artsy movie about WWII. But this movie shouldn't have been nominated at all. It's just a hollow piece of chocolate that is ultimately disappointing because it has no substance. Bad chocolate, at that.


  1. Just stop watching Nolan movies. I thought it was brilliant and an incredibly unique take on a war film.

    1. Alex: Do you want me to quit watching them so that I'll quit pointing out how most of them are actually bad movies?

  2. I think the point was that it was a chaotic time and no one knew what was going on. And yes, they were running away.

    But I haven't seen the movie, so I have no idea how well it works. As I'm not a war movie aficionado, I have a feeling I'll feel about it much as you do.

    1. Liz: I think you're giving him more credit than what's there. I'm pretty sure the point was to make an artsy war movie nominally set in WWII to be blatant Oscar bait.

  3. I haven't seen the movie (and probably won't) so the only thing I can really disagree with you is about it not being nomination-quality. The academy only nominates movies based on what they like, and what they like is WWII movies. I'm not saying that this is how it should be, but something like two thirds of the voters are old white men. Of course they like WWII movies.