Exactly 20 years ago, James Cameron’s “Titanic” swept America off its feet, with its realistic mammoth recreation of one of the world’s most infamous disasters. It resulted in a whopping 11 Oscar wins, only one of three films to achieve that feat. The subject of this post, might be the next 11 time winner. Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk”, at under 2 hours, is able to astound, intrigue and mesmerize any cinephile or war enthusiast as to the horrors of combat, without the cheesy CGI appearance. This is exactly the way films should appear, to look great and tell the truth about a pinnacle in warfare.
Nolan cleverly weaves three scenarios that each has its own time periods. “The Mole” involves young Army Privates Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Gibson (Aneurin Barnard), both of whom are trying to find a vessel to seek refuge. “The Sea” focuses on Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and shiphand George (Barry Keoghan) commanding a ship to help in the war effort, eventually rescuing an unnamed shell shocked soldier (Cillian Murphy) wanting to go home. “The Air” is about Spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden) trying to outmaneuver German Luftwaffe planes. As each of these scenarios play out, they converge on one another as characters from each part find themselves crossing over to the other narratives and by the end, you grow to appreciate their bravery and courage in battle.
“Dunkirk” is 60% visual and 40% dialogue. Nolan’s purpose is to let the actions of war do the majority of the talking, which is somewhat uncommon in modern films. The war figuratively, is the main character in every shot and plot twist. The soldiers are just witnesses and participants to the turbulence that the main character “war” is unleashing. No one actor is the lead and takes up precious time. It’s a beautifully crafted ensemble of the up and coming young actors making their big break in the business and the older more learned performers like Rylance and Kenneth Branagh doing what they do best. All the actors play opposite “war” and immerse themselves hand and foot into the dangers as if it was pure reality. I wish there were more daring directors like Nolan, that not only portray war, but thoroughly recreate it.
I can see “Dunkirk” win the bulk of the craft Oscars. For starters, Nolan should win for Best Director for being the 21st century’s answer to David Lean as the premier epic filmmaker. Nolan should also win for his screenplay, which carefully crafts three components at three different time periods of one week, one day and one hour into a 106 minute feature. Hans Zimmer should win his long awaited 2nd Oscar for Best Score for beautifully dressing the action with a symphony of dazzling and haunting crescendos.
Hoyte van Hoytema, Lee Smith and Nathan Crowley, as cinematographer, editor and production designer respectively, create an aesthetically pleasing masterpiece with very few flaws in its delivery. You can see the gunfire, feel the sand and the water in your face and be caught up in the chaos one scene at a time. Finally, the sound work in both mixing and editing are just the icing on the cake. You need just the right auditory effects to make war leap off the screen and “Dunkirk” achieves that and more. Finally, with all of these different artistic components, “Dunkirk” should win Best Picture. It’s a no-brainer.
What initially made me excited about seeing “Dunkirk” was that finally, there’s an old fashioned war picture, much like “The Longest Day” and “The Guns Of Navarone” that doesn’t take a side with the conflict, but just portrays the selflessness of all the soldiers involved. You especially see that in Mark Rylance’s Mr. Dawson, a middle aged civilian doing his part in the war effort. It seems that films today, have to possess some sort of modern politically correct topic, or have some ludicrous plot, in order to be culturally pleasing, instead of telling a story in traditional methods. Luckily, there is Christopher Nolan with his nostalgia like storytelling to bring the good old patriotic war film ensemble to 21st century audiences. Maybe this will tempt other filmmakers to hop on the bandwagon of returning to the old fashioned Golden Age of Hollywood pictures of yesteryear.
In closing, if “Dunkirk” at the very least, does not snag one Academy Award, then I have lost faith in the process of awarding masterpieces. This is probably going to be the best film of the Oscar season. Nothing will ever come close this year, or even the rest of the decade.
This is one of my favourite Cyclops quotes because it beautifully illustrates the sad development of radicalisation in him.
At some point he just couldn’t turn the other cheek anymore. Because it didn’t seem to work.
A friend of mine recently made me aware of the “fridging” phenomena in comics that predominately affects female characters. This refers to the tendency male writers have to kill, de-power, or otherwise victimize female characters for the purpose of either advancing the storyline of male characters or simply to depict females in a weak or vulnerable state. Major examples of this are Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend getting killed and stuffed into a refrigerator in Green Lantern #54, and the paralyzation and implied sexual assault of Batgirl in The Killing Joke. But really, when you starting thinking about it and making a list, the examples are almost endless.
After learning about this, I immediately began thinking about how it related to my favorite comic book characters, the Uncanny X-Men. While female characters in X-Men comics are unarguably victimized and unfortunately often sexualized in the process (I’m looking at you underage Illyana Rasputine), it can at least be stated that during Claremont’s run it is almost never done for the purpose of advancing the storyline of a male character. I think this is because unlike most comic books being published to this day, the women are the stars of the X-Men. Yes, Claremont is often misogynistic with his treatment and visual depiction of these women, but at the exact same time he is quite feminist in the sense that the pages of his comic books focus so strongly on the storylines of the female characters (Kitty, Jean, Storm, Rogue, Rachel). And the women are often depicted as being more powerful and having more depth than their male counterparts. A good example of this is Storm. She is classified as an omega class mutant with supreme power. She becomes leader of the X-Men, the first female or minority to do so. When she is de-powered by Forge’s nullifying laser, it sparks an incredibly intense emotional journey that takes place in some of the finest comic books ever written (see Lifedeath and Lifedeath II for examples). We see her battle her demons and ultimately defeat them, and it is never done for the purpose of exploring anything other than her own character, who is strong, inspirational, and entirely stands on her own. In these very panels we see her kick the shit out of Cyclops to reclaim leadership of the team, and she does both of these things entirely without her powers. Completely awesome. And even better, in either an awesome bit of symbolism or foreshadowing, while this fight is going on in the danger room, the weather outside turns mysteriously ominous.