Dunkirk: A Visceral Reaction

Dunkirk: A Visceral Reaction August 26, 2017


I had mixed feelings before going. So many “cool” Christians said it was “a masterpiece.” And of course, I will not see a movie when it gets reviews like that. Yes, it’s one of my fatal flaws.

But I did view it, and have many thoughts.

First, there’s the obvious delimiting Nolan exercises on the film medium. The Guardian hammered him for this in this silly review. But I loved it.

He takes a very big moment in history and focuses the camera on three narratives. This makes it very personal. And touching.

Next, the sound fidelity is like nothing I’ve ever heard in a movie from this genre. He takes the sound seriously and it displaces the typical gratuitous violence on which we gorge with our eyes.

In doing so, our ears become active participants. My wife kept saying, “I’ve never heard a movie sound so amazing.”

Like the sound, the sea and sky act as characters.

The water represents distance. The path home. Impending doom. An adversary. An ally. The sky accompanies the changing mood. It hides and reveals. Battles occur in the clouds.

At the end, the sky delivers hope in a silent gliding fighter plane; the guardian of the beach.

The shots are massive, symmetrical, and feel strangely human. Nolan possesses an aesthetic JJ Abrams, Spielberg and other noted directors simply can’t touch.

My friend, we’ll call him Eddie, observed how Nolan’s films possess a “touch me” characteristic.

I agree.

And that is what I’m getting at when I say a “strangely human.”

And I think the sound fidelity of this film contributes to that human feel. But I can’t articulate how at this point because, of course, this is a visceral reaction so I don’t have to think too deeply.

If it doesn’t win the sound editing Oscar there is something wrong. But then there’s John Wick 2 to consider as well.

Finally, there is an obvious sanitation with regard to war portrayal. He basically takes the genre and redefines it; there is very little “blood and guts” in the tradition of Saving Private Ryan.

It’s noticeable, and welcomed.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Hacksaw Ridge. Rather, it’s that my eyes can only take so much before my heart explodes.

A post script to this little post is how the film highlights leadership in the conclusion with the voice over reading of the Winston Churchill address. (No doubt this film will come up in the illustration section of many ministers for years to come. And that’s fine. I welcome it.)

The downcast soldiers are embarrassed they were forced home. But the nation welcomes them back with open arms and celebrates their safe return. I’m assuming this is in large part due to Churchill’s address.

This jumped out at me. And it may or may not have made me cry. I’m only human. You might even want to stand up and shout, “Yes” for no apparent reason. It speaks to the soul.

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