9/9/17 DUNKIRK
We went to see Dunkirk at an 11:35a showing.  Turns out, this was an excellent time to see the film, as there was only one other family in the theater this Sunday morning. And though it’s always nice to be in a packed theater, there was something very intimate about being alone(almost)  with so much cinema around us. Then again, after 20 minutes of previews, my ears were starting to ring from the all the sound effects… which bled from one preview into  another.  It’s almost like one giant soundtrack.  And our popcorn was nearly gone.  More people may have helped absorb the sound, but the popcorn was solely on us.

As the film started, I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. I’m not currently a fan of violence or war movies, especially since I’ve seen so much of the real world version of it, and I worried I wasn’t going to make it through the film’s dark, disturbing subject: British soldiers (and some French) during WWII, stranded on the beach in Dunkirk, France. Surrounded by the enemy, and waiting to be somehow, rescued.  Very existentialist. Annhilistic. It was very grey.  And contrasty.  It was clear from the dark shadows on the beach of the exhausted men, the drab colored sand, sea and sky, that they were all sitting ducks for the Germans to pick them off.  Thousands of them, orderly queued up, waiting, to get on the next boat and carrier, of which there seemed to only be one, to be taken across the channel.  Much of what happens next is daunting, predictable, yet thrilling.

I’d read and heard reviews about how the film was told, visually, from three different perspectives – land, sea, and air, and that there wasn’t much dialogue. I was prepared for the ride, as best I could be. The main characters we followed had names, but it didn’t matter. It wasn’t about them, but rather how they were just a snippet of all the different lives lived and lost through this war, and this event.  All the personal struggles, tiny successes, discomforts, never-knowing which step could be your last. Though there were so so many soldiers,  honing in to just one in each theater of war was able to bring you in to just one of those thousands of lives. It was the tiny details that drew you in.  By land – he discomfort of no place to relieve oneself, or hide. And yet, the ability to be incognito was essential for survival. By air, it was the details in the facial expressions, in the cockpit, in the small dialogue between pilots, or the sounds of bullets buzzing at you or at the other guy.  By sea, what seemed to be the peaceful sounds of lapping waves, finally a place to take a deep breath of relief, turns instead into a watery grave with no way out.

One of the things that stood apart in this film experience was how the lives lost and saved were not in ways you might expect.  It wasn’t always a soldier fighting that brought about death, but an accident somewhere. Or the unexpected survivalist not being who you thought it was.

All in all, I would highly recommend Dunkirk for its cinematic splendor, the direction of actors who with sometimes nothing but a tweak of an eyebrow to express so much of so much emotion underneath. The little intimacies of unspoken words between strangers, sharing an experience. The different views of the same event, where time doesn’t matter, but perception is everything.  My only real complaint is that the soundtrack, which was beautiful, was too loud and too often. When there was dialogue, it was often drowned out by the score, and it made and exhausting picture even more exhausting which wasn’t fair to the audience.   But Dunkirk brought back humanity in a place where none seemed to exist.