22 July 2017 (released)
27 July 2017
A World War II movie in 2017 is largely irrelevant. Not only has the art of warfare changed since the 1940s, but in the 70 odd years since, the world has changed, evolved and progressed almost beyond recognition. Do we still need movies to remind us of the havoc and devastation caused during that period? Do we still need a $100 million film to tell the story about Dunkirk? Can 106 minutes of what is essentially a glorified TV screen teach us what teachers in schools and professors in universities cannot? If the answer is yes, then humanity may as well give up now. If we need Hollywood to teach us about World War II, then we, as the human race, have failed - and failed miserably.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a decent movie, but it cannot help but fall in the trap of being another pointless war movie made at the wrong time. If this film was made 20 years ago, it would have been apt, but the world has changed irrevocably since 9/11. Movies about World War II are nothing more than a money-hungry industry playing on people’s emotions and seducing them to part with their hard-earned cash. And it works - every single time.
The film Dunkirk is based on the true story of hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops surrounded by enemy forces and their attempt to escape back to home. They are trapped on the beach and the enemy is closing in, but civilians from Great Britain are coming to rescue the stranded in fishing boats and pleasure crafts. It is a movie about bravery and courage… just like any other war movie. It is not - and never will be - in the same bracket as Saving Private Ryan, but it does a decent job of showcasing just how tough it was during that period and how much sacrifice civilians were willing to make.
Given that this movie is based on facts and is restricted by time, there is not much room for Nolan to add a sense of drama or thrill. While that is understandable, it also makes it bland and, in many ways, uneventful. There is not much scope for a strong storyline or any particular character to stand out, as the film relies on the audience’s sense of awe, shock, respect and patriotism to muddle through the 106 minutes.
What is compellingly cynical about this film is that it preys - and is successful at that, too - on British patriotism. In a packed theatre in the north of England where yours truly watched the movie, most were in their 50s and beyond. For them, this movie probably reminded them of a world that once was and will never be, reminded them of the horrors of that era. World War II movies are always in vogue, but could it be that studios and production companies are trying to squeeze as much as they can from those with some memory of World War II and its immediate effects?
The story of Dunkirk is one of bravery and courage, of failure and accepting failure, of sacrifice and willingness to do good. The movie ‘Dunkirk’ is just a poor attempt to sell it in less than two hours.