The Imax movie screening Dunkirk at Odeon Cinema in Kingston last night? I left before it ended.
My partner and I paid £18 each to see this much-vaunted film by director/ screenwriter Christopher Nolan. Mucho dinero went into this massive production. It is visually striking. I liked the muted blues and greys, morphing to brilliant skylines with RAF Spitfires slicing the air before diving headfirst into the sea. Those planes ran out of fuel. It was military policy to save fuel for the expected home invasion later on. A disgrace when you think about it. So, the movie is partly about Britain’s military defeat at Dunkirk during the war.
Nolan is eager to depict the helplessness and hopelessness of the men, trapped in a hellish ocean, desperate to survive. In one beautifully shot scene, we watch three soldiers in a perfect line up, sitting on the sand, in silence. We follow their gaze and see a lonely figure walking into the sea to drown.
The movie screening Dunkirk has artistic merit and the soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is moody and frightening. Even so, the film doesn’t work. Zimmer’s soundtrack and the stunning effects can’t rescue the empty storyline and the pretentiousness of the set pieces. We watch pretty soldiers in their nice uniforms glamorously blown up, and perspiring under the pressure of war.
The homoerotic element is amusing, but the maudlin shots and self-pitying cinema tropes are wearing. There is almost no dialogue and anyway it’s impossible to make sense of the few sentences. Officers go around muttering deadening phrases about tactics. They say things to one another. Things like, ‘The enemy draws closer’, ‘We need destroyers’. They mumble like history students in a trance.
But the history is interesting. The troops were pretty much left to their fate. The military and the RAF left the poor buggers stranded on boats and on the beaches. In some places, you feel like you are being forced to witness self-flagellation. The battle never begins. Instead, the men mope about contemplating their doom. There is a strange sense that the filmmaker is telling us, ‘this will happen to again, and to you.’
After 45 minutes I tired of watching, which is a shame. I normally enjoy Hans Zimmer’s atmospheric music. It always adds gravitas to a film. Not here. Here it was threatening and manipulative. The film was a study in endurance; on the part of the spectators.
Movie screening Dunkirk verdict: Boring, irritating and pretentious. Great if you’re someone who likes the tedium of war.
Worse: The gaping audience pinned to their chairs in obedience to the critics who fell on their knees in praise of this empty, sad film. However, some walked out.