Dunkirk (2017)


  • Directed by Christopher Nolan
  • Starring Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy
  • Written by Christopher Nolan
  • Action, War
  • Rated PG-13
  • 106 mins
  • 21 July 2017


Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of British soldiers from the beach at Dunkirk during World War 2.

How’s the Story?

The story of Dunkirk is a really interesting, very emotional story that I had never actually heard of before. I’m sure it’s a matter of nationality, but Dunkirk isn’t the story that I think of when I think of beaches and World War 2. I had never heard this happened and upon seeing the trailer for the movie, I was really excited about getting a new take on World War 2 history in film. I love war movies and I love World War 2 history, so this movie was right in my wheelhouse.

The result is good story but there’s a lot of the plot that makes no sense. I’ll expand on this in the writing/directing section because there is a difference in story and plot as any writer/film lover can tell you.

How’s the Acting?

The acting is really good in this film. There’s less of it than I expected, which I’ll get into in the next section (as well as clarifying the part in the story section), but what of it there is is really good.

The biggest shocker to me is that Harry freaking Styles was probably my favorite part of this movie. I never in my life thought Harry Styles would be the standout performance of this film, and yet he was a scene-stealer for sure. Probably the best performance was Kenneth Branagh, but well, he’s Kenneth Branagh so that was only to be expected.

That said, I will give one acting gripe, and that is that James D’Arcy was wasted in this. So disappointed.

How’s the Writing/Directing?

Here’s where the negatives come in: This movie is just poorly written. It is. I know everybody is going to have my guts on Twitter, but it’s just so badly written it’s amazing.

What exactly is the time continuum in this film? Cillian Murphy saved the beach boys (I’m giving everybody group names because you never learn any of their names besides George and Mr. Dawson that I caught) from what was supposedly the LAST ship at night, which then raises the question how the hell did he sail out into the channel on another ship if that was the last ship that he saved those boys from? WHERE DID YOU COME FROM, CILLIAN MURPHY? ARE THERE TWO OF HIM?! WERE THEY MEANT TO BE TWINS?

It just annoyed me and took me out of the story because I was trying to figure out what the hell the sequence of events actually was.

There are so many other small things I could touch on, but I won’t exhaust you all with my negatives. Just suffice it to say this movie was poorly written, above all else, because it failed to make me care on a personal level about any of these characters. There were moments where it seemed to try to make me care on a personal level, but the only reason I cared about anybody was because they’re human beings and I didn’t want them to die. I didn’t give a shit about any of the soldiers on any other level. I didn’t now them, I didn’t feel like there was any connection to them as characters, I didn’t care about the pilots or even Mr. Dawson and the boys. George is the only one that has any sort of character development and that was so sloppily done it felt kind of like how Arrival wedged in Jeremy Renner suddenly having romantic feelings for this woman he had shown zero interest in romantically (that was my sole gripe with that movie, unlike George in this one).

This movie is a good plot with a good story, but there are no real characters, which makes me so frustrated, because that ruins what otherwise is a phenomenal piece of film-making, which takes us to the positive section!

How’s the Cinematography?

This movie is beautiful. There is nothing about the visual elements of this film that aren’t absolutely magnificent. I envy everyone who saw this in 70mm, because I bet it was mind-blowing. The dogfight sequences were the best I’ve seen possibly ever, the scenes on the beach were just so blindingly well shot, the lighting was spectacular in every single scene, the scenes in the water were beautiful, and the coloration alone made me want to weep tears of film nerd joy.

This movie was like taking Star Wars: The Force Awakens ‘s perfect use of color, and Arrival ‘s landscape shots, and Pride and Prejudice‘s light work and put it all together to make something so perfectly shot that it will be a movie I remember the visuals from for probably the rest of my life.

Is It Worth Watching?

I’m gonna be selective about this and say that I would recommend this to film nerds, but the average moviegoer will probably be kinda bored. This movie is just going to either be hit or miss for the viewer. Even though I am a film nerd and I am glad I saw it, I probably won’t ever see it again because I just wasn’t engaged on a personal level.

Technically, it was a damn near perfect film visually. The sound wasn’t so great, though, to be honest. I don’t have an audio section with my format, but this movie had shit sound mixing. Now that someone taught me the difference in sound design and sound mixing, I can say this movie has excellent sound design and totally horrible sound mixing. Nothing is more frustrating than being so deafened by almost real-life levels of loud gunshots and then having no idea what anybody says because it’s quiet and mumbled after your hearing has adjusted to explosions and gunshots that could easily be in the theatre with you.

Most importantly and where this film fails the most, I want to care about characters for more than just being humans I want to live, and that shouldn’t be a big ask. I cared no more about the beach boys or the civilians or Cillian Murphy or the pilots than I did every man on that beach, you know? They gave me zero reason to care for them as individuals rather than ‘people’. And that’s just a failure at storytelling in my opinion. You cannot have any work of fiction that fails to give you an emotional connection to your characters beyond ‘I don’t want people to die’ to make you root for them. It just doesn’t work.

So basically great movie if you ignore the writing, shit movie if you ignore the film-making.

It’s kind of like porn for film-makers: There’s LOTS to look at and almost too much to listen to, and there is a story unfolding, but you don’t really give a care in the world about the people in it.

I wanted so badly to score this film 7/10, but the more I think about it, I just can’t. I can’t do it. I’m sorry guys, but I can’t.

My Rating: 6/10



About J. Chelsea Williford

Movie addict, reader, writer, pop culture lover.
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2 Responses to Dunkirk (2017)

  1. Nicky Davis says:

    Hi Chelsea. Christopher Nolan likes to use our sense of time in interesting ways. He means for us to be disoriented in the same way soldiers at Dunkirk would have been and has different characters on different timelines on purpose to help achieve this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Nicky!

      I get that, but I don’t think it’s done well enough. There is ‘disoriented’ and then there is ‘wait, how the fuck- WHAT?!’ because in doing that, it distracts from the movie. I think the attempt was made and it just wasn’t done well. If it had translated to ‘oh, I’m supposed to feel this way’ it would work better. I know at the beginning they tried to dictate that with the time frames flashed on the screen, but it still just didn’t carry throughout the film. If there were indicators beyond those title cards, it might’ve worked better.

      But it doesn’t for me. I just found it distracting and it just didn’t work.


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