katribou’s review published on Letterboxd:
this is probably the most serious entry i’ll ever make, but i felt i needed to give this film a proper one because i never really did and it means a lot to me personally. im writing this post 2018 awards season probably out of wanting to give myself some seed of closure, but am tagging it the first day i saw it.
i don’t think i’m a sophisticated moviegoer, i think i pretend to be sometimes because it’s what i study, but i still feel dumb as rocks most the time. pfft.
dunkirk hit me hard the first time i saw it in theaters. i didn’t really have much knowledge of the movie walking in because, for one i do not particularly gravitate towards war stories, and secondly, of course it’s wonderful to be able to go into a movie blind. also as a big longtime fan of christopher nolan’s work i figured i would not come out disappointed. (additionally, sorry mom, we first saw it on your birthday so now you’re going to have to share your day with that...!)
what i did not expect for the film to do to me was for it to make me completely fall back in love with cinema. the experiential nature of it all-- how it’s completely immersive in both sight and sound-- it certainly took full advantage of its medium in the theater.
this happened once before, curiously with one of nolan’s older films, which, if you know me, you probably already know, is inception. i saw inception 7 years ago in the 9th grade and it enchanted me completely. i may not have known it right away, but it was very responsible for why i would later go out and major in film and television years later in college.
dunkirk on the other hand: i recall when it was announced that nolan was working on a wwii movie, and i was partly confused but curious. he’s done so much sci-fi-y stuff... but a historical flick?? there’s got to be some sort of gimmick he’s going to do there then....
and he did! he found a way to grapple with even a historical tale creatively-- with the nonlinear three timelines. in my opinion, it works so wonderfully... it makes you think, but also gives you a bit of perspective and insight to more deeply consider what kinds of ordeals people from all sides of this evacuation were going through. not to mention, when you begin to piece together what he’s doing, when you start to realize what is happening with the timelines and how they are being set up-- seeing, for example, the three spitfires fly over a boat, then to much later take up the boat’s perspective and see the same three planes fly overhead-- it gives you a sort of aha...! moment... like i dont know... maybe it was just me, but that moment was very satisfying while also making me curious to how these would intertwine. and boy does it go on to orchestrate quite a climax.
the experiential nature of the film is just so powerful. it really shows through how easy it is to care so deeply about the characters in the movie-- which arguably are barely characters, as we are just given shades of who they are, we don’t know about their lives and histories specifically, though we know just enough. the way the film is framed, it’s just so easy to feel what they’re feeling, to think what they’re thinking, and to sympathize.
it goes without saying that the experiential nature is just so immersive and is what is so stressful and suspenseful about the movie on a first watch; the sound and music are almost a complete animal on their own, authentic and true. it really makes you live in the moment of the movie, and as someone who likes to go to the movies to escape, it's great to be that immersed and to be thinking of so little else. it's just the sound is so larger than life... and maybe even too much, as just word on the street of how loud this movie was scared off a friend or two from seeing it...! (their loss though)
yet hand in hand with that, the score just establishes such a perfect atmosphere whenever it is in play... those fluttering strings in the aerial shots... the eerie brass in the middle of the ocean. the music of the most climactic moments... like supermarine, or the first half of home... still stresses me out, but even the closing music, variation 15, still really really really tugs at my heartstrings even months after having seen this film for the first time. it just affects me so much emotionally, thinking about how the story draws to a close, how much everyone weathers throughout the movie.
and just all of that all together? it was just a perfect combination. there was not one piece or aspect of the film that did not work in my eyes, or that i did not love... and i practically cried at the credits on my first watch not only because of the events of the film, but also just how well the whole thing came together. just everything for what it was.
of course, in all my years at college i haven’t regretted what i study, and still do not think i should or would have chosen anything else. it has been tough though, film is very demanding and hardly an easy major, and i’ve come close to giving up in more ways than one. it’s extremely easy to lose sight of your creative goals when there is so much ugliness in the industry both in what is made and how it has been made...
but that’s what i mean when i say dunkirk made me fall back in love with the medium... it just showed to me again what film could be. what it is. and why i love it. i dont mean for this to sound as corny as it does, but i really mean it all from my heart. maybe i’m biased because i am a nolan fan. but though inception had a similar effect on me, his films since (though i still love them) haven’t come up to the mark that dunkirk has made me feel again. hell, it’s what made me blow the dust off of this letterboxd account!! which is why i haven’t written a proper review till now i suppose.
i only wish that perhaps this movie did not come out in my senior year of college and that it may have inspired me to be more ambitious so that i might have maybe gotten more out of my time and work here at school. (and wow... i didnt even plan this but variation 15 is playing as i conclude this writing and making me want to cry...)
of course i wish the film had gotten more recognition for what it did in the realm of awards, though maybe i’m speaking too close to my heart there. i think nolan does try to keep true to his art and it shows in his work. i greatly admire him for that, and hope one day he’ll be properly recognized for it. maybe there’ll never be another movie like dunkirk, or at least another one like it that is what dunkirk is to me, but awards or not, i know that even in time, it is a film that will hardly be forgotten.