Dunkirk ★★★½

Repetition and futility: Inception was a film more about editing than it as about dreams, this is more about time than it is about war. Though - as already obvious to most - this is a considerably more sophisticated film than the earlier one. Even with the films flaws - most dialogue sequences are majestically meaningless - the structural gambits here make it one of the most remarkable films of the year for me. A week condensed into a day condensed into an hour: the hour (the aerial sequences) are the film in the most abstract - speed/action to contextualize durationally the span of other sequences. Was it necessary to make a film about a specific historical event in order to merely put into practice a set of theories about time? Probably not (this is probably where the film suffers) but at least Nolan has learnt to put this into action rather than lodge the theoretical into exposition, which finally proves that his ideas have value. The film has zero to say about war, absolutely nothing at the very least new, yet I can't help but find this remarkable as a test of sets on the expansion and contraction of duration: bodies sit at shoreline waiting for inevitable doom over a week, pilots in air live only in the moment over a single hour. It does get a bit hamfisted: Styles wanting the Frenchman to get off the boat, much of the 'Sea' section seems dramatically silly to me - but never offensively so.

This last viewing (though, frankly, I was popping the fuck off on T3's) it struck me that Nolan has always been an unambiguously right-wing filmmaker, but here he's managed (for the most part) to pull back the subconscious ideological drives so he can land at core ideas, like many of the classicalists. Where this doesn't work - the 'noble lie' section, the ending - I still found even more affecting on my now fourth (can you believe it?!) viewing - yet maybe that's a problem; it's a little fascist! Rylance likely would have saved Barry Keoghan's life had he turned the boat around - but more important than the single life saved is the job - I'm not sure if it matters whether Rylance knows he will die or not, because the point stemming from the film is that in the face of this "repetition & futility" Keoghan's death is a martyrdom: he gives meaning to meaninglessness. Obviously this is another problem, that because we only see one side of war we only see existential crisis instead of the grander drives which determine war, but I admire that Nolan is at least standing his ground on his ideas - it's more I can say here than most films. The ending did stand out differently this time - I had failed to notice that over Churchills' speech we see bodies floating in water, empty helmets in sand, the burning plane of Tom Hardy. Again it's war's futility, but the last image we see is Fionn Whitehead. When Nolan gets to actually trying to make a statement about war, his reductive tendencies manifest - the futility of war is for the future generations. It's a remarkably 1940's position to take. But was I moved this time by it? Yes. Do I wholeheartedly disagree with it? Also yes.

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