Thursday, August 3, 2017

Not Your Father's WWII Movie

Regular readers here will know that my father used motion pictures when I was a kid to teach me all about World War II.   He sat me down for all the classics.  "Bridge on the River Kwai."  "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo."   "The Longest Day."  "The Guns of Navarone."

Years later, I would seek out later films on my own.  "Patton."  "Tora Tora Tora."  "Saving Private Ryan."

Okay, admittedly, some glorified the battles and might have stretched real events a bit.  But that was some education about this truly horrific period in world history.

So, I awaited the arrival of "Dunkirk" with a bit of caution.  Yes, the subject matter was cat nip for this kitty, but I feared the work of director/screenwriter Christopher Nolan, adored by Hollywood and considered grossly overrated by yours truly.

Well, my fears were realized.  But, in a twist, I didn't realize it until after I had thought about the film.   Somebody asked me on the way out whether I liked it.  I said "yes" at the time.  But, my enthusiasm has faded ever since.

For those under a rock or not educated by a current school system teaching American History, "Dunkirk" tells the tale of...natch...Dunkirk, the last stronghold against the sea as the Germans have beaten back British and French forces to the last bit of land and are desperately waiting for any kind of reinforcements.  This occurs around 1940 and America has yet to enter the conflict.

You would think this would make for quite a story and Nolan chooses to tell three aspects of the Dunkirk experience...the land, the sea, and the air.  But, in a device that I discovered after the fact had thoroughly confused me, the lazy filmmaker told the three tales in non-linear fashion.   Some of it was happening simultaneously.   Some of it was happening at different times.   Sometimes it was night.  Then day.  Then night.   I thought I had followed it all until a screenwriting friend pointed out to me what a cheap and clumsy script this was.

He was right.

Couple this with the fact that all the young actors in peril on the land, the sea, and the air looked alike.   Wait, he's still alive?   I thought he drowned.  Wait, he's drowning now.   No, that's the other guy.   Does this movie come with a "Dunkirk for Dummies" book?

Overall, there were only two actors I recognized...Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance, who is the real attraction here as a civilian yacht owner pressed into action on the high seas.  Other than that, no one really had a chance to stand out as they all meandered to their inevitable demise being blown up or turned into fish food.

There is a minimum of dialogue in "Dunkirk" which gives you a lot of artwork to look at but no characters (other than Rylance) to get invested in.  The soundtrack is 99% noise with a little bit of Hans Zimmer music swells thrown in for good measure.  Technically, this is an amazing movie.   But, as a film designed to indoctrinate people into what happened at Dunkirk, it is sorely lacking.

I firmly think that my dad would have hated this movie.   As for me...

LEN'S RATING:  Two-and-a-half stars...and sinking.

Dinner last night:  Leftover sausage and peppers.

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