Big Screen, Big Audio Dynamite: How To Watch Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’

Written by Dennis D McDonald

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is worth seeing — but only once, says reviewer Dennis D. McDonald. Here’s how to watch it that one time …

aNewDomaindennis d. mcdonald alien— Remember the stress, terror, and excitement of the docking sequence from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar?

Most of Dunkirk is like that. The major difference:  Dunkirk is based on reality.

Be prepared for constant tension. And by all means see the film on as big a screen as possible — and with a sound system to match. The music, sound effects and Hoyte Van Hoytema’s superb cinematography are also top notch.

Despite the grandeur and scale of what we see on the screen, we never lose sight of the people involved whether they are in the air, on the beach or in (or under) water. Nolan’s direction forces us to focus on the actions and emotions of the participants. This is partly because the movie ignores or avoids backstory and concentrates entirely on ‘the present’ as time is manipulated by the director.

We are provided little information about politics, about why the Allied army is stranded on the Dunkirk beach, or about the larger war. What we do understand is that, if Dunkirk falls and the Germans then invade England, the world will be forever changed.

dunkirk review how to watch dunkirkWell, we now know — or should know — how it all turned out. Those stranded on the beach did not know that. Nolan puts us there both physically and mentally. It’s quite an accomplishment.

That said, did I really enjoy Dunkirk?

Well, not really. Dunkirk is without a question a terrific film to experience — once.

What I found myself thinking afterwards was that I want to read more about the events surrounding these events. There are many questions raised. Were efforts to rescue the troops really throttled in some fashion? How many troops were actually rescued?

How successful, really, was the “citizen flotilla”? Were German air attacks as seemingly infrequent as portrayed in the film?

And, most importantly, what did anyone learn from the disaster?

These questions are never answered, sadly. (Click here to learn more about the Dunkirk disaster).

Another negative: Confusion results from the way the film intertwines three different timelines: a week, a day, and hour. Nolan jumps all over the place. If you’re not aware of the intersecting time sequences right from the start, you may be confused at times, as I was.

That said, you will certainly be impressed with how far a Spitfire can glide when it runs out of fuel. I know I was.

Here’s the trailer.

For aNewDomain, I’m Dennis D. McDonald.

An earlier version of this story ran on Dennis D. McDonald’s DDMCD site. Check it out here.