Dunkirk 2017 UHD
Blu-ray + 4K
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Dunkirk (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray + Digital HD)
“Dunkirk” opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces. Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in.]]>
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Many people who see this film have complaints about the non-linear storytelling, in other words: the three points of view of the story are being told at different paces. In the air the story takes place over an hour, on the boats it's one day and the story on the beach takes place over the duration of a week. In the beginning this may seem a bit jarring, but in retrospect it was absolutely brilliant. In each scene we slowly see the three story lines growing closer and closer until the very end where they all converge. Almost like ticks on a watch that slowly grow faster and faster. It was mind bending trying to figure out the present vs past for the characters you were watching on the screen in the moment compared to the main story which was the men on the beach over a week. It added a special twist that only Nolan would create and allowed for the film to be different and experimental. If he hadn't used this experimental way the film wouldn't be unique and we all know Nolan lives for making unique and fresh films. For an experimental use of the sometimes confusing storytelling it was an absolutely great risk that paid off.
Hans Zimmer’s musical score in Dunkirk has given us a perfect marriage of film with musical score... or in this case synthesized clocks. This is a score that moves so well with the scenes that it becomes more than musical accompaniment, it becomes a character in the film itself. Zimmer built the entirety of the music off of a synthesized clock ticking, one of Nolan's pocket watches that they both liked. The music would start slow, then it would built itself up so far, and then it would fall again as if we were being hit by the waves on the beaches. This score along with an incredible sound design helps the film feel as immersive as it can possibly be. The sound design is top notch as well. The gunfire and explosions looked real, sounded real, and had real effects on the audience. The sound of bullets out of nowhere made us jump and the sounds of a screaming aircraft made us want to cry out in fear. Because the dialogue is so minimal it’s the score’s job to fill that dead space and be the driving force of emotions. It does that flawlessly.
Clocking it at just under two hours, the whole movie could be the opening to a three hour war extravaganza, but there’s a reason it’s not… This film will tire you out because of how intense it is. This intensity isn’t built in the traditional sense of character building. You won't get attached to these characters because we aren't given backstories, but instead you feel the emotion when certain events happen. You feel for the entirety of the men involved not just the main characters, and it feels more real because of it. The emotion is driven by the shear terror of the situation. You can feel the nervousness of the men in the boats searching a plane coming into view hoping its one from home, or the claustrophobia of being below decks as someone screams 'torpedo'. You feel very tight on the packed ships and feel genuine panic when ships or planes go down. And you find yourself rooting for every British pilot, soldier, sailor, and civilian to make it out alive. It doesn't matter that we don't know the characters on an emotional level because the events that we see are enough to feel the emotion. That emotion transcends in the moment of payoff at the end when all three story lines converge into one and we see the men on the beach cheering on the boats coming for them and the Spitfires in the air. It was a beautiful moment and really was a masterfully crafted ending.
Also worth talking about is the usage of real props and sets. Everything was shot on location whether be in air, sea, or earth. They brought in real planes and some real boats from the actual event all those years ago. I cannot praise Nolan enough for this because it just makes the film even better. The actors spoke about the sets always noting how it was their job to react rather than act because everything was real. The shots they were able to get in the air are some of the best ever captured. These details alone make this film viable for best picture nominations in my opinion.
In May of 1940, virtually the entirety of the British Army, augmented by troops from France, entered Belgium to counter the German invasion of the Netherlands. The Germans in response engaged and flanked the Allied Army, drove them back to the western coast of France, and placed themselves in a position to capture the French ports before the retreating Allied forces could escape across the Channel to Britain.
The Allied Army, including over 300,000 British soldiers, were trapped with their backs to the English Channel outside the French town of Dunkirk, faced with either capture or annihilation at the hands of the German Army. The shallow water prevented British naval vessels from entering the port to evacuate the troops. Many of the soldiers waded into the sea in an attempt to reach the warships, standing shoulder-deep in water for hours to await rescue.
At home, the British government organized an effort to secure the loan of privately-owned boats with shallow-water capability—pleasure craft, launches, sailboats, private yachts, fishing vessels, ferryboats. The plan was to launch the vessels from the British port of Ramsgate and set sail for Dunkirk to rescue the Allied troops. Some 700 such small craft were secured, and manned by either British naval personnel, experienced volunteers, or the boat owners themselves.
Newly-elected Prime Minister Churchill hoped to rescue perhaps one-tenth of the British Army, 35,000 troops, to continue to protect their homeland against German invasion. In the end, the entire army—some 338,000 Allied soldiers—was evacuated, either by the small craft entering the waters and ferrying the troops in relays to the British naval vessels waiting offshore, or by actually transporting the stranded soldiers all the way back to Ramsgate, a distance of 28 nautical miles.
The civilian rescue of the Allied troops from Dunkirk was one of the most selfless and heroic acts in military history. And the event is recreated in Christopher Nolan’s eagerly-awaited new picture, “Dunkirk,” produced by Syncopy Films and released to American theaters on July 21 by Warner Bros. Pictures.
Director and screenwriter Nolan makes the decision early on to depart from the traditional structure of big-budget Hollywood war movies, from 1960’s “The Longest Day” to 1977’s “A Bridge Too Far” to Terrence Malick’s “The Thin Red Line” in 1998—namely, the use of an all-star cast in cameo roles distracting the audience’s attention from the essence of the story, and including long, boring exposition scenes of military officers discussing the intricate details of military operations, in futile attempts to provide historical contest for the viewer.
Instead, Nolan distills the historical background into a tersely-written prologue to the picture, almost a telegram—defeated Allied soldiers are stranded on the beach, waiting for salvation, praying for a miracle. Then, without warning, Nolan throws the viewer by the seat of his pants into the meat of the story.
Epic in scope but intimate in nature, a “Dunkirk” viewing is akin to examining an intricate mosaic, tile-by-tile, and only after memorizing the details drawing back to view the impact of the artwork in its entirety. From the first scene forward, “Dunkirk” is a film filled with details, both a tapestry of humanity and a series of snapshots of life itself during wartime, with each tiny nuance contributing in the viewer’s mind to the epic scope of what is still known to historians as the Miracle of Dunkirk.
Nolan’s screenplay, reportedly decades in preparation, depicts the Dunkirk evacuation from three basic perspectives—from the land, the sea, and the sky. The narration of events on land cover one week, the events on the sea depict one day, and the events in the sky one hour. Individual scenes blend into others, and characters from various segments interact. And with his clever manipulation of time and events, Nolan not so much reinvents the genre of the war movie as redefines it, with a spectacular degree of success.
The juxtaposition of daytime scenes with nighttime scenes is disorienting and sometimes confusing, but suggests well both the suspense and anxiety of the operation and the passage of time—the evacuation of Dunkirk actually lasted about a week, from May 27 until June 04, 1940, while the German Army regrouped its forces.
In the primary storylines, a group of young British troops on the land are trying with increasing desperation to escape to safety back home in Britain, while a British naval commander tries to surmount the problems of evacuation. In the sky, three British Spitfire pilots attempt to somehow provide air cover against the German fighters and bombers attacking the defeated forces below. And on the sea, a kindly and surprisingly resourceful British fisherman sets sail for Dunkirk with his son and a teenaged boat-hand aboard, to provide as much help as he can to the Allied forces.
Among the actors appearing in “Dunkirk,” Kenneth Branagh maintains a still upper lip as the naval commander calmly organizing the evacuation of troops from the shore. Mark Rylance is the philosophical fisherman imparting wisdom and life lessons to his young charges en route to Dunkirk, while also displaying an impressive command of wartime ship-handling. Young Fionn Whitehead is the British army private from whose perspective the land sequences are viewed. And veteran actor Michael Caine is briefly heard but not seen as the RAF flight commander radioing instructions to his pilots.
Actors Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy contribute impressive turns as RAF pilots flying against discouraging odds to provide some protection for their countrymen below. A modern incarnation of the legendary silent film star Lon Chaney, Hardy in particular etches his customarily vivid characterization without revealing to the audience his actual appearance—in “Dunkirk” his face is obscured by a pilot’s oxygen mask until a brief shot at the very end. And in the grand tradition of pop stars trying their hand at war movies, Harry Styles from the boy band One Direction acquits himself with some honor, as a British private who does not.
At 106 minutes, the PG-13 rated “Dunkirk,” despite its epic scope and intimate detail, is among director Christopher Nolan’s most compact films—of his recent pictures, “The Dark Knight Rises” from 2012 ran 165 minutes and 2014’s “Interstellar” ran 169. The shorter running time might be partially attributed to the sparse dialogue written by Nolan to be spoken by the actors—“Dunkirk” is a film of images and actions rather than explanations or conversations.
At the end of the picture, a brief statement is projected onscreen dedicating the film to all those whose lives were affected by the events at Dunkirk. The poignant reality is that—in one way or another, and whether or not we realize the fact—we all were affected by the heroic events which occurred during that historic week. We continue to this day to be affected by those events, in ways we barely realize.
Possibly only the historians and survivors are most aware of why that is. The vastly impressive “Dunkirk” now shows us how it occurred.