Anyone who has seen any of Christopher Nolan’s previous works knows what he brings to the table. Contrary to popular notion that his films work because of a nonlinear storyline or fast and intense sequences, I think it’s more about being convinced of the world he puts us in. Nolan has time and again put us not in the viewer’s seat but rather in the participant’s seat for us to actually navigate our way out of the system. Be it Fischer’s mind in Inception, Gotham City in The Dark Knight Trilogy or the infinite boundaries of space and dimensions in Interstellar, we arrive with the protagonist and leave as we work through it.
After his small time hits and creative masterpieces in the form of Memento, Following and Insomnia, Nolan was finally handed with a big budget and a supportive production house for Batman Begins. He has hardly looked back since. His prowess to create big budget works of art at the same time trusting the movie going audience to get inside the world he has created, hasn’t gone unnoticed. That’s pretty much obvious from the fact that all of his last five movies have earned more than 600 million dollars at the box office despite being mind bending to say the very least.
Ever since his last release (Interstellar) in 2014 which reaffirmed his status the most exciting director around, news of Dunkirk started to afloat. Personally, I have a soft corner for war movies/ TV series/ Documentaries. I feel that in a certain pertaining natural way, the actors reflect the horrors of the war well and the writers too don’t take the liberty to extents that the fantasise it more than deemed. Soon the cast began to finalize and Hans Zimmer started working on the score by January 2016.
As I write this at which is almost the end of a tiring day, I feel I have the liberty to say that 21st July 2017 was just like I had been imagining it to be since over an year. Dunkirk follows the real life miracle of Dunkirk back in the second world war. Over 400,000 Allied soldiers (French and British) were stuck and were surrounded by German soldiers from all sides and dimensions imaginable.
Just when you think moving out of a sci-fi-esque genre and taking on the war one which has seen greats such as Apocalypse Now and Saving Private Ryan in the past, how will Nolan ever play with our heads so we smile in amazement at the end? Well, guess what. It happens again. You just can’t out-think him.
The movie is told from three different perspectives – the land (one week), the sea (one day) and the air (one hour). As some genius editing makes sure, we cut into tense scenes on all three continuously, we are never let off the hook to actually take our eyes off the magnum-opus. Some primary characters portrayed by Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy actually are the last fit in the masterpiece. They tell us different stories, different situations and different aims but a common thought – survival.
After having seen a lot of war movies, I will tell you this. Just cold blood action and fighter planes don’t make you feel the condition of the soldiers. Their eyes do. You can never imagine what it is like being there without actually being there. But you can’t go there alone. You need characterizations, small time stories and sparks of a miracle to get there. Does it happen in Dunkirk? It is all that happens.
What seems like multiple points of view through out the movie merge into one grand finale at the end. And just as the last half an hour unfolds, it tells you what really matters. It matters to survive. It matters to make a difference. It matters to just look people in the eyes as they thank you for saving your life. Every breath you take which reflects its contribution to the institution that is our society – matters.
As I think about it ten hours since the movie ended and as I think what Nolan said about it being the story he grew up since his childhood, I realise just how important this movie is at this time of our civilisation – when we are more divided than ever. Dunkirk was a miracle as home came for them. The ultimate effort by the society to give something back. Maybe people get this all important aspect. I hope they do. Just a tad bit here and there. Just maybe.
The movie which made me wait two years, gave it all back in two hours. It also taught me. It taught me to stop expecting. That miracles are not magic. We have earned them, we are just too underconfident to know and accept it yet. It taught me that sometimes, just sometimes, that hope is a weapon.
And survival is victory.
- Mayank Malik