The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

21st Century Treasure Quest #14


Normally, our contemporary film contributor Renard N. Bansale reviews recent releases and he may, in fact, critique the following motion picture at some point. Occasionally, I am able to overcome a reluctance to venture out and attend a locally screened film, especially when it's the "talk of the town" or "talk of the internet" to be more precise. I've been bombarded with so much buzz about Dunkirk, I felt like a chainsaw, and therefore it became that rare film I was compelled to see and share my thoughts on. Please feel free to leave your thoughts about the film and/or my review here in the comments section. (A.G.)

A Single Review Special Edition


The Ratings

1 chest: Definitely worth missing
2 chests: Okay to kill some time
3 chests: Not a complete success, but rewarding
4 chests: Well-crafted, creative and memorable
5 chests: A real treasure, deep, profound and original




Dunkirk (2017) is a technical marvel and in many ways, a miraculous artistic achievement. Its ferocity is relentless. Christopher Nolan, the sole writer and director, marshalling an enormous crew of superb creative support, has plunged his audience into an unequivocal horror of extreme intensity and uncertain survival against an unstoppable tidal wave of near apocalyptic proportions. His film is reminiscent of Steven Spielberg’s Normandy beach landing in Saving Private Ryan, only as if the described harrowing scene in the latter film were extended throughout its entire running time. Nolan ascends the commanding heights of Stanley Kubrick in his remarkable display of bold and proficient autonomy while seamlessly integrating Robert Bresson’s minimalistic narrative approach in the way he quietly observes his characters’ thoughts and manners as all hell breaks loose around them. It’s this sly combination of subtle details and intimate close-quarter conflicts with the sudden cataclysmic effects of unseen terror that so thoroughly engages one’s heart and mind in the events depicted; we feel as though we are trying to survive them ourselves. Moreover, that sensation of the Allied soldiers’ individual and collective anguish just to stay alive and escape a German onslaught of practically hidden origin, is so palpable… there needs to be a superlative invented to describe it.

There are, unfortunately, a few questionable decisions Nolan has made telling his story that will likely diminish its artistic vibrancy over time. First, is the lack of any singular character’s introduction or developmental follow-through, this last point being especially evident toward the end of each one’s hellish ordeal. Their dramatic arcs don’t quite curve as they should for such vividly portrayed and distinctive real-life survivors, resulting in a certain lack of emotional consummation, most noticeably with Tom Hardy’s heroic pilot. Also potentially problematic is Nolan’s decision to present Dunkirk in such a non-linear manner. This approach does not severely detract from his work’s considerable impression and may assist in maintaining some viewers’ alertness to its land, air and sea triangular juxtaposition of perspective and additional consequence. Still, the narrative device is, I believe, overly employed considering the story’s bare-bones nature, perhaps “a flair too far“ so to speak, fragmenting and occasionally detracting from the “I was there” experience the writer/director so uncommonly procures.

Eschewing CGI, Nolan enhances his story’s realism. Furthermore, by embracing cinema’s bygone days, sans gruesome violent effects, there’s no lingering, which increases momentum. This, along with a liberally applied musical underscore, manages to heighten the drama’s immediacy and impact, creating a unique and innovative fusion of traditional and modern-day historical blockbuster. Dunkirk is a stunning, urgent, overall masterfully executed cinematic war-time experience delivered with bravado and conviction.


For more contemporary film reviews please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #15.