Just a few thoughts after seeing the movie (spoiler free):
This movie is an important one. It achieves something that not a lot of war movies can.
Which is staying objective and not using (or exploiting) the perils and real suffering of men fighting in war for the mere sake of dramatization.
Dunkirk is based on historical events. It should not be expected to please or entertain. Think about it: Why would you look at something like war and use it for entertainment? That is just wrong.
I read a lot of reviews by people who criticized the film due to its lack of 'characters'. Well, this movie has actual humans. Are they telling me they can only feel something when they can identify with a character? If they know their backstory and if they are portrayed in a sympathetic way? “There was no emotion in the film?” “It wasn't romanticised?” Well, then maybe that is a problem with the viewer and not the film (there is always Pearl Harbor.. :v). And for the record, my initial reaction was also one of being a bit underwhelmed, maybe mostly because I expected something different, a narrative type of movie. I was waiting for some gripping storyline, action sequences and fleshed out characters etc, too. (And I will always love Saving Private Ryan) After the film ended my wife quickly said that it is her favourite Nolan film which then made me think twice about it.
This film requires the viewer to have true empathy. To feel for another human being that you don't know and might not have anything in common with. It teaches us what actual unbiased empathy is.
If you tell a war movie in a subjective way and create favorable and unfavorable characters you're mostly creating division. Why is one soldier’s death more tragic than another?
I appreciated that the Germans were 'faceless'. They were the enemy in this case, yes. But they weren't painted in an exaggerated, Hollywood-style demeaning way so as to create animosity towards them. The viewer isn’t made to feel hatred. The Germans were simply the historical opposing faction.
This objectivity is nicely reflected in the outstanding cinematography which used many wide shots and aerial establishing shots to show the global action. It focused more on the group, and not so much the individual. It also beautifully showed their movement in a given space. This objectivity demonstrates why Dunkirk wasn't really about individual people or characters, but the bigger group, the bigger picture, as seen in a historical context. (Oh, and dat 70mm film, mmmhh)
If you look at the events of Dunkirk and what meaning they had for the outcome of WWII and maybe even history, it becomes more clear to choose an objective lens to portray these events in an unbiased way and from an elevated viewpoint. You are literally seeing history unfold from afar.
I had one gripe with the film, which was the constant soundtrack playing. There were no moments of silence but that's just a personal nitpick.
This is the type of movie they will probably show in history class and should. -Some real cinematic piece of art.
Let me know if you agree/disagree with me, any other thoughts!