Sunday, July 30, 2017

And now for a minority opinion

Normally, I don't like to post much negative stuff.  I only do it when I feel very strongly about something.  But as I've just had one of the most unpleasant movie-going experiences of my life, I figure I'll blather on a bit about it.

That would be my viewing of Dunkirk.  My brother-in-law and I went to catch this on the IMAX this morning and we nearly walked out mid-movie.  I'm not sure if unpleasant is strong enough to describe what sitting through this movie was like.  I suppose, given my intense dislike of Interstellar, this should not really be a surprise.  Interstellar had the award for my least favorite movie until today.  Now it's a toss up between the two.  I guess it's fair to say that even though I loved Memento, I'm officially not a Christopher Nolan fan.  At all.

The good stuff:
  • Tom Hardy, Spitfires, unlimited ammo, and aerial dogfights on an IMAX screen.  Best part of the movie by leaps and bounds.
  • Mark Rylance.
That's it.

Not even Ken Branagh, who I adore, gets any marks here.  But he's given nothing to do other than be Exposition Man.  I suppose if someone has to tell us what's going on, it might as well be him.

I hated, loathed, and despised Hans Zimmer's score for Interstellar.  His score in Dunkirk (if one can even call the incredibly loud, monotonous, droning wall of noise in Dunkirk a score) made me nostalgic for the incredibly loud wall of monotonous organ noise from Interstellar.  Okay, not really.  All it did was upset my stomach, give me a migraine, make me want to take a shower to wash the awfulness away (no, I'm not joking), and confirmed my long-held need to run the other way screaming when I see Zimmer's name on a movie poster.  (If you think my reaction is strong, my brother-in-law's is even stronger.)

We assumed this incessant wall of oppressive noise that never ever lets up is supposed to increase the tension for movie viewers?  (Never mind that if your movie can't be tense without music something's wrong somewhere.)  All it did for us is irritate us.  It overrides everything.  Couldn't hear the dialogue, couldn't even hear the fricking gunfire.  It didn't help that our theater was so loud my normal earplugs were ineffective, and earplugs don't help anyway with the overwhelming bass and constant physical vibration from the sound.  But even if the volume had been turned down, it wouldn't have made the movie experience any better.  I respect the right for the director to make whatever stylistic choices he sees fit to help his vision come true, but these choices flat-out fail for me.  We were never tense, never worried for characters, never on the edge of our seat.  We were annoyed and looking for the exit. 

SPOILERS!!!

As to the story... there wasn't much of one.  It felt more like a slice-of-life look at Dunkirk rather than a story.  That will work really well for some viewers.  My brother-in-law is a history teacher, and he was not at all happy with the historical side of it.  I'm not a historian, nor am I that familiar with Dunkirk, other than basic WWII knowledge -- big military disaster/trouble getting everyone home -- so those aspects didn't bother me the way they did him.  Neither of us liked the script's choice of following those opportunist little twerps as they deceived and lied to get off the beach ahead of the other soldiers.  We both were hoping, quite uncharitably I do admit, that they'd get blown up before the movie ended.  Every time the movie cut back to them, I groaned, because not only did I not care what happened to them, I actively disliked them.  This isn't to say there weren't plenty of men willing to do anything to escape that beach, self-preservation is a strong motivation, and it's not that their story might not be worthy of telling, but this movie made no effort to make me like or care for them or their story.  Maybe I'm not supposed to care for them?  Maybe their self-serving attitudes are supposed to balance the heroism of the pilots?  I really don't have any idea what my take-away from this movie is supposed to be.  That might be part of my problem.  I came away with nothing but a profound feeling of annoyance.

If I wore a watch, I would have checked it multiple times to see how much more of the movie I had to endure. I know it's running time is supposedly short, but man, it felt endless.  Interminable.  Painful.  This is what happens when there's no emotional investment in the characters... it's boring.  And dude, what happened at Dunkirk should not be boring.  I didn't get any sense of amazingness or happiness when the few ships showed up at the end.  Maybe because there appeared to be only a handful of boats come to help? 

I did at least like the two pilots.  And Mark Rylance.  But I didn't care about them.  We aren't given enough to care about them. 

So, yeah.  This one's a huge ugly fail for me.  However, I recognize that the very things that don't work for me personally in this movie seem to work very well for the majority of other people out there, so I would probably still recommend this movie.  The subject is worthy, regardless, and people should decide for themselves if they like it, not listen to reviews, positive or negative.

8 comments:

  1. Wow. Your review is, like, the first bad review I've read of Dunkirk so far. :) I haven't seen it yet myself, but it's pretty much my top "I NEED TO SEE THIS RIGHT NOW" film. I won't be seeing it in IMAX, though, so the loudness probably won't bother me as much.

    ~Eva

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    1. Yep, I know I'm in a very small minority. This was not at all the reaction I expected to have. I'd been very excited to see it, as the trailer looked great and I love WWII stuff.

      This movie seems made to attract a much younger audience, so if non-stop droning noise doesn't bother you, and/or you react they way the filmmakers seem to want people to react to the sound, by feeling tense, then this movie will probably work just fine for you.

      Non-stop noise does not make me tense or make me feel more like the soldiers in the movie, it merely aggravates and bores me and destroys any chance there might have been of me liking the movie.

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    2. Once I watch it, I'll come back to this post and let you know what I thought. :)

      ~Eva

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    3. Cool! Hope you really do enjoy it, Eva!

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  2. Based on your discussion of the characters, I'm suspecting I'm not going to like this as much as I'd hoped either. Well, probably won't get a chance to see it until um... never. Maybe the 12th. We shall see!

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    1. We'll you'll definitely like Mark Rylance's character and the stuff on his boat, and the pilots. And Ken, even if he has nothing to do. It's just the other young guys... and you may not have an issue with them in context. I was really hoping you'd have a chance to see it on the IMAX, but yeah, no time!

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    2. Remember our IMAX screen here is no great shakes. It won't be a whole lot better than on a regular screen, and more expensive.

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  3. Very interesting. I must say, I'm not much of a Nolan fan, really. I just saw Interstellar last month, and though it was just Okay. I haven't seen Dunkirk yet, and am not too excited about seeing it in a theater since I feel like the trailers showed the best footage. Also, I have trouble understanding the dialogue in many British films due to the heavy accents, so I usually wait until I can play the film at home with subtitles. The film was brought up today in a segment on NPR today; I was listening in the car on the way home from work. The segment was about the Royal Indian Army that fought in Dunkirk that wasn't mentioned in the film; one historian said that he'd like to see a film that would focus on this experience. A link to the segment is here, if interested: http://bit.ly/2u5B2Ho

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