Film is an art form. Sometimes we forget that because our lives are saturated by movies that have forgotten that film should enrich us and evoke wonder in order to transform. That doesn't mean they have to be boring. It just means they have to be thoughtful and aspiring for something more than just to entertain you for two hours. We would like to spend this section spotlighting films that we think make us think, reflect and see things all the better.
'WE SHALL NEVER SURRENDER'
A Review of Dunkirk
If you experienced the film Dunkirk but was left unsatisfied, perhaps it is because you did not pay close enough attention. Dunkirk is not only Christopher Nolan's best film but may be remembered as one of the greatest war films ever crafted. Every shot in the film has purpose. Every musical note meant to evoke a certain emotion. Every word not said, meant to be filled in by the mind of the audience.
Dunkirk accomplishes a difficult task, one modern cinema fails to achieve, a story told in simplicity. Say less in order to say more. Nolan doesn't need gruesome images, constant profanity, a reliance on CGI or incessant explosions in order to keep the audience's attention. Instead, he tells a story of the tragedies and beauties of war, through the lens of unknown individuals. This is enough to take hold of the audience, as they no longer feel they are watching the film, but a part of it.
Using unknown individuals to tell a story of war is uncharacteristic of today's Hollywood films, as there always seems to be one obvious hero, someone who is both important and the focal point of the film, who carries out the daunting task. However, Nolan goes against the grain by using “nobodys” to tell a story of Dunkirk.
Think about it, do you remember the name of any character seen in the film? In fact, Nolan refers to many characters not by their names, but by their actions. For instance, in the cast notes, Nolan refers to Cilian Murphy's character as “the shivering soldier." He does this in order to better relate with the audience, an audience used to seeing the excellent strategists, courageous commanders, and the stereotypical heroes in movies. Nolan shows us the average soldier. The soldier we never knew existed. The soldier whose bravery is overlooked by those whose actions were seen, heard about, and forever remembered.
So, what can we take away from the film Dunkirk?
The film itself leaves us with many thoughts, but perhaps there is an underlying and subtle message brought out in an untraditional manner.
The British are trapped on the beach, but never once do we see the face of an enemy soldier. Even in the end, at the capture of the pilot, the Germans are given blurred faces.
History tells us who the enemy is, but Nolan hides them from us because they aren’t the enemy of the film. The antagonist is time. Time is powerful and cannot be swayed, slowed, sped up, or bought. Time moves and takes. Time cannot be defeated, only taken advantage of by any person who chooses to act.
The film shows us that victory is not measured by what we accomplish, but what we achieve. And heroism can be achieved by every man, even those who are met by failure, time and time again.
Dunkirk was certainly no victory in a strict sense, in fact in its essence, it was a failure, but the impact of even a failure is able to have an immeasurable influence. Victory was achieved and demonstrated in the film through heroic action made by men like you and I. Men, who are “nobody's." Men who “rest in unvisited tombs." Selfless men.
In our own lives, time is the antagonist. Yes, of course there is an unseen enemy at hand, but our time on this earth is limited, and we must decide what we will do in the moment. We are but simple soldiers, unknown to the world, but that does not mean we cannot be heroic; and in our willingness to fight, suffer, and die, we may not only achieve victory but perhaps have an immeasurable influence.
“We shall go on to the end…whatever the cost may be…we shall never surrender.”