DUNKIRK (film) is a missed opportunity

DUNKIRK - 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Mark Rylance / Kenneth Branagh / Fionn Whitehead / Tom Hardy / Jack Lowden
Score: Hans Zimmer
Cinematographer: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Content Advisory: PG 13 for intense war experiences and some language.
Source: Rented.

Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German Army, and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

I've heard nothing but praise and Oscar buzz for this film. Because of that, and despite never watching a war movie before now, I decided to give this one a try.

The scenes take your breath away. Literally. The bleak colour palette of blues, greys, and occasionally browns, somehow manages to come across radiant, and the use of colour is stunning. The sets are beautiful, the scenography spectacular, and overall it's an atmospheric, darkly mesmerising sight to behold. One that seems to immerse you in the action taking place, as well. And that's also thanks to brilliant direction from Nolan.
The cinematography is naturally flawless. Every shot is incredible. You're swept away whether it's into the fire-lit waters or the damp sand of the beach under the overcast sky. It's haunting and it's almost tangible.
The score is excellent. The amazing Hans Zimmer presents another breathtaking range of musical numbers, and they're the perfect, poignant touch to every scene. The music truly is soul-stirring. Not to mention the sound editing is impeccable - it's crisp and keenly aware of every movement on screen.

The story is gripping and it's never boring. But all the same, I have big issues with the plot.
Firstly, it's extremely loose. There are little pockets of things happening all over the place with certain subplots and characters, but that's the thing: they're all over the place. The way the writers have written the script - some characters under the water one moment, some waiting on the beach, others crashing planes - you can't place any of the incidents on a timeline. Everything mixes and overlaps. The days and nights blend together into a bleak blur of general catastrophe. Nothing holds together. And the pacing is muddy. The writers have obviously tried to zoom in on a particular number of characters for a personal touch, but with everything pooling together you can't even appreciate or connect to the subplots (weak as they are) or the characters' individual experiences. Everything's thrown together - nothing is in a cohesive, logical order.

I also feel like the movie presents a rather limited view of the whole historic event. The whole Dunkirk rescue in this film is very much minimilised, and that scene when the boats arrive from England is a bit of a, well, disappointment. There's only a scattering of boats shown in this film, while in real life there were so many more. It's not historically accurate, we're only getting a cramped glimpse of the magnificent rescue mission, and frankly I just feel like the story falls apart under such restrictions.

The cast is very good. Kenneth Brannagh has perhaps one too many melodramatic stares into the distance, but otherwise he's inevitably solid. Harry Styles gets his few moments, and he's not actually terrible. The rest of the cast holds up well too.
But the characters are weak. There's a clear-cut little cast the story follows, but we never get to hear of their back stories or see anything of their personalities. They're flat. You can't connect to anyone.

I'm only rating this movie 4 instead of 3.5 because of the stunning production design. 
Dunkirk is an atmospheric, riveting, gorgeously visual film with a haunting score, strong cast, and excellent cinematography. But the writers skimp drastically on plot and character. 

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