Tuesday, August 22, 2017


Image result for dunkirkThe respect director and screen writer Christopher Nolan continues to get as a film maker baffles me even more these days ,having recently sat through his most recent effort, the rudderless and pace-less historical drama 'Dunkirk". Dramatic? No, sorry. A strategic defeat but a grand moral victory for Britain in WW2, this movie ought to have some sort of David Lean-ish grandness to it, a sense that English citizens and their military were joined in common cause to thwart a massive evil on the horizon. Nolan loves under written scripts, though, and here effectively dispensed with a script entirely--or so it seems-- and instead used his storyboard for guidance, following big, fuzzy outlines of plot arcs, ideas of editing, notions of resolution.

It's a big picture Nolan is attempting to capture, bringing together five different stories happening, more or less, at the same time as the enemy lurches closer and the rescue of the trapped soldiers is threatened at each turn--the soldiers waiting for evacuation, Spitfire pilots protecting rescue ships from German aircraft, citizen boat owners en route to Dunkirk, commandeers grimacing over their collective plight,and so on. Nolan likes to inter-cut between scenes in an effort to suggest complexity and monumental effort , but there's a lack of emphasis here, a determined lack of tension. Rather than intensifying dramatic tension and expectation by having the audience anticipate what will happen next on a number of different plot lines, there's a bored randomness in the selected edits; this was nothing less than like watching cable TV with a fidgety 10 year old commanding of the remote control.

The hope was, perhaps , to allow character personality emerge and evolve out of the action and not exposition. If so, a respectable aesthetic, but a notion only worth dwelling on if it works. here, it does not. This historical moment has been interpreted as an aimless , repetitive film that no amount of hyperbole can save.Nolan routinely gets high marks from Rotten Tomatoes , as does Tarantino and a doze or so other literal critical favorites I other wise categorize as having, at the least, inflated reputations. I have enjoyed some of Nolan's work when he's focused on plot, or at least determined to have an impact--Following, Momento, Batman Begins, Insomnia--but have found his work in recent years to ambitious in intent and utterly de-fanged of excitement by his habit of trying to juggle many ideas, plot strands His movies come out as opaque in tone and message, and this is not a good thing for him. It's another way of saying that his thematic vagueness is something he hides behind. He'd like us to consider it "poetic".


 You sense it coming, the old punchline, and here it is: IF YOU CAN'T DAZZLE THEM WITH BRILLIANCE, BAFFLE THEM WITH BULLSHIT."  These seems a situation, less uncommon than you'd assume, where the audience suspends their disbelief perversely and buys into the Nolan-As-Genius razzle dazzle to avoid social embarrassment and, it seems, a certain level of sharp scorn. It happens. I told a young fan that I wasn't enamored of the Logan film, a widely praised off shot of the X-Men movie franchise. The discussion was one way, and brief, he said: "I've lost all respect for you". He meant it, it seems. Conversations about recent films came to a dead stop. The work place became a little colder. Trying to make sense of this, I went to what I knew, movies. 

Some people can't handle the truth.

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