Visual Storytelling in Dunkirk




Christopher Nolan has made quite the impression among fans by making great films over the years. From “Memento” to “Inception” and “Interstellar”, he always explore his films with interesting premise and complicated storyline. Last year, he released a film called Dunkirk which focused on the evacuation plan of British army from Dunkirk. This film is different from his typical style and it’s more straight forward in his standart.

Dunkirk is divided in three plots interconnecting with one another with “The Mole”, “The Sea”, and “The Air” storyline.  The story is the least interesting part of the movie because if you think about it the story was pretty simple. All of these three parts tells a story about these soldier who wanted to escape and fight in Dunkirk. And that’s about it really. The story is so simple you can literally sum it all up in just a few sentence.

The story is not very Nolan’esque, but he still make the plot complicated by editing the movie plot backwards and forwards depending on the timeframes of each storyline. It’s turn off for some people but it’s fine for me. And what makes me amaze by this movie is the way Nolan framed his story. I mean, sure the plot is simple enough, but Nolan really did a great job here. The dialog is almost absent in this movie. There are literally very few dialogues here.

Even if the characters speaking, it’s far from the long narration or explanation monologues like his other movies. That makes surprised when I first watch it. I know Nolan, and I know what to expect in all of his movies, but watching him do this is pretty interesting. He really did a great job especially the cinematography. One thing I like about him is his style because he can make anything looks very cinematic and huge. Dunkirk is no different!

I mean, a world war II epic really feels that huge. I genuinely love the cinematography. It’s not only gorgeous, but also making you feel like you’re one of the privates on the beach. The scoring is a masterpiece as well. Nolan has worked with  Hans Zimmer a lot, and in this particular movie I think it really makes me itchy and worried. The ticking clock never feels so intense, and the score keeps going throughout the movie making you anxious each time you listen to it.

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The scoring elevates the movie and the story in general. It gives you the sense of fear and making you present in that beach with the characters. Speaking of the characters, I have to say this one doesn’t really make me remember them too much. As an audience, we ride the journey of the movies with them but I think it lacks the uniqueness and the distinctiveness, specially in the mole storyline.

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In the mole storyline, there are a lot of privates and sometimes I even forgotten our main characters because they almost look the same. I mean the uniform, the hair and everything. The only people I knew from the mole storyline is Harry Styles, and he’s done his best in his acting debut. Instead of using well established actors, Nolan use a newcomer “Fionn Whitehead” as his lead that’s why I didn’t really notice him that much. But I do think that it’s a deliberate choice because he doesn’t want us the audience to feel different from the characters. Nolan wanted us to relate and to be as confused and as desperate like the characters.

By chosing an unknown lead, we feel that we don’t know him and we didn’t really know why he’s there. It’s the point he’s trying to make. He wanted people to know that none of the people on the beach know why they’re there and deserve to be bombed by the germans. All of them just wanted to escape.  I don’t know if my interpretation is true, but at least that’s what I feel.

And I do feel that it could turn some people off too. I mean this movie is a visual masterpiece and probably not your average Hollywood war blockbuster movie you imagine. Some people won’t like the movie because it’s quite different from other war dramas.  Nolan utilize visuals over narration. So I guess it’s safe to say that the movie is the definition of “show don’t tell”. So if you wanted to experience a different WW II drama, you can check it out! It won a few Oscars this year too, so it’s seriously a great movie!