Mr. Movie

Mr. Movie review: Dunkirk a story that deserves better telling

A scene from “Dunkirk.”
A scene from “Dunkirk.” Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Dunkirk is writer/director Christopher Nolan’s first effort since Interstellar in 2014. It’s been awhile and — judging by this one — he’s rusty.

In places, Nolan’s film is a continuity mess. It’s disappointing.

Dunkirk tells of the early World War II evacuation of 338,000 British, French and Polish soldiers from the beaches of the French town.

Or should I say it tries to tell the story. The actual evacuation ran a little over a week from May 26 to June 4, 1940, and is considered the greatest — and most successful — military evacuation in history.

Nolan’s movie covers just a small portion of the operation, which included civilian ships and boats of all sizes.

He starts with troops standing on a beach in the open and being regularly strafed and bombed by German planes. Ships trying to get to the troops are attacked from the air and from U-boats beneath the sea.

Nolan’s film follows four story threads: Tom Hardy’s Royal Air Force pilot protecting ships, Mark Rylance’s small boat owner, Kenneth Branagh’s admiral in charge of evacuating and a soldier portrayed by newcomer Fionn Whitehead.

Four intertwined stories is not all that uncommon for a movie. However, four of them as disjointed as these are unusual for a Nolan movie. His film just never comes together and that’s from the script to the individual stories to the special effects.

There is day and night on the beach, yet at sea it’s always daytime. Dunkirk is 20 miles from England and boats could arrive at the location in a shorter time than Nolan’s movie, so day and night probably didn’t come into play and even if it did, there is no connection between them and the characters or the viewer.

Plus, there is zero tension from a film that desperately needs some.

Nolan doesn’t invest you into the characters or their situations. Many in the drama have nothing to do.

Cillian Murphy’s shell-shocked soldier is wasted. So is the kid in the trailer who says he’ll be useful. Others are there just to die and when someone does or a bunch of people on a ship are torpedoed, it’s — eh — so what.

Younger American audiences will probably have no clue what this is all about. Nolan is British, so he was likely taught about Dunkirk like our children learn about the American Revolution. This is a World War II drama that deserves remembering and deserves a better telling than Nolan’s.

Movie name: ‘Dunkirk’

Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy

Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars

Rated PG-13 for mature themes and violence. It’s playing at Regal’s Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, AMC Kennewick and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.