July 26, 2017
Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan, 2017). A lot has been said about the remarkable immersiveness of this Christopher Nolan wartime masterpiece; its confident choreography borders on pure cinema. It is somehow intimate rather than grand in its scale, concerned during its relatively brief running time (at 106 minutes, Nolan’s shortest since Following in 1998) with the here and now, and Nolan’s familiar tricks with time are unusually subtle rather than ostentatious. The dominant emotional mood is not triumphalism but pity, which is apt given that another five years of terrible struggle were ahead of them in 1940. I’ve seen less discussion of how, like Nolan’s Interstellar, it is also a film about fathers. If Interstellar was about guilt or responsibility, with the remote father absent for decades from his daughter’s life, then Dunkirk gives us two touching examples of tolerant, forgiving fathers who guide us in Mark Rylance’s small but heroic and stoic Mr Dawson and Kenneth Branagh’s benign Naval commander.