"I feel like this is just a great and inspiring story and the more people who know it, the better. That there’s an optimism that when the chips are down, we can achieve marvelous things. In today’s world where it feels like awful things are happening with great frequency, you feel very much a need to try to find hope. And Dunkirk is just the most substantial of those stories that I know of, on such a huge scale."
- Christopher Nolan, in conversation with the L.A. Times
'Dunkirk' is a powerful film, and one that conveys its message in very few words. This storytelling marks a turn for Nolan - a fact he acknowledges in the above interview - who is known, and sometimes criticized, for heavy exposition in his prior work.
Nolan is a fan of Kubrick, and 'Dunkirk' feels like Nolan is fully embracing Kubrick's influence.
Film is primarily a visual medium. Take '2001', for instance. I first tried to watch the movie at 22 on an iPad. A bad choice. Last year, a little more mature, I saw the film in 70mm projection at the AFI Silver Theater in Maryland, and I found it glorious. The same slow pacing and minimal dialogue that bothered me on the first viewing were now strengths, and I felt immersed in the sound and production design. It was, as Nolan has previously described, "pure cinema." This sense of wonder could only be achieved in the theater, with the projector flickering frames of celluloid onto the screen.
While 'Interstellar' (a film I very much enjoy) may be Nolan's best '2001' imitation, 'Dunkirk' is actually his most Kubrickian film to date. 'Dunkirk' is unfiltered, confident filmmaking. The film gives full reign to the sets, sounds and visuals to convey the story, and the actors feel a part of the greater whole, rather than the driving force. What results, when experienced in 70mm IMAX cinema, is a unique visual experience, yet again making the case for the importance of film, the theater, and the medium of movies.
What remains an irony, here, is that the visuals, birthed in technique, tell a beautiful human story through minimal dialogue. All told through few words, 'Dunkirk' is a story about resolve, coming together - the power of teamwork. These facets are an ingredient in making great art; 'Dunkirk' pays respect to this reality.
In trying times, Nolan is right that we need stories that show the powers of humans working together. Lucky for us, he did it in the form of pure cinema.