Dunkirk: A contrary view about a movie everyone else loves

Dunkirk doesn’t fail because it’s insufficiently diverse. It fails because, like the Left itself, it ignores individualism and opts for nameless masses.

DunkirkDon’t worry. This is not going to be a review decrying Dunkirk because of its failure to include women, people of color, homosexuals, or differently gendered in its cast of thousands. Instead, I’m going to say the really un-sayable: The movie is boring.

Dunkirk essentially follows three story lines during the evacuation from Dunkirk: a pair of soldiers desperately trying to get on a ship, and being perpetually thwarted by German attacks; a father piloting a pleasure boat from England to Dunkirk, accompanied by his young son and a 17-year-old boy from their community; a few RAF pilots, indistinguishable from each other; and an admiral, who has the most lines and provides a tiny bit of actual context. Barring the trio on the pleasure boat, none of the characters have names or discernible personalities.

Throughout the film, you get to see men on the beach getting bombed, men on ships getting bombed, men in airplanes getting shot down, and people drowning. One sees virtually no blood or wounds. It’s indistinguishable from the computer games my son and his friends used to play.

What also makes Dunkirk indistinguishable from the computer games is the utter lack of context. There’s an “enemy” and there are faceless drones trying to escape the enemy. That’s all. There’s no sense of a valiant democracy taking a stand against a monstrous totalitarian regime, its soldiers fueled into “supermen” by an endless supply of amphetamines, and its wealth and weapons derived from conquest and slave labor. It’s just “soldiers” and “sailors” escaping from “the enemy.” Again, computer game stuff.

What really bugged me about Dunkirk, though, is that this lack of context extended, not just to the nature of the battle but to the individuals being evacuated or doing the evacuating. Dunkirk is essentially Stalin-esque in the way it reduces individuals to meaningless cogs. After all, it is Stalin who is reputed to have said, “One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic.” This is a statistical movie — and as far as I’m concerned, that is the ultimate insult to the West, which fought for individual liberty, versus Hitler’s Left, which saw humans as cogs for the aggrandizement of state and dictator.

Because the movie was so bleached of life, it was easy to get into its rhythm. Repose, rush, death; repose, rush, death; repose, rush, death. A few moments of anodyne self-cowardice here, another moment of sort-of heroism there. The movie also used an irritating soundtrack, intended to get your heart beating. It had the opposite effect on me, because it was a signal that something would get blown up. Without even unpredictable excitement, the movie also failed in terms of raising my heartbeat.

With writer and director Christopher Nolan’s considerable filmmaking gifts, this could have been an epic film. Instead, it was an epic video game.

Hacksaw Ridge was a much better movie, despite the schmaltzy first half, because it was about individuals responding to extreme situations. In this respect, I found it much more “American” than the Stalin-esque Dunkirk.