More than anything, what I felt walking out of Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s latest epic, was a strong sense of disappointment; almost assuredly the most I’ve felt for any film this year. And I’m as surprised as anyone that I felt this way about it. From the awe-inspiring trailers to the near-perfect critical acclaim, I thought I was guaranteed to love this. I was sure that Dunkirk would be what made me fall in love with Nolan’s work again, following Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, both of which I think are OK at best (and, to be honest, I don’t think Interstellar is much good at all). But instead, and rather unfortunately, Dunkirk continues the sad trend of middling work from one of the greatest directors alive. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever love a work of Nolan’s again, like I do his superb early films Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight.
Dunkirk is set in a time of war, getting its namesake from a major battle that occurred early during World War II. It was heavily marketed as a straight war movie, but it’s really unlike any past examples — and I’m not so sure that’s a good thing. Actually, Dunkirk’s genre may be more akin to horror than that of which we typically think of as a war movie. We have characters who are at all times in danger, with no hope of defeating an unrelenting villain surrounding them. Their only hope being to possibly escape and survive the tragic event.
Christopher Nolan is known for thinking outside the box. His movies reflect his innovative way of thinking and executing his ideas. All of his movies make you question both the protagonists and the antagonists. Is a person truly evil, or on the other hand, can a person be truly pure? Interstellar explores this question through the theme of detachment.
“You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. The Dark Knight explores the moral consequences that being a one-man justice system brings. Inception uses camera trickery to enhance character development. The camera literally turn characters upside down, making it hard for the audience to trust their reality. Interstellar is the most sophisticated film Christopher Nolan has made, and it uses both of these methods to push its agenda. Every character in the film has to make a tough decision at a certain point. No decision in this movie is completely a good or bad decision. It all revolves around detachment.
The movie begins with the character of Cooper being detached from reality. He is dreaming about an accident he had on a space shuttle years ago. He wakes up to a not-so-distant future that has a dying planet. Earth only has a few more years before it is completely uninhabitable. NASA has become a secret and literally underground organization working on a plan to save humanity, so it is also detached from society. NASA has become a secret organization because the world decided to detach from technology to focus on agriculture as a last resort to try to preserve life on Earth. NASA has two plans. Plan A is to figure out a way to send the rest of civilization into space on a giant shuttle to continue life and detach from Earth. Plan B is to find another planet with preserved human embryos to restart the human race. Plan B would mean the destruction of the current human population.