KARACHI : It can’t get any gloomier than the work of art that gets noticed for elements that don’t contribute to its experience. It’s as unfortunate as destiny can ever be because the audience chooses to ignore what’s right in front of their eyes only to justify through instances of all the ‘isms’ they were taught in school. These ‘isms’ have surely provided a more sensitive framework to understanding the world but their very nature is such that you are forced to perceive issues, particularly history, from a completely different lens. So the tendency to push it a little or in Dunkirk’s case, a little too much, is nothing out of the ordinary but it is outrageous enough steal a film of its artistic merit.
Where the documented number of Indian soldiers who participated in the extraction from Dunkirk was not more than four companies, the film has a lot more to offer. If, for once, viewed from a non-Brexiteer perspective you’ll realise the magic that Nolan has created just by focusing on the three essentials of cinema today – cinematography, editing and sound design.
The cinematic experience that Dunkirk offers is way above and beyond any debate on colonialism and gender bias – it is an epoch of film-making, eons away from anything Nolan has ever offered before. There are no crazy sub-plots, no anti-climaxes that were always there in front of you but instead just good old reality film-making used to portray the best and worst of human emotion. Nolan whose screenplays such as The Prestige or Dark Knight are taught all over the world, has always been an avid fan and professor of how the story is told. He uses time and pacing to twist an otherwise linear and simpler plotline that hits us like a surprise and leaves an exceptional aftertaste aided by a great score.
Beyond a service to great cinema, Dunkirk represents Nolan’s rebirth; he has shed his skin and come out as film-maker who wants to prove himself wrong. It’s not that he has completely ignored his signature moves but he has evolved. Instead of turning around the story in terms of time frames he rather divides it into chapters, The Mole, The Sea and The Air.
One grand attempt at extraction is picturised from three different vantage points with different times of duration to each one of them and yet it seems like everything is happening in real time. This time around it is less about the sequencing of events and more about how they are intertwined together and Nolan makes it happen with a stunning attention to detail and drama.
Characters without any back stories say so much about each other with minimal dialogue that you’re absorbed by the subtlety of the drama. Someone as seasoned as Cylian Myrphy and Tom Hardy to rookie actor Harry Styles – they all totally rely on their facial expressions to convey the pain and the relief and above all, to make it all seem genuine.
The natural lighting, the human suffering and survival, everything reminds us of Innaritu’s The Revenant, the shocking part is that it’s Nolan, not Innaritu. He may have grown into this narrative wearing a cloak of experimentation but he has clearly come out wearing a cape.
Although we can’t unfortunately watch it in 70mm IMAX in Pakistan but Nolan does incredible justice to the 65mm format, thanks to a joint effort by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and hans Zimmer. For Nolan’s millennial fans, Dunkirk proves to be his most nuanced and unique offering to date but it may not be what you’re expecting from him.
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