Dunkirk was a spectacular little feat, more for cinephiles than blockbuster audiences. You could say it is his first ‘real’ film. However, I am not sure we needed a ‘real film’ out of him, as in, I was excited to see his mathematic, over expositional approach to a war film. I wanted to see the maps, I wanted to know the routes, the tightening stakes. I wanted the verbal feast to match the visual feast. (Especially for a film dealing directly with one giant, confined space.)
Now, we ‘know’ Nolan so well from his ten films, that it’s still his mind on screen, except it’s muted. It is all there visually; but why mute your biggest strength, as a master of labyrinths, and left and right cortex; bringing audience logically through extremely complex plotting. Surely there was some middle ground from the criticism of over-exposition, without muting it outright.
Still if it doesn’t entirely ‘work’, it was not supposed to. It was an experimental narrative on a tremendous scale. At its worse, it sort of videogame-ifies WW2. At least, this is not the Batman director, it’s the Following director. The film student. What struck me finally was the reverence on screen, which you could outright say is just a funnel to express his reverence for the cinematic medium. Yet I really think he made Dunkirk for a specific reason, and that is to reveal how pathetic and spoiled we all are in 2017.