Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK is a slap in the face of Bollywood’s naïve film-making. There is no doubt that practically everyone looks forward to Nolan movies as they evoke intense emotions and beat one’s brains out. You cannot classify these movies as Chinese Arithmetic because they have a logic behind the sequence of events. His movies are mostly about time- how time works in dreams, in space, and in memories. And yet again Christopher Nolan strikes the right chord by presenting Dunkirk as a race against time.
Dunkirk captures three different timelines and three different perspectives: a week at The Mole, a day in The Sea (the English Channel) and an hour in The Air. The story revolves around the 4 Lakh soldiers stranded on the coast of Dunkirk, staring at the English Channel, waiting to be rescued. On September 01, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, prompting England and France to declare a war on the former two days later. Annexing of Poland involved tanks, warships, warplanes, and bombs. This marked the beginning of the World War II. On May 10, 1940, Germany invaded France, Luxemburg, Belgium, and Netherlands, gradually conquering Sedan, Netherlands and Luxemburg. On May 21, 1940, Mr. Winston Churchill waved the green flag for Operation Dynamo that was to rescue the soldiers stranded on the coast of Dunkirk. With the Germans surrounding them from the East, West and the South, the soldiers only had the Northern coast of Dunkirk for themselves. The Royal Air Force (RAF) sent Spitfires to combat the attacks by the German Luftwaffe and this dogfight continued for days. It was only with the participation of the civilians that more than 3 lakh soldiers were safely rescued.
Nolan’s prowess lies in the keen observation of the emotions and the sentiments of the petrified soldiers. Scriptwriter and the director of Dunkirk, he not only offers exemplary cinematography but also offers nerve wrecking scenes.
Here are six possible reasons why Bollywood movies are no match for Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk:
1) Movie Runtime
Unlike most Bollywood movies that offer the redundant concept of love and hatred just like the old wine in a new bottle, Dunkirk has something new to offer. It describes the struggle, the fear, the desperation and the intention.
The movie runs for 1 hour 47 minutes and is an overwhelming experience that will make the viewers cling to their seats. Where most Bollywood movies have a cliched plot, the exposition being the two protagonists who are strangers, and the resolution being that the protagonists falling in love, Dunkirk’s plot cannot be easily broken down into the several stages. The story refrains from exposing the viewers to any past event and runs only in the present moment.
2) Preciseness of the Script
The script of Dunkirk is said to be only 76 pages long, which is very unlikely for a movie that aims to portray the intense emotions and the struggle for survival.
How beautifully the movie portrays the desperation and the impulsive nature of the soldiers when a few of them decide to swim to the other end. Where on one hand, Bollywood has lengthy scripts and stretched run-time, Dunkirk leaves no stone unturned to serve as a complete package. The perfect length of the script helps in avoiding exhaustion from strain and suspense.
3) Background Score
Apparently, Bollywood believes in including 6-7 songs in a movie so that the viewers can appreciate the exquisite gowns and the rugged look of the actress and the actor, respectively. But doesn’t that song act as a speed breaker?
Take Airlift for an instance; the movie could have been made better but the addition of ‘Love angle’ and the picturization of dramatic songs deterred the viewers from connecting emotionally with the plot. Dunkirk, on the other hand, has a continuous background score that makes the tension palpable. It proves that only a clever soundtrack is all that is needed to make the emotions more pronounced.
If one would have noticed, Christopher Nolan uses ‘Ticking clock’ as a sequence for every movie, be it Inception or Interstellar or Dunkirk, reminding us every now and then that we all are in a race against time. The overwhelming Orchestra seems to ascend with every passing second but in reality, it doesn’t. It is an effect of auditory Illusion caused by the ‘Shephard Tone’. Nolan uses this technique to his advantage to bring out the tension in the movie.
4) Lack of Dramatic Scenes
Dunkirk lacks drama and dialogues. Having barely any dialogues, Dunkirk not only depends on the acting skills of the actors but also the portrayal of immense trauma and intimidation. The movie has numerous solitary confrontations (when the English soldier is bombarded with metal bullets in the beginning, when the first Spitfire crashes into the water, when the German Luftwaffe showers bombs on the Mole) and ghastly encounters (when the troop of 12 soldiers wait in the grounded ship for the high tide and are greeted with bullets, when the torpedo capsizes the ship and the evacuants are left to drown or rather get burnt). The melodramatic content is missing from the movie and that is what differentiates it from the Bollywood films.
5) Bollywood’s obsession with Love
Love is an intangible emotion and Bollywood’s obsession with this emotion seems evident in all the movies. Recently, Jagga Jasoos was released and it proved to be an offbeat film. The story was strong, the concept was new but then came the part when the hero falls in love with the heroine and lo and behold, the unpredictability of the story was lost in the woods! A similar mishap in the movie- Airlift- proves that introducing the love angle is not always a good idea, for it acts as the sudden jerk in the stretched string, making it vibrate, leading diversion of attention.
6) Less use of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery)
Films like Bahubali and Krrish, where the main focus is on throwing half the props in the air depend mainly on the CGI. In one of the interviews, Nolan claimed that he refrained from using the CGI as it would have hampered the originality of the movie. Instead, he went to the extremes to employ the use of cardboard cut outs for soldiers. He also put an effort to arrange for the aircraft and the ships that were originally used in the war. And the outcome can be seen in the movie; it gives one a realistic experience and causes goosebumps.
Nolan beautifully brings out the essential paradox in the movie by exposing the viewers to both sides of the coin. The movie’s theme is the mettle of the soldiers who are faced with life-changing decisions, decisions that can either be correct or can prove fatal (the decision of hiding in the grounded boat and waiting for the high tide to be afloat). The fear that haunts the soldiers becomes evident as and when they take a call and act responsibly and thoughtfully. Brilliantly compiled together, neither of the three narratives describes or talk about the character of the soldiers outside the battlefield. And this helps the audience to form an unbiased opinion.
All said and done, Dunkirk can be classified as the master movie of all war movies because it depicts the real mental state of the ones who fight for us and give up their lives. There is honour, fear, apprehension, desperation and an instinct of survival in every soldier - all together in that one moment of war - that is what we all need to realize before passing our judgments.