“Dunkirk is a sensory feast with palpable nostalgia for an era before women’s liberation and civil rights movements.”
Title: Dunkirk (2017)
Director: Christopher Nolan 👨🏼🇬🇧🇺🇸
Writer: Christopher Nolan 👨🏼🇬🇧🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Dunkirk features lush, sumptuous cinematography and well-crafted sound engineering. The pacing of the movie is great too, if entirely predictable as it follows expected moments of crescendo and resolution. But beyond its solid cinematic chops, I couldn’t find an emotional foothold into this film, which felt outdated in its purposeful longing for a simpler time: when sussing out bad guys was as easy as checking for German accents, or aiming for the yellow planes instead of the blue ones.
There is very little complexity to be had in Dunkirk. For some, that is a boon. For me, it felt tone deaf to today’s more pressing concerns.
Does it pass the Bechdel Test? NO
Dunkirk avoids outright offensive portrayals of women, as seen in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies or Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, where female love interests spend their time gamely peering out windows as they pine for their men to come home.
Instead, Dunkirk eschews women altogether. Scenes swarm with hundreds of male extras, while the number of female extras could be counted on one hand, maybe two. On IMDB, 69 credited roles are listed and just two of them are women, labeled simply as “Nurse” and “Stewardess”.
Literally no people of color in a film that employed hundreds of white actors. Considering that 2.5 million South Asians fought for the British during WWII—including at Dunkirk, where professor Yasmin Khan describes the primarily Muslim soldiers as "playing a significant role, ferrying equipment and supplies"—this is a glaring omission of brown bodies in a whitewashed history.
Mediaversity Grade: D 2.00/5
Oblivious at best and propaganda at worst, Dunkirk is admittedly a sensory feast but one that leaves me concerned about its palpable nostalgia for an era before women’s liberation and civil rights movements.
Especially at a time when the American president is antagonizing those exact groups and the UK is dealing with its own brand of backwards-looking nationalism, Dunkirk feels ill-timed. From Nolan’s respectable list of works, I’ll take a futuristic Inception over this white male sentimentalism, any day.