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Nolan's Dunkirk is not 'the greatest war film ever'

11 99 387
02.08.2017

How to watch a master stylist filmmaker doing what he does best about a war long-waged, won and lost at a time of wars scarcely chronicled, let alone comprehended in the full magnitude of their calamity?

Christopher Nolan’s much anticipated, and now loudly praised, war film "Dunkirk" (2017) was by serendipity released at a time when the battle of Mosul had just been waged and won with at heavy cost. "The massacre of Mosul," the headlines were screaming, "40,000 feared dead in battle to take back city from Isis as scale of civilian casualties revealed."

Film critics and filmgoers in United States, Europe, and indeed around the globe, were queuing to watch a film rendition of the World War II Battle of Dunkirk between the Allies and Nazi Germany, while we were reading the horrid accounts of how in Mosul "many bodies are still buried under the rubble and the level of human suffering is immense".

How do we reconcile what we read in our daily headlines with what we watch in a widely celebrated Hollywood production? What’s Hecuba to Nolan, or he to Mosul, Aleppo, or Yemen?

Curb your enthusiasm

"Dunkirk" has been received with rave reviews. "Christopher Nolan’s WWII Epic May Be the Greatest War Film Ever," Rolling Stone reviewer Peter Travers put it quite bluntly, "Filmmaker's recreation of key British battle is stunning, stirring - and a stone-cold masterpiece."

This type of sudden overexcitement about a film is, of course, a sign of either complete ignorance of the history of cinema and its towering masters or else a momentary insanity with no enduring consequence.

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The trouble with such bombastic praise is that the genre of war films is the battlefield of some mighty filmmakers. You cannot just hire Hans Zimmer (however gifted a composer he is) to Bang & Olufsen your head in and shove a film down your throat and then Rolling Stone it "a masterpiece".

I intentionally saw the film on the largest screen possible in New York for the full immersion experience of its sound design and music, as it was meant to be seen. That kind of acoustic arrogance and deafening pitch that numb your skull, so you would think what you are watching is a "masterpiece" is pure Trumpian charlatanism worthy of Anthony Scaramucci (aka Joe Pesci) expletives.

© Al Jazeera