"It's intense. It's brutal. It's a strong film."
That was the reaction of Shari Zeck, interim dean of Milner Library and GLT's Culture Maven, to the new war epic "Dunkirk." Directed by Christopher Nolan (of "Dark Knight" fame), the film depicts the grueling evacuation of Allied troops from France in 1940. A story of survival and resistance, "Dunkirk" has scored well with audiences, topping the box office for two weeks in a row.
Zeck appreciated the film that's been dubbed an intimate epic, though the dearth of dialog made it tricky in judging the actor's performances.
"One of the key characters is a pilot, and 98 percent of the time all we see are his eyes. So, is he just a great actor with his eyes, or are we just projecting on to him what we're thinking about? I think it's a film that really begs the question of what are actors giving in a performance, what are we projecting on to them, and where is that divide or connection? This is not a film that one necessarily goes to see because of the actors."
The film is brutal, said Zeck. But it also has in it a through line that we see in classic westerns, which involves the conquering human spirit and the many faces of heroism.
"There's is this uplifting line through the film," she said.
While "Dunkirk" shares the spirit of its celluloid antecedents, Zeck noted that it more accurately depicts the toughness of war, unlike classic Hollywood war movies.
"There's acts of kindness, acts of bravery, silent solidarity between men, the traditional things we see in classic war films. Unlike those films, the randomness of death is very apparent, and the physical difficulties of war are keener in this film than in older movies," she said.
"Dunkirk" is currently in wide release. But if you go to see it in IMAX, fasten your seatbelts. It's a more intense experience that way, said Zeck.
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