That time that ‘Dunkirk’ broke me

I love Christopher Nolan’s films. I really do. The first time I saw Batman Begins. I knew he was special. I then watched The Dark Knight and became obsessed with Batman. Inception followed next, which changed what movies meant to me and then I went back in his catalogue and watched The Prestige which, to me, is the epitome of his storytelling: jumps in time, complex character psychology and great set pieces. I have been his biggest apologist ever since, and while The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar lack some of the verve of his earlier movies, his old and new movies still captivate me every time I watch them.

This brings us to Dunkirk. Like many, I was interested to go and see Dunkirk when it came out. The idea of a historical movie by Nolan excited both me and my brother.

So opening night, we found the biggest possible screen we could, paid a whole host of money and took our seats to watch this epic.

Now I had avoided as much press about this film as possible. I tried to only watch one trailer and not read much about it. The only thing I knew was that Nolan was re-teaming with actors such as Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy and had announced that Harry Styles would appear, which had made me a little but nervous.

I wanted the whole movie to hit me all at once. And it did.

For those that have seen the movie, you’ll know what you are in for; for those that haven’t, I would suggest this weekend, where we commemorated VE Day, that you search it out on Sky Movies or Amazon Prime and watch it.

Now I hate talking about movies, while still in the cinema: it makes me anxious and people who I regularly go to the cinema with know this. So my brother and I walked outside into the cool night air for the post-film debrief. I expected him to ask me what I thought. But the question never came. And thank God it didn’t. Because if he had asked me, I wouldn’t have been able to answer him.

I was in shock. I was gobsmacked. I was reeling. I was amazed. I was all the feelings that sum up the fact that my brain was unable to truly process what I had seen. I remember half way through my brother pushing me back in my seat as I had begun to inch forward, my hands gripping the seat in front of me.

I could only describe the experience as visceral. It was a perfect storm of time, location, and the right mental space to watch it. Its moments of suspense, claustrophobia and sheer panic had hit me all at once. Like I had wanted.

I walked back to my car with my brother, both with tears in our eyes, barely able to catch our breaths. We sat in the car in a stunned silence.

I turned to my brother

“OK”

“Yeah…”

“It was just….”

“I didn’t…”

“FUCK”

“FUCK”

Now, by no means is Dunkirk perfect. Or even close to being one of my favourite films.

But at that time, watching that film on a giant screen and sound system, being some of the youngest people in the cinema, surrounded by people who may well have had parents who were a part of Dunkirk, or who knew the story better than us, we felt truly unprepared for the experience.

We barely spoke on the way home, both just in awe of the bravery of everyone involved in that event. The next day we spoke about the film and each confirmed our love for it.

Even now I find it difficult to watch, as the experience of watching it still feels so fresh in my mind. But I am going to watch it this weekend and let the intensity and epic nature of it wash over me.

It is good to feel overwhelmed by cinema. It’s proof that the film is working, if you have a physical reaction to it. And at this time, where there is so much pent-up anxiety and frustration about the world, maybe it will be good to watch it, have a cry and come out the other side smiling.


This post was authored by Flicks.

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