Dunkirk vs. 1917

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12 comments

Battle of the British World War thrillers!

1917 is so much better. Not even close. Dunkirk is a soulless two hour clip, not an actual movie. 1917 is a nerve-racking masterpiece with characters you actually care about.

Soulless is not how I would describe Dunkirk, although I do think 1917 is a slightly better film. I remember the dog fighting sequences in Dunkirk are probably the best I've seen thus far. Also, the cinematography in Dunkirk is one of the most impressive aspects of that film. 1917 is also a ground-breaking logistical achievement in movie production, direction, and camera work. The sound design for both films are equal. This increases the tension of each moment, immerses the viewer, and offers some perspective of the life of a soldier during these conflicts. 1917's plot focuses more on courage and humanity, while Dunkirk examines the futility of war. Come to think of it, maybe Dunkirk has a little courage thrown in for good measure too. Given these distinctions, it's easy to see why 1917 may appeal to more audiences. Regardless, both are very impressive accomplishments in film making.

To me, 1917 has more emotional heft. It pulled me in much more so than Dunkirk.

With Dunkirk only around 2 and a half years old, it's hard not to see the similarities in 1917. Both takes you on wild journaries through the actions of war and visually, in all areas, both are staples of filmmaking and building tension. I'm going against the crowd up above and saying Dunkirk. Dunkirk is relentless and never stops moving and, while I appreciate 1917 for focusing more on characters, it can slow down for exposition and wandering between key sequences. This isn't bad, in fact it's quite good and sets some great character moments up, but it isn't as gripping as Dunkirk's pure urgency!

Definitely 1917 is a real combat war film while dunkirk wasn’t one of them.

I think neither is perfect. I choose 1917.

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Close call but the technical brilliance adrenalin rush of 1917 eclipses Dunkirk.

1917 destroys Dunkirk which was a bore. 1917 is honestly one of the best films of 2019.

1917 is a masterpiece. This movie needs to win best picture! This movie is an experience.

1917 is a masterpiece.

I think I'll go with Dunkirk in this moment.

Dunkirk is generally awful bad none war film, 1917 is generally far far good here.

This is very tough, probably my two favourite war films of the last 10 years. I know people have criticised Dunkirk for its lack of emotional depth (which is arguably applicable to the majority of Nolan’s work, in my opinion), but I would argue that Hans Zimmer’s score combined with the editing and cinematography delivers the film’s tension and triumphant relief with aplomb (Hans Zimmer’s reworking of Edward Elgar’s Nimrod is particularly evocative, bordering on tear-jerking). Dunkirk’s technical accomplishments are arguably more subtle than 1917’s, but in the hands of arguable the best visual director and cinematic craftsman this side of the new millenium, they still come together gloriously. It’s also refreshing to see a war film which is less about heart-pounding action and more about the nail-biting tension, uncertainty, isolation which can happen when simply waiting for the next order or attack, often for long periods of time. 1917, as alluded to before, is more obviously impressive onscreen with its attempt at a (nearly) seemless ”single-take” film, whilst still pacing the plot adequately. It also allows more room for character development, something Dunkirk was fairly light on (most of the characters in that film we’re either set dressing or plot advancers, though I confess that Mark Rylance did well as the emotional core of the cast, Kenneth Branagh offered dignified gravity and Harry Styles was surprisingly competent and not distracting, as I thought he would be). Dean-Charles Chapman and particularly George McKay worked well as two believable NCOs in the British Army, play well off of each other and work well as protagonists even when Sam Mendes’ primary focus is the editing, camerawork and choreographing scenes to allow for this breathtaking style to come together. I’d also like to highlight Thomas Newman for the score; while not necessarily better than some of his other works, he has once again composed a beautiful soundtrack which compliments both the action sequences and the quieter, character-building moments perfectly. Newman has collaborated with Mendes on a number of occasions to great effect, and while I’m glad the Hildur Guðnadóttir was recognised for her work on Joker (combined with her outstanding work on HBO’s Chernobyl series, she was THE breakout musical star of 2019), I think it’s utterly criminal that Thomas Newman has never won an Oscar, despite being nominated 15 times! The biggest criticism of 1917 however is that while the story is functional enough, it is riddled with war-movie cliches which Dunkirk mostly avoided: the sniper battle, protagonist shows compassion to the enemy before being killed in return (right after delivering their back-story), idiot, warmongering officers (initially) ignoring or misinterpreting intelligence at the cost of many lives, whilst belittling subordinates for following the orders of others etc. That’s not to say that these things are unrealistic, it’s just that we’ve seen them in countless war films before and for all of 1917’s technical prowess and thrilling execution, it can’t help but feel that a lot of these things are telegraphed ahead of time, often really obviously. Additionally, the scene with the river really broke my immersion with how unrealistic it was, physically and geographically (I know it sounds petty, but there we are). In short, Dunkirk was an unconventional war film made by one of the most confident and distinctive visual directors working today, while 1917 was a conventional film made with unconventional techniques by another great director. On balance, Dunkirk wins, but I would happily recommend both.

I think Dunkirk just about takes it. Both are amazing.

I'd give the edge to 1917....

Dunkirk wins here.

Dunkirk is Dogshit. 1917 is leaps and bounds better. Has characters you actually care about unlike Dungpile.