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9.7 17 10
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I hate seeing a review with perfect 10s because I always think "that can't possibly be a PERFECT film", however, I just can't justify taking a star rating off anywhere. I could quibble about how effective this narrative is, but the fact is it's a masterful piece of editing that brings both films to an emotional climax that neither fully managed on its own. I could nitpick about wanting the films to be intercut more, but where is there actually an organic place to do that early in Dunkirk? I could say that this isn't my most enjoyed movie ever, so no "10", but I DID enjoy it more than either of the original films. In the end, this is simply the only way I'll rewatch either of these, so despite any slight complaints, I have to give this full marks all around.

So what is lost compared to the original films? Well, for the most part, not much that you'll miss. (Some SPOILERS for each film necessary from here on...) The beginning of this film is heavier with scenes from Darkest Hour, setting up the mess that Churchill inherited, and the pressure he faced to surrender and give up on the lives of Britain's soldiery. That film is thematically focused on his efforts to find just the right words to persuade people and inspire them in...ahem...their darkest hour. To this end, it goes to great pains to show how he relied on both his wife and personal secretary to keep grounded and hopeful. While it is unfortunate that many of those scenes are lost (along with the questionable 'Churchill take the Tube' scene), honestly they just flesh out the film and are not the strongest elements. The theme of the power of Churchill's exact words is kind of sublimated in this cut, but really the speeches stand on their own so it works in the time given.

As this film goes on, it relies more and more on Dunkirk footage, focusing on the struggles to get the soldiers evacuated and off the beach. The contributions of both the citizen Navy and the British air support play out linearly here, which works better imho. Not a whole lot feels lost from Dunkirk actually, excepting for the subplot of the French soldier. I did rather miss the reveal that he was not simply an astonishingly quiet lad, as all the hints are still present, but it's understandable that it would distract from the new, joined narrative. To me, Dunkirk's theme was actually in how all of Britain rallied and did their part, a sort of tribute to the stoic, modest, head-down courageousness of the average citizenry. But whereas in a film like The Hobbit series, that theme is beat to death with swelling music and incessant speeches, it got rather lost in all the tense drama of Dunkirk. Here, it's actually improved and brought out more strongly through being intercut with Churchill's speeches and a linearly-building narrative.

When you put these films together, it's plain that the stronger elements are in Dunkirk. I quite like Joe Wright and composer Dario Marianelli, but Nolan and Zimmer are just operating on a-whole-nother level. However, their work in Dunkirk could actually get overwhelming. The combination of the four artists here alternates between tension and pressure, physical and psychological, so that the end result is more keenly felt. The whole affair looks and sounds stunning, with much of Zimmer's score being used, but toned down a bit so as to not drown out dialogue. There is both a color and black & white version of this available, and I think I have to give the slight edge to the B&W. The two films have significantly different color grades, and while the regrading work on this edit is great, the B&W just ties it together perfectly and the lighting looks so crisp and impressive that way.

All in all, I was very impressed with this edit. At the beginning, it feels like we're watching a little too much of each film without cutting back to the other, really feeling like two separate movies. However, the intercutting picks up and is more artfully done as the story goes on, leading to one of the most impressive endings of a fan-edit I've ever seen. I do miss the character exploration of Darkest Hour, and the unending tension of Dunkirk, but I wasn't keen to rewatch either. This combination keeps the best of both, and has become my preferred way to rewatch. I highly recommend seeking it out.

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