As an exercise in film making and narrative construction, the movie is a work of genius. Nolan’s ability to weave three distinct but converging storylines together into a narrative whole is nothing short of brilliant, and when it clicked for me just what he was doing and how he was doing it, I was amazed at how seamlessly it succeeded. Where it fails, in my not-at-all-humble opinion, is as a theatrical experience. Now, you can’t approach Dunkirk expecting it to be Saving Private Ryan in reverse, where the good guys are being driven off the beach instead of landing on it — and a British version at that — Nolan made it clear when he was shooting the film that he wasn’t making another Private Ryan and wanted to avoid making a film comparable in tone and content. He succeeded in doing so technically — it’s artistically where he failed. Dunkirk is nowhere near as visually visceral (figuratively as well as literally) as Spielberg’s film, which is both a good and bad thing. Ryan wound the audience up so tightly in the first twenty minutes that they never really had a chance to relax and recover before the next round of shooting started — a lot like actual combat, in a way — so that when the movie ended, the audience, individually and collectively, sort of deflated.