In many ways, Dunkirk is truly remarkable. It’s safe to say you haven’t seen a war movie quite like this before, and that’s where the biggest success of the movie lies. Writer/Director Christopher Nolan has crafted a truly unique take on a genre that already had a successful tried-and-tested formula in place – one that has delivered countless classics over the years. Nolan turns the traditional large-scale war movie on its head in Dunkirk to deliver a sobering and realistic account of war that stays with you for some time.
Dunkirk’s premise is simple – it’s May of 1940, and Germany (noted only as ‘the enemy’ in the movie) has advanced into France, forcing Allied troops to the beaches of Dunkirk whilst awaiting extraction. With next to no cover, hundreds of thousands of soldiers are trapped in a dangerous predicament in open range until help arrives from civilian vessels tasked with bringing our soldiers home. We follow Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young soldier who has narrowly escaped from enemy fire and is now looking for a way off the beach.
Dunkirk is not Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour so if you’re looking for propaganda you won’t find it here. This is a calculatingly cold movie in the best possible sense. Nolan doesn’t give his characters back-story – we, the audience, are thrown right into the mix from the first second. This is a story about men trying to survive a terrible ordeal and it’s refreshing to get a war movie that doesn’t feel the need to make everything heroic and fearless. There is genuine fear in all of their eyes – as it would have been in real life, and it’s that authenticity that sets aside Dunkirk from other war pictures.
The performers are all excellent with young Fionn Whitehead doing a great job leading the line. Expect to see much more from him in the near future. Mark Rylance delivers an assured performance that sparkles with simplicity and calm amid the chaos. Jack Lowden’s story is gripping and Cillian Murphy can always be relied on to deliver the goods. Harry Styles does a solid job as Alex in a role that’s much larger than expected, and there’s noticeable support from the likes of Barry Keoghan and screen legend Kenneth Branagh. For me, Tom Hardy’s character Farrier steals the film though with the most heart-racing moments.
Practically everything works well in Dunkirk, but I personally wanted more of an emotional attachment to the characters that featured. But this is very much my own personal preference, and one that doesn’t diminish the other successes of the film. Christopher Nolan has made the movie that he wanted to and that should be commended wholeheartedly. He certainly knows how to do emotional attachment, something so clearly present in his other movies like Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises, so I wanted more from that side of things. But again, this isn’t the film that Nolan set out to make so it can’t be a criticism.
With numerous formats to catch the film in, I urge you all to visit IMAX to witness this remarkable spectacle. It’s simply stunning on the big screen, with practically the whole film shot entirely in the format. This is the kind of film that warrants the painstaking task of shooting in IMAX. The beach scenes are devastating, the underwater sequences utilise camerawork that I’ve never seen onscreen before and the aerial warfare is stunning.
Dunkirk is a must-see movie that delivers a fascinating cinematic experience. I have no idea why this was released as a summer blockbuster because it contains Oscar and BAFTA-worthy elements that deserve awards season recognition come next year. Hopefully it will stay fresh in voters’ minds, because Christopher Nolan has delivered yet another noteworthy film that pushes boundaries. It doesn’t top Interstellar for me personally, but Dunkirk is a staggeringly immersive experience that justifies its hype.
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Tom Glynn-Carney, James D’Arcy, Jack Lowden, Aneurin Barnard, James Bloor Director: Christopher Nolan Writer: Christopher Nolan Released By: Warner Bros Certificate: 12A Duration: 106 mins Release Date: 21st July 2017