Film Review – Dunkirk (2017)

After 9 movies and 4 shorts, Christopher Nolan for his 10th feature leaves behind the gritty comic books, deep space exploration, the meaning of magic, heists,  for World War 2 and Dunkirk.

The story of the ‘Miracle Of Dunkirk’ in which nearly 400,000 men find themselves trapped on the shores of Dunkirk beach. Soldiers who couldn’t get home, so home came to them creating one the biggest tense evacuations in human history. A story from World War 2 that rarely sees the light of day on the big and small screens.

When it comes to a Christopher Nolan film, there’s no such thing as an ‘ordinary Nolan film’. Dunkirk is certainly a special movie and marks the directors most grounded film to date. It’s also his shortest movie to date, running at only 1 hour 40 minutes long. This is not your conventional war movie, but one that’s focused on the survival rather than the politics that come with war.

The movie has been based on ‘The Miracle Of Dunkirk‘ also known as Operation Dynamo. A Story that unfolds around three narratives: Land, sea and in the air. On the land, we follow the young soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who attempts to flee with 2 other soldiers (played by Aneurin Barnaud and Harry Styles). On the sea, Mark Rylance leads the civilian rescue with no fear sailing over the dangerous waters of The English Channel. In the air, RAF Spitfires flown by Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden patrol the skies.

Dunkirk is blessed with a fantastic cast, a mixture of little known, young and experienced actors, a nice blend of talents. As there’s no primary narrative, all the cast are giving a level playing field. This gives everyone an important part to play in the story leaving no room for a lead character as they all have one goal, get home safely.

Dunkirk has minimal dialogue which gives the whole movie an eerie feel, which you really feel when we follow Tommy.As we follow him the tone becomes more anxious as things start to unravel around him as he becomes more isolated. Kenneth Branagh‘s Commander Bolton oversees the whole operation, a man crippled by his heavy conscience. As he commands the rescue boats back home is he sending the soldiers home or to their graves?

From the word go, time is against the soldiers and Hans Zimmer‘s ‘ticking clock’ score amplifies the nerves and anxiety.The ticking feels as if it gets faster and you feel something bad is just around the corner.

Hoye Van Hoytema‘s cinematography is simply striking. Whilst the score rips your nerves to pieces, the camera captures the expansive scenery the soldiers are trapped in. From the mile-long beaches that leave the soldiers exposed from attack to the cramp and suffocating conditions on the ships on the seas. No one is safe even the civilian boats become floating targets.

Fionn Whitehead for a newcomer commands his screen time really well. Mark Rylance shines once again making you wonder why it’s taken him so long to move from stage to screen. Tom Hardy impresses as RAF Captain Farrier, even Harry Styles rises when many lined up to rip him apart. He left his egotistical pop persona at home to prove his worth as a solid support role.

Dunkirk may not be your conventional war movie with endless action scenes nor is it a patriotic or political. It’s a movie grounded in humanity, a reminder of those who sacrificed themselves. Collectively fight to survive the pending onslaught of doom that slowly crept closer to them. An intense, captivating portrayal of bravery.

Paul Devine |★★★★

War, Drama | UK, 2017 | 12 | 18th December 2017 (UK) | Warner Bros Pictures | Dir.Christopher Nolan | Mark Rylance, Jack Lowden, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead | Buy 2-Disc Blu-ray edition: Dunkirk

Originally Posted At The Peoples Movies | 19th December 2017

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