400,000 Allied soldiers await evacuation on the beach of a small French town, Dunkirk. A master at playing with time, Director Christopher Nolan makes the most of his 106mins and gives the best picture of the year so far. THIS MOVIE WILL BE NOMINATED FOR BEST PICTURE, GUARANTEED. The film is epic, but it’s told in a very intimate way through a few different accounts and spans of time (a week, a day, an hour). From start to finish, it’s a tense, breathtaking journey of survival and one of the best war films of all time.
Honestly, if more war-time films were told like this, I might actually be a fan of the genre. But I’m sure my love of this film has more to do with my admiration of it’s captain, writer/director Christopher Nolan. In Dunkirk he has crafted four different accounts of the same experience. The film’s lead focus is on Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young British soldier who joins up with Gibson and Alex to find a way on to one of the boats taking soldiers home across the short 26 mile stretch of the English channel. The channel is too shallow for large vessels and therefore will require multiple smaller ones to pick up the vast number of soldiers stranded on the beach. We meet Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) on The Mole, a docking station for the boats picking up the soldiers. Oscar-winner Mark Rylance is a civilian boater who, a long with his son and a young friend, ventures into dangerous waters to aid in the rescue. And in the air flies Farrier, played by a very Bane reminiscent Tom Hardy, patrolling the skies and picking off enemy planes. As the movie moves, it becomes clearer how the different passages of time are working together towards a triumphant finale.
In the hands of any other director, this would be a heavy two-and-a-half to three hour crawl, but Nolan keeps it tight. Minimum dialogue. Zero backstory. No one waiting at home. He keeps us in the experience of surviving Dunkirk. And you won’t find a nazi baddie anywhere either. They’re kept at a distance, but still very much present in their planes or through their gunfire.
The intensity, dread, and hope are all heightened by the brilliance of Hans Zimmer’s score. Is it really a Christopher Nolan film without Hans Zimmer? I don’t think I ever want to find out. The film also features some of the most incredible sound design and editing. With bullets popping and fighter planes diving, the sounds of Dunkirk bring you off the edge of your seat and into the horror. Side-note, between last weeks War for the Planet of the Apes and Dunkirk this week, I’m feeling very blessed to have never experienced such terror and grateful to the people fighting for good and for our safety.
For as much popcorn fluff as summer ’17 has offered, I think we’ve received equally as much substance (especially from Warner Bros. who gave us Wonder Woman earlier this summer). Dunkirk is a substantial piece of cinema told on land, sea, and in the air. Nolan’s story of skill, bravery, and sheer luck gives us a real taste of what it takes to survive. This is one of the must see films of the year and Oscar will soon be knocking.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, and Tom Hardy
Ry View: Best Picture of the Year…so far. Highly RYcommended
***I do not own the image used in this review. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Copyright 2016 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC and Ratpac Entertainment, LLC, Syncopy.