Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, James D’arcy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy.
There have been many remarkable films that have been made that tell the stories of the brave men & women that fought in the many conflicts of the Second World War, some better than others, some played for patriotic grandeur and some taking a more sensitive and thoughtful look at the awful situations those people found themselves in, some falling somewhere in between. The prospect of a World War 2 movie in the hands of an auteur like Christopher Nolan was always going to be an enticing one but how well he would handle a real world, non-fantasy narrative remained to be seen.
I don’t think it is bold in the slightest to call Dunkirk, from a technical standpoint, Christopher Nolans finest film to date. Charting the extraction of troops from the French coastal town of Dunkirk and comprising 3 narrative strands, each running for a different length of time 1. The Mole (land): a week , 2. Sea: a day and 3. Air: an hour, jumping back and forth between the narratives as they meet and intertwine each other, it is dazzlingly handled by Nolan. Dunkirk is truly, beautifully shot, powerfully so. From the stark imagery of soldiers lining the wind strewn beach as the sea blows in foam, to the breathtaking aerial photography and the spine chilling futility of it all illustrated in a shot of a soldier simply giving up all hope and wading out into the sea, will stay with you long after the film has ended. It is perhaps rightfully so that the film should be so visually arresting as there is very little dialogue In Dunkirk, relying more on imagery & mood to convey the plight of these men. A lot of Dunkirk’s strength lies in its sound design and pounding Hans Zimmer score. German fighters screaming out of the sky to Zimmer’s ticking, almost ambient accompaniment, married in perfect unison make for even more tense viewing.
With minimal dialogue, the cast of Dunkirk deserve even more praise than could usually be afforded. The younger cast members, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles & Tom Glynn-Carny in particular all superbly convey the desperation, fear and spirit of the young men in that terrible predicament of fighting for their very survival and in the protection of their own. The older, more seasoned cast members, the likes of the ever amazing Mark Rylance & Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Kenneth Branagh all give reliably strong supporting performances also.
Dunkirk is an intense, beautifully shot, expertly crafted ode to the enduring “Dunkirk spirit” of troops in that fateful May of 1940, an intimate yet sprawling testament to the men & women that fought, died and survived. In Dunkirk, Nolan may very well have delivered his opus and that is not a plaudit that is offered lightly, this really was a breathtaking and deftly delivered piece from an absolute master of his craft operating at the peak of his game. If you can, try and watch Dunkirk in IMAX as it was intended to be seen, you will not regret the experience.