Written by: Christopher Nolan
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy and Barry Keoghan, with Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.
Running Time: 1 hour 47 minutes
In World War II, when 400,000 British and Allied troops end up trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, an air force squadron and civilian boats set out to rescue them before they are decimated by the approaching Nazi forces.
First, a History Lesson
Acclaimed writer/director Christopher Nolan is back after a hiatus of three years since his last blockbuster release ‘Interstellar’. Notably, Dunkirk is his first venture into the historic non-fiction genre and he chose quite a turning point to dramatize.
First, a bit of history since Dunkirk is based on a very integral part of World War II.
If this rescue mission hadn’t been successful, the world we live in today would be a very different place. The Allies would have surrendered if the Nazis had crossed the English Channel. The evacuation allowed Winston Churchill to galvanize his troops & impose a spirit of resistance within the nation. Militarily, it was a defeat for the British Expeditionary Forces, but it was a colossal victory in the larger scheme of things.
Nolan understood the tricky balance between entertainment and historical accuracy and didn’t want to change the stories of real life heroes for dramatic effect. So, he dodged that bullet by using fictional characters inspired by elements he discovered during research.
Don’t get confused
The film is told from three points of view, each with different timelines. The air (planes), the land (on the beach) and the sea (the evacuation by the navy and civilian boats). For the soldiers trapped in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities.
On land, some stayed stuck for one week on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a day; And by air, the British spitfires would carry only an hour’s worth of fuel.
The film cuts back and forth between these three timelines which keeps the viewer engaged.
Much of the movie relies heavily on Hans Zimmer’s extraordinary talent of bringing emotion to life through sound.
A massive shout out to Hoyte van Hoytema (director of photography), Nathan Crowley (production designer), Lee Smith (Editor), Andrew Jackson (visual effects supervisor), Scott Fisher (special effects supervisor) and Jeffrey Kurland (costume designer) for creating a stunning imagery of what it would feel like to be stranded on the English Channel during World War II.
The use of IMAX and 65mm film for the entirety of the movie helped achieve Nolan’s goal of immersing the audience in the scene. I could feel myself in the cockpit of the Spitfire locked in air to air combat, stranded on the windy beach in fear of the enemy approaching, & trying to find my footing on the ships and stay afloat as Nazis constantly bombarded the surrounding spaces.
If only there was a 4DX show available.
The immersive experience outweighs the strength of plot and character
The quick cuts, minimal dialogue and extremely fast pace of the film renders you unable to connect with or root for the characters.
While the actors are flawless in depicting their characters’ plight, no one stood out, unlike almost all of Nolan’s previous protagonists and antagonists [Ledger, DiCaprio, Bale, Caine, McConaughey].
When the name under the title is this big, you expect more.
All in All
It’s a brilliant narration on the temperament of human survival against all odds. This isn’t your average war epic or Christopher Nolan film for that matter, as some spellbinding cinematography & score ensures every moment of every scene is dripping with raw & unfiltered emotion, moving towards one thing only: ‘Going Home.’
Watch it if you’re: Looking for an immersive film watching experience,or you’re a Christopher Nolan fanatic [in IMAX if possible].