Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Aneurin Barnard, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Jack Lowden
Words: Joe H.
The events of the evacuation of Allied troops in 1940 from the beaches of Dunkirk as enemy forces approached are told here through three intertwining stories – from land, sea and air, as ground forces while under air cover are slowly evacuated using every naval and civilian vessel available.
The perspective of events as we follow the experiences of a handful of soldiers and civilians show that each person fights their own personal battle within a wider conflict – with each story set over the course of a week, a day, and an hour, events almost feel as though they take place in real-time as the evacuation unfolds and individual stories intersect.
Conflict by its nature is unforgiving, a moment where you feel time to breathe will be suddenly cut short by tragedy, and it’s these smaller moments which have just as big an impact on screen – the expression on the face of a soldier when they see an enemy fighter plane approaching, the acceptance and decisions made in the face of impossible odds, the suspense carried forward in this unrelenting story of survival, in however small a part each person plays in it, shows the experiences of the few amongst the many.
The performances all portray a persons sense of purpose and drive against the background of unimaginable events, with no one person being more important than another.
An intrinsic piece of this film is the evocative musical score from Hans Zimmer, being a longtime collaborator with Christopher Nolan having produced the soundtrack on several of the director’s feature films (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Interstellar), here he has created an extraordinary score – acting like the approaching enemy force or the rising tide on the beach itself, it builds and sustains tension as an essential and near-constant element to the story, with large parts of the film being relatively dialogue-free when action and survival sequences unfold.
The collaboration here between Nolan and Zimmer has produced something which can be seen as a true example of how vital a part the musical score can play in a film, and actually elevate the experience of the story itself – as this film wouldn’t be what it is without this soundtrack.
Christopher Nolan is a director who has always impressed, but the scale and ambition of this film is something to behold – it’s cinematic in every sense of the word, a refreshing blockbuster with breathtaking cinematography that places the audience in the midst of the action.
The effort to see this film on the biggest screen possible will be massively rewarded, as this film is an experience best felt immersed in a wall of sight and sound.
Dunkirk isn’t a war film as such, but rather a suspense movie and survival story – it will without question be considered one of the best films of the year, and deservedly so.