Dunkirk Film Review
Is there any director that you love and admire so much that you count the months (and the days) leading to the premiere of his latest work? Well, there are few of those on my list. Paul Thomas Anderson, David Fincher and of course Christopher Nolan. And 3 years after Interstellar, the maestro is back with another movie. A thrilling WW2 drama inspired by true events. Dunkirk.
And in Nolan’s Dunkirk, the young British soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) is one of the 400,000 other soldiers waiting to be rescued (evacuated) on the beaches of Dunkirk (France) while the Nazis are just around the corner. A mariner civilian named Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and his friend George (Barry Keoghan) are just part of the boat fleet crossing the English Channel in order to help with the evacuation, while in in the air there is the support from the 3 Royal Air Force pilots. Farrier (Tom Hardy) will be the last man standing from them.
The film’s narrative has three major threads that follow three different periods of time. The beginning (on land) covering one week in 1940. On the sea covering one day of those events, and up in the air covering just one hour of the evacuation. And with the very familiar nonlinear narrative structure from Nolan, Dunkirk is visceral yet emotional portrayal of the horrors of war through the subjective point of view from several men. It is also Nolan’s second best film in his entire career (seven years later and no one can touch Inception). But what makes Dunkirk so fascinating? The movie manages to be frightening without showing blood, wounds, guts and gore. The movie manages to be compelling although doesn’t have main protagonist with much screen time. Manages to be engaging despite the fact that there is not much of a plot development, or character development for that matter.
Right until the end of the movie, you don’t know even the names of the characters (and in the half of the roles you don’t recognize the actual actors) and you don’t even care. Every single one of them carries the story on his shoulders and every single one of them fascinates you. You remember their faces, their fears and actions but the names are not of much relevance. They are all in the same mess here and they are all looking for a way out. Yes Nolan brought his favorite actors back (Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are fantastic as ever). Yes he brought England’s finest actors working today (Kenneth Branagh and Academy Award winner Mark Rylance are fantastic too), but there is a whole bunch of newcomers that are just outstanding as the older more experienced actors. Fionn Whitehead and Tom Glynn-Carney are an immense talents with bright future ahead of them actually. For the fans of One Direction, there is the presence of Harry Styles in a small role. He’s not that impressive… but still… he’s a nice addition to the cast.
Nolan and his regular collaborators Hoyte van Hoytema (on cinematography) and Hans Zimmer in the music department manage to make the movie wathcing experience in Dunkirk feel like you’re watching a ticking bomb. Literally. You’re tense, sweating, you’re on your edge of your seat and your heart is pounding in your chest. Trust me it’s not that easy to achieve that effect with a WW2 drama set mostly on a open set. But what’s almost mind-blowing is that fact that Zimmer can make that effect with just a few string instruments, and even with a ticking clock in his score. A work of a genius I must admit.
I’m going to look pass the historic facts behind the movie’s inspiration (mostly because I’m not a history scholar) and focus more on the movie itself. And while Dunkirk is probably the finest movie of the year (so far) I can pinpoint on some flaws that were stealing the 5 star rating, right before my eyes. Because there is not much of a dialogue put into the character’s mouths, not much of back story or history to them some of them feel little under used. Perfect examples of that is the shell-shocked solider (played by Cillian Murphy). I felt that he was criminally underrated here and could use a better role with a much better purpose.
But I can see Nolan’s reasoning for that in high sight. People do stupid things when dealing with PTSD. They react very differently during war. And even the true horrors of the war are portrayed differently through various soldier’s actions. For this reaaaally pay attention to one soldier’s suicide by drowning, while the young fellow soldiers Gibson, Alex and Tommy just sit and do nothing. They do not speak nothing, and don’t move a finger to stop him. What can they do? They are barely keeping them selfs together on that beach.
And in conclusion, Dunkirk is amazing movie. Another master piece from the true auteur that is Christopher Nolan. I highly recommend that you watch it (in IMAX 70mm) more than once.
The first time for the visceral experience and later for the emotional.