Christopher Nolan has had quite the track record over the years, producing some of the best films in recent memory. Dunkirk is a departure for him as it will be his first film based on a true story. This film has been deemed universally as the best film of the year so far and this praise is definitely warranted.
Synopsis: When 400,000 British and Allied troops end up trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, following a catastrophic defeat, a number of civilian boats set out to rescue them before they are decimated by the approaching Nazi forces. (Rovi)
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, and Tom Hardy
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Director: Christopher Nolan
Rating: PG (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 106mins
For showtimes and more, check out Dunkirk on movietimes.com.
Those looking for more of a historical may be disappointed although those wanting to be entertained surely will not. This is writer/director Christopher Nolan’s shortest film, however, it drops the viewer right into the action from the beginning and does not let go until the end. Because of this, it doesn’t focus on the circumstances leading to the infamous Dunkirk rescue mission during WWII but rather on the escape and rescue effort.
The film told the story from three different perspectives, from the land, the sea, and the air. To do this, the film seamlessly transitioning between the land with the 400,000 soldiers, including a young soldier named Tommy (Whitehead), anxiously waiting on the beach and hoping to survive long enough to be rescued, the sea with a trio of civilians joining the rescue effort led by a man named Mr. Dawson (Rylance), and the air with a pair of fighter pilots led by a pilot named Farrier (Hardy).
The film is definitely an experience unlike many other films and one that should be seen in IMAX if possible (I did). Each storyline was epic in scope with plenty of engaging moments both big and small. The Oscar-worthy production values brought to life here by IMAX, beit the cinematography, the sound design and mixing, and the score, all worked together to give the film a very immersive feel. The entirety of the film was beautiful and thrilling to watch, capturing all the action while creating some truly unique shots. The sound and the score were unrelenting and helped to build intensity throughout.
If there is one negative to say about the film it is the lack of character development. The plot’s narrow focus and storytelling style didn’t necessarily allow time for proper character development but this is ultimately only a minor complaint. There is just something about seeing the proceedings through the characters’ eyes and experiencing it right with them that makes it easier to connect with them on an emotional level.
All the storylines were compelling to watch with Tommy’s being the best of the three. He and the plight of his fellow soldiers, including a soldier named Alex (Harry Styles), was exciting and suspenseful as they tried to escape danger at every turn. Mr. Dawson, driven by the loss of his son in the war, wanted to help any way he could so he set out on his boat to rescue soldiers at Dunkirk. It wasn’t going to be easy for him, along with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter’s friend George (Barry Keoghan), as they were exposed firsthand to the horrors of war. There wasn’t much to Farrier but the air combat sequences were exhilarating to watch.
While the film was admittedly more special effects and production values than anything else (which is fine), the acting was still great all around. There might not have been much dialogue between the soldiers but through the collective looks on their faces and their body language, the various actors still managed to capture the desperation and their need to survive. Whitehead was very likable and fun to watch. Styles was good as another soldier desperate for combat. Rylance had the most developed character and was excellent as a wise and calming presence, driven by a sense of duty. Branagh and Hardy were good even though there wasn’t much to either of their characters.
Overall, this was an amazing war film and a cinematic experience that does not often come along. It may be short but the action is frantic and relentless from the start and doesn’t let up until the end. Every aspect of the film worked together brilliantly to give the film an immersive feel early on while making us care for the characters involved. This will definitely not be the last time we will hear about this one.