Dunkirk is the culmination of Christopher Nolan’s long directing career. It’s a masterclass in story, character and visual storytelling. It’s a tight just under 2 hour film that feels like watching Usain Bolt racing towards the finishing line. It’s a complete and utter adrenaline rush from start to finish.
I found myself in multiple instances tensing every muscle in my body in anticipation of certain events or in fear for peoples lives. Nolan decides to go for a different approach to war films and completely nails it. He said in interviews that he doesn’t want to do the gore and horror of war, it’s been done and done well (I’m paraphrasing), and he’s right. There are dozens of films that depict what the true horror of war is like. With blood and guts all over the place. This film decides to take a different approach. I can’t speak for Nolan but personally I feel like he is trying to capture the sheer terror and tension of a situation like Dunkirk. What it feels like to know you’re trapped on all sides and you’re essentially fish in a barrel waiting to die of hunger or thirst if the bombs don’t get you first.
This approach is really clever. Making this whole film feel different to any other war film. The highest praise I could give Dunkirk is that it feels real. Completely and utterly it feels like your’e there. I even had people talking in my cinema (I have no idea why you would want to talk through a movie like this these people are silly) and even that didn’t pull me out of the film properly. It feels like you’re there with them, through some incredibly clever editing and insane sound editing. I really cannot say enough about the sound editing it is simply phenomenal, especially when planes are rushing overhead.
The way Nolan has scripted this to be a triptych (a story told in three parts) has all the hallmarks of his usual clever time bending storylines. Which makes it feel like a Nolan film even though it’s so different to anything he’s ever done. It’s an intellectually engaging film as you piece together the timelines of sea, earth and air.
The acting in the film is also really powerful. There’s hardly any talking and most of the performances are delivered through physicality and the eyes of the actors. Everyone, including Harry Styles who might have been distracting, does an incredible job of conveying the terror of the situation.
Ultimately Dunkirk is a film with themes of brotherhood and survival. Telling a story about how even in the darkest and most horrible times humanity can still give examples of how powerful we become when we band together and help our fellow kind. It is a profoundly moving message of unity and perseverance and even got me to shed a couple tears. The true story element of the film helps elevate it, as you keep reminding yourself that this actually happened. 4000,000 men were saved because of many civilians and navy-men putting there lives on the line. Christopher Nolan masterfully directs this powerful story about humankind whilst showing us why war is something we should avoid at all costs.