From its opening moments, Dunkirk is intense. This intensity only escalates and carries through right up till the credits start rolling. Just when you think you have a moment to breathe, something else goes wrong and you’re thrown back into the fray. It’s extremely unconventional for a war film. I think because of this change, I enjoyed it more. It brings something different to the genre. There’s minimal blood and NO gore. It’s more about the psychological effects that being in a war has on people. These men and women are terrified. They had nothing to fight back against the enemy. It’s strictly survival. You’d think a film with minimal character development wouldn’t be able to hold your attention for 2 hours, but Dunkirk pulls it off. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Even if you don’t get to know the characters on a personal level, you still fear for their safety. It’s amazing what Christopher Nolan and his crew have accomplished. There’s no “Band of Brothers“. They aren’t trying to fight the enemy. You literally never see the enemy. Although it’s unconventional, it’s still one of the best war films I’ve ever seen. Dunkirk is brilliant.
The film takes place out of sync. You witness things from the land, sea, and air. As the film carries on you start to put the pieces together, but you won’t know the full story till the end. On land, Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a young British soldier, is trying to reach the beach for evacuation. Along with the 400,000 other soldiers, they eagerly wait for rescue. Things aren’t that simple though, as the Germans are closing in on their location, dropping bombs on the beaches and shooting down their rescue ships. On the sea, we’re introduced to Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), and family friend George (Barry Keoghan). The navy is commandeering civilian boats to use in the rescue. They decide to take the boat out themselves to rescue the troops, knowing full well they’re going into a warzone. In the air, three spitfire pilots Farrier (Tom Hardy), Collins (Jack Lowden), and their squadron leader, are on their way to support the troops and ships under attack.
All the actors play their parts well. The standout for me being Cillian Murphy as the soldier suffering from severe PTSD. He’s stranded on a crashed plane in the ocean, when he’s picked up by Mr. Dawson. When he realizes they’re going back to Dunkirk, things take a turn for the worst for all involved. There’s so many intense moments peppered throughout that there’s never a dull moment. Each story has their own challenges, but they all kept me engaged. There’s no main character here. You just fear for everyones safety.
From a technical standpoint, Dunkirk is a masterwork. My dad was kind enough to take us to see it in IMAX, and it makes a ton of difference. The sound of the planes flying overhead. The explosions would send waves through my stomach. It’s extremely effective and immersive. If you can make the trip (I live 2 hours from an IMAX theater) or you’re not sure about spending the extra money, it’s totally worth it. You’ll get the full experience. The cinematography is gorgeous, especially the dog fights in the air. The camera spinning and following the planes is amazing. With Christopher Nolan directing, you know there’s hardly any CGI involved. This only adds to the immersion. The soundtrack by Hans Zimmer is another highlight. There’s rarely a moment that the heart beat/ticking clock stops. It heightens the tension and increases in volume as the action unfolds.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into Dunkirk. I knew it was going to have some amazing visuals, but I didn’t know how the story would play out. Christopher Nolan combines all the elements together to craft an amazing story of survival. Like ‘The Dark Knight‘, it’s a film I can see myself watching again and again. Dunkirk is one of the best films of the year. – NVJ