Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Jack Lowden, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, and Tom Glynn-Carney.
Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
The evacuation of Dunkirk is one of the most momentous events in history, let alone World War II. The way director Christopher Nolan treats the subject matter is with incredible respect, never glorifying the situation with lots of violence or explosions. Rather, he lets the intensity of the film build and speak for itself, immersing the audience in the tension throughout the film.
Right from the very first frame, Dunkirk doesn’t let go of the tension. Instead of having a load of exposition, it places the audience right in the middle of the situation with the basic understanding that the British and French forces are surrounded by the Germans, cut off from support and backed into a corner with little means of escape. From there, it’s a pulse-pounding and emotional film that only breaks from the anxiousness for the briefest of scenes.
The film moves along at a brisk pace and no scene feels out of place or unneeded. Nolan tells three separate stories in a non-linear frame that connect only due to the circumstances of the evacuation. Nolan plays around with the timeline of the film, jumping back and forth at appropriate points to the different stories, but tells it in a very compelling and coherent manner. Figuring out the timeline isn’t as confusing as, say, Nolan’s Memento or Inception, for example.
There is also very little dialogue in Dunkirk. In place of spoken words, the film relies on the actor’s facial expressions and body language to really sell the film and their characters journeys. It’s impressive how much the cast is able to convey with so little dialogue, but Hans Zimmer’s score is a character unto itself, adding to the pressure and emotion throughout. The ticking clock featured in the film is much like Zimmer’s ‘Why So Serious?’ from The Dark Knight, letting the tension creep up on the audience.
Of the cast, Nolan gives equal time to each of the core characters we come to know. This is a true ensemble piece where they all matter. Mark Rylance’s Mr. Dawson, one of the civilian ship captains, is perhaps the anchor to the film, being the calm focal point compared to the rest of the characters. Tom Hardy also impresses as a fighter pilot, once again relying one his facial expressions for a role with few lines said behind a mask, and Fionn Whitehead similarly is great as the solider Tommy, relying on his emotions to carry the performance. One Direction’s Harry Styles even gave an impressive performance in the screen time he had.
One of the best aspects of Dunkirk that will be sure one of the most talked about is the cinematography. Dunkirk is a beautiful film from start to finish, giving a great sense of scope to the danger and desperation of the evacuation. The landscape shots over the sea are fantastic, but for those wondering about the action, Nolan has it covered as well. There is quite an intensity to the scenes where boats are sinking and this film probably has one of the most realistic aerial dogfights ever filmed for a war movie. If you have the chance to see it in IMAX, or 70mm IMAX, take it. The sound and picture quality on the IMAX screen is breathtaking, pulling you right into thick of it.
Dunkirk has the potential to be the film of the year thanks to Nolan’s direction, the cast’s performances and the cinematography. Not to sound pretentious, but this is a true film, one made to pull the audience in from the striking visuals and score, especially if seen on the IMAX screen. The emotion delivered feels true and earned, as does the tenseness of the film. Dunkirk nails it on all fronts.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★