Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Nobody. An ensemble cast that included Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance
Dunkirk is, in my opinion, yet another masterpiece from mastermind Christopher Nolan. Dunkirk tells the story of a group of allied soldiers from Belgium, France, and the British Empire. When they find themselves surrounded by the German army on the beaches of Dunkirk, the film follows the story of the evacuation of 400,000 during the early stages of World War II. Boasting an incredible cast, Christopher Nolan allows his players to internalize the fear and emotion, and allow them to express it in the most aromatic and penetrating demeanor’s. As Tommy, Fionn Whitehead makes an astounding mark in his feature film debut. With no true lead in the movie, his point of view is often a crutch for the audience to rest upon, as his internalization of the character is one of the film’s most pivotal high points. It is gripping from its very opening moments, in which we see soldiers getting picked off by invisible snipers in the middle of the titular town as propaganda flyers shower from overhead, announcing to the British, French, Canadian, Belgian and Dutch troops that they are hopelessly penned in by the Germans. From here the story spends very little time explaining the war, time and place of the war or even strategies towards fighting it. We are introduced to three sets of characters that are all bound by one similar task. Getting off the beach, trying to help get the soldiers off the beach and protecting both the soldiers on the beach as well as the rescue missions headed for that beach.
The film is told from 3 perspectives non chronologically. It superbly tackles the narrative and the non linear story doesn’t at all pull you away from the intensity of the events happening on screen. The movie brilliantly projects the feeling of each and every soldier on the beach to the audience. Confusion, turmoil and fear. The cinematography was breathtaking and I felt anxious throughout most of the run time. There is no lead in this film and I can’t really say anyone stuck out as giving a brilliant performance because it wasn’t needed.
The biggest criticisms of Dunkirk that I’ve heard of so far are that the characters are lacking in depth and that we aren’t given anything to be invested in them. I feel like Nolan was trying (successfully) to make the audience care for each and every one of the men on the beach. He needed to have some form of “main characters” to be in the story so that we can see the events unfold from the direct perspective of all of the soldiers. What any of the “main characters” felt, every other soldier felt. Nolan resorted more to film-making techniques to tell the story rather than dialogue and that is why some people might have had a problem with the lack of character depth. Realistically though, this type of terrible event wouldn’t be a place for someone to “develop” as a character but rather a event where men came together in the common goal of survival, and Nolan showed that perfectly. The sea battle is also done very well from a technical perspective. We get a sense of the claustrophobia of being aboard ship, the shell-shock and the terror of a watery death, especially when combined with lit gasoline. Mark Rylance’s quiet earnestness as a civilian sailor sailing to Dunkirk with his son – the quiet communication between the two of them with glances – the profound sympathy toward Cillian Murphy’s traumatized rescued RAF pilot is the best job of acting in the film. Major credit to Tom Hardy as well for being a true actor. He didn’t worry about not showing his face for 95% of his scenes nor was he concerned with the minimal dialogue for his character as many of Hollywoods leading men would. Yet he delivered a very solid performance that held you on edge of your seat in every one of his scenes.
This film is my favorite of the year. I highly recommend it and recommend seeing it in IMAX !!
9 out of 10