Film Review | Dunkirk

Hope is a weapon, Survival is victory

Fionn Whitehead in Dunkirk (2017)

Director: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Harry Styles

Genre: Action/Drama

Release Date: July 21st 2017

Certificate: 12A

With the battle for France almost lost, over 300,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers are left trapped like fish in a barrel on the beaches of Dunkirk as the German’s slowly close in around them, with not enough ships, planes or time to get them all home, a call goes out for home to come for them.

Kenneth Branagh and James D'Arcy in Dunkirk (2017)

For some reason unbeknownst to even myself, I had put off watching Dunkirk despite buying it on Blu-Ray the day it was released, but with today being the anniversary of the evacuations, I finally forced myself to watch and now I’m mad at myself for not sitting down to enjoy it sooner.

Nolan is known for making beautiful and thought-provoking movies, with Interstellar and the Batman trilogy being personal favourites of mine, so when I first discovered he was making his first film based on true events and that it would be the portraying the miracle that took place on the beaches of Dunkirk, it made me very intrigued, to say the least, after all, it was hard to see how he could make one of the allies biggest military disasters into a compelling movie, but somehow he managed it.

Dunkirk is one of Nolans shortest films to date, but this actually works to the film advantage as all the filler you get with most war movies have been stripped away, it starts off with the battle raging and end with it still going on, there’s no let-up and feels like one long action scene split between the land, sea and air.

That isn’t the only aspect that you get in most war films that you don’t find in Dunkirk, another is the lack of the cliche ‘girl back home’ conversations, at no point does the cast sit around talking about what their families, where they are from or what they will do when they get home, this is something that has seemingly divided the audience, with some missing the character development, but I feel it makes the film more realistic, after all, the characters are trapped on a beach, fighting to get home with an enemy slowly closing in, they would have only one thought and that’s to survive, not make friends.

Because of this, you get a very tense and suspenseful film, in which every character is in perpetual danger and you’re never 100% sure of anyone’s safety until the very end of the film, this is also partly due to Nolan’s excellent use of time jumps, which although confusing to start off with, once you know that the land (One week), sea (One day) and air (One hour) are three different timelines that each intertwine at different points in the film and you might see the same sequence of events play out multiple time from different points of view and the effects it has on each of the timelines and just how far people will go to survive.

When it comes to the performances, they too feel more realistic than you get in most war films, there isn’t a great amount of dialogue but what we are treated too is acted incredibly well, with the three de facto leads Rylance, Hardy and Whitehead all depicting their roles excellently and pushing their stories along at the perfect pace, though I am getting a little concerned that Nolan plans to put Hardy in a mask for all the films they do together.

My favourite aspect, however, is the truly beautiful cinematography, something that Nolan has become an expert at achieving, but unlike with interstellar and Batman films, this time the visuals are more simplistic and understated, but this doesn’t mean that is any less visually stimulating, with beautiful shots and sequences throughout, the dogfights involving Spitfires and German fighters and bombers being a particular delight, with the adrenaline and suspense combining to produce really exciting sequences.

Dunkirk is a beautifully shot and emotional masterpiece, that builds the suspense from the first minute to the last, Christopher Nolan has outdone himself and it’s no wonder that it has been called one of the best war films ever made (Which gives me an idea for a list to compile)

If you liked: Saving Private Ryan, A Bridge Too Far, The Dam Busters.


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