Dunkirk is a Victory On All Fronts- Spoiler Free Movie Review
Christopher Nolan has made a name for himself over the years with his intense visual style, a unique approach to world building and his ability to tell a compelling story. His impressive film resume includes many of my personal favorites, including: Memento, The Dark Knight trilogy, Interstellar, Inception and more. His latest movie, Dunkirk, is a cinematic triumph and tops this list of my favorites, at least of 2017, if not of all time. It is a visually stunning experience that turns its focus from the broad, spectacle of war to the intense, personal experiences of the English and the French soldiers. Dunkirk is based on the true story about the evacuation of British soldiers from the small French, coastal town in which the movie gets it's name. Click here to learn more about this historical event from the History Channel. For those who are expecting to see a bloody, violent, WW2 action movie, this might not be the experience for you. While yes it is indeed violent and has no lack of action, it isn't Saving Private Ryan and you won't see people cut in half trying to pull their innards back into their body.
Dunkirk is a unique type of war film, mostly for the way it is told. The story is an interwoven tapestry of experiences from the four different perspectives including the pilots, ground troops, civilians, and officers. The plot is driven through character actions rather than dialogue and exposition. In fact, most of the movie has no dialogue at all, which I really appreciated. What more can be said that what we, the audience, aren't able to defer from the expressions on the faces of these people as they struggle to survive this horrific event. This silence is a very powerful tool in the the way this movie develops. It allows the viewer to interpret and feel what is happening rather than be told exactly how to experience this story. These thoughtful silences coupled with the remarkable cinematography, audio engineering, attention to historic detail and Hanz Zimmer's breath-taking score are together a work of cinematic art. The long, purposeful cuts, dynamic set pieces and the fluid, emotional score created a sense of immersion and really made you share in the feelings of fear, claustrophobia and hopelessness that the characters are confronted with. Nolan even went as far as using authentic props, practical effects and even filmed the movie on 70mm to ensure the impactfulness of this project.
Normally in reviews I like to highlight the cast and characters, or at least those who I thought stood out. Dunkirk, and the performances within, relies heavily on the symbiosis of each individual to carry the story. The cast includes several recognizable names like Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles and Kenneth Branagh (Gildory Lockhart,) but it would do an injustice to this movie to say that they were the most important. Several lesser known actors occupy much more screen time than Tom or Cillian yet their contribution is just as notable. The best way to explain Dunkirk is that it is an experience. I've said it a few times already but it feels like the most honest description. I was lucky enough to see this with my grandfather who was just fourteen during the actual battle. When we left the theater he described the movie as "Unusual but it showed you what the war was really like." I would highly recommend seeing this on the big screen, or Imax to see it as Nolan intended. I end my review with this quote from Winston Churchill and his thoughts on the evacuation of Dunkirk.
“We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” - Winston Churcill