A CAPTIVATING AND POWERFUL WAR SPECTACLE AND SATISFYING RETURN TO TRADITIONAL CHRISTOPHER NOLAN FARE!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: **** out of 4
WARNER BROS. PICTURES
When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk
Director, Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, Interstellar) steps outside his usual sci-fi exposition territory and goes to the dramatic and intense times of war in his latest film, Dunkirk. Imagine Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan or Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor except very trimmed down in runtime, focused completely on this one moment all throughout the film, and with practical effects and production design so realistic it feels like you’re watching a war happen…that’s this movie and it’s amazing.
The movie wasn’t at all what I was expecting because Christopher Nolan is usually known for long and heavily character driven and exposition filled narrative films. Dunkirk feels like the complete opposite, clocking in under two hours and focusing on the impact and horror of being trapped in the middle of a war with very little dialogue.
The film chronicles the evacuation of 400,000 men stuck in the middle of World War II who in every second are in danger of being eliminated by the Germans through three major threads that cover different periods of time and location, on land, at sea, and in the air. The movie shows the soldiers trying to get off the shore, the civilians who got in their own boats to help them, and the stories of how these men did everything they could to survive.
While the movie doesn’t exactly focus on characters it features Fionn Whitehead (HIM), Tom Glynn-Carney (Casualty, Peter Pan, The Ferryman), Jack Lowden (The Passing Bells, Tommy’s Honour, A United Kingdom), Harry Styles (The X Factor, Saturday Night Live), Aneurin Barnard (Hunky Dory, The Truth About Emanuel, The Devil’s Harvest), James D’Arcy (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Hitchcock, Agent Carter), Barry Keoghan (Life’s a Breeze, Stay, Mamma!), Kenneth Branagh (The Road to El Dorado, Thor, Cinderella (2015)), Cillian Murphy (Cold Mountain, In the Heart of the Sea, Free Fire), Mark Rylance (The Gunman, Bridge of Spies, The BFG), and Tom Hardy (Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road) portraying various people involved in the war. This may be a turn-off point for some viewers but it’s more of an experience and depiction of the Dunkirk evacuation in its entirety without the need of focusing on a select few characters throughout the entire movie.
The flight sequences and production design for this movie are absolutely stunning and it’s all practical, not a single computer or digital effect used and honestly, it’s more impressive when something is actually filmed in front of the camera rather than a computer effect added in later. However, what really makes Dunkirk’s action sequences and effects truly shine is that none of them were executed like movie effects and they look frighteningly realistic.
The explosions don’t look like Michael Bay fireworks or any generic movie explosion, the gun bullets aren’t like movie bullets, the torpedoes and missiles aren’t like movie missiles; they all look authentic and probably very close to how it all went down in World War II. In my opinion, this is everything Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor isn’t, a captivating and authentic depiction of war and the impact it has on people, no half-ass Titanic love story, no historical inaccuracies, no blowing $%^& up just for the hell of it, none of that garbage.
Dunkirk could very well be my second favorite Christopher Nolan movie after The Dark Knight, I already declared it the best film he’s directed since that movie. That’s right folks; better than Inception, better than The Dark Knight Rises, and better than Interstellar, it encompasses everything a great war movie should have and everything that makes Christopher Nolan a great filmmaker…without the sore butt cheeks from sitting in the movie seats for a near three hours.
If you’re a fan of Christopher Nolan and/or movies about war then Dunkirk is definitely worth your time and money to see on the largest movie screen you have whether you have IMAX, 70mm, or any of those other large formats, this movie was made for those types of screens. And I can guarantee you’ll have a thrilling and emotional ride of spectacle and drama, well done Nolan.