Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Harry Styles, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy
Run Time: 1h 46min
Genre: Action, Drama, History
5 Frames out of 5
By: Shari K. Green
I think that with Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan, writer/director of such outstanding films as Memento, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar, will finally get his Best Director Oscar Nomination, if not win. He could possibly capture gold from the Academy for Best Screenplay, as well. This is a near perfect film. It’s hard to find a flaw in the presentation of its visuals and its sound. To find something, one would have to be really digging for it and if you are, you’re certainly missing the entire point of this beautifully crafted piece. Dunkirk is meant to enlighten you as to what people will do to help one another endure when pushed to the brink of survival; even if they themselves don’t make it. People were willing to risk their lives to be sure others survived at Dunkirk. These people were just every day British citizens and those they were rescuing were the 400,000 British soldiers, trapped on a beach in France just over twenty miles from the shores of England. I knew nothing of their heroism but it is well displayed here and the only way to see how and why they were so desperately needed and welcomed is at your nearest IMAX theatre; THIS I can’t stress enough.
The story centers around three different points of view of this agonizing situation; by land, by air and by sea. Prepare yourself because shortly after the opening, the story and the accompanying music is relentless as it crescendos to a crowning finish. You’ll be clutching your seat and biting your lip watching these poor souls do whatever it takes to live through the night. Tom Hardy is a pilot with an eagles eye look on the entire goings on. It was interesting seeing a war film from this perspective and, once again as he did with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, he’s able to suck you into his character with just his eyes since his face is covered with an oxygen mask the entire time.
On the land portion, you’re with the most vulnerable in the attack; the soldiers who are stuck with nowhere to go. These men are the last chance England has of fending off the advancing attack from the Germans. If they fall they’ll lose the war. Had things not happened the way they did, the history books would read very differently right now. German soldiers are moving in on the town on one side of the beach. The British and French soldiers are dodging their bullets to get to the beach where they are hoping to get onto a ship to sail to England. The trouble here is that the ships can’t get to them because the water is too shallow. With no other choice but wait, they are also having bombs dropped on them from the German Air force. They are bona fide sitting ducks. The cast of young actors, Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles among them, do a fine job of expressing fear as well as the spirit of duty to their homeland. You will weep when you put yourself in their place, which you can’t help but do. In the opening scene alone it becomes hard to peg this a Drama or an Action film. The two genres work together from there to move you and they never stop their assault.
On the sea, you meet a few of the heroes who volunteer their vessel and their time to bring the boys home. Mark Rylance does a beautiful job of explaining to his sons, and to one soldier he rescues, why it’s important that they go to Dunkirk. It’s their duty. The way he said the word Dunkirk still rings in my ears… the speech was so filled with passion.
What Christopher Nolan did so well to bring this true story to life was to, basically, keep it as simple as possible so that the important and more meaningful events stood out most. There was no narrative or unnecessary scenes explaining who the people in the film were. There was no need to overwhelm you or pollute the screen with names, dialogue, back stories and plotlines that led you anywhere but on that day, on that beach, in that ocean or looking down on it all. This also keeps you in their skin and involved in their conflict at all times, maneuvering the plane, running from the bombs and dodging the bullets. When you see the boats come for them, you’ll remember the tag line on the poster that says, ‘When 400,000 men couldn’t get home, home came for them’ and a shiver will run down your spine. Just try not to cry along with Kenneth Branagh who, if you didn’t love before this, you will after. Enjoy the film and remember, don’t cheat yourself out of seeing this on an IMAX screen; the way it was meant to be seen.