I’ve never reviewed a film before and I don’t think of myself as a film critic, but in this case I think an exception can be made.
I recently saw the film Dunkirk, directed by Christopher Nolan, which I have been excited about for a long time. I had high expectations because of some of the other films Nolan has made, like Inception and The Dark Knight Trilogy (also Interstellar but I haven’t gotten around to seeing that). A brilliant director combined with a World War II story is the perfect combination for me, so I was really hyped up about this movie. My expectations were not only met but exceeded in every sense.
The story is about the British evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940. The Germans had rolled through France with relative ease and risked trapping the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. The BEF found themselves with their backs to the sea in the port town of Dunkirk in the north of France, with home being just over the horizon. Around 400,000 soldiers were trapped on the beach, with evacuation via warships being hindered by the shallow waters of Dunkirk and attacks from German dive-bombers and U-Boats. The situation being dire, the signal was given out to civilian vessels to aid the rescue. Hundreds of fishing boats, luxury yachts, steamers, and ferries crossed the English Channel to come to the rescue of the BEF. Initially the British only expected to only evacuate between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers, but they were able to evacuate almost 350,000. This brought the British back from the brink of defeat, and allowed them to successfully defend themselves in the later Battle of Britain, and eventually go back on the offensive in 1944 with the Normandy Landings. The evacuation of Dunkirk was one of the pivotal moments of the Second World War, and a different outcome would have changed the course of history.
Such an important story is hard to effectively convey in film, but Nolan does it masterfully. The film is divided into three storylines that cover different amounts of time; the evacuation on the beaches which spans a week, the efforts at sea which spans a day, and the efforts of the Royal Air Force which spans an hour. The three storylines all intertwine and reveal different aspects of the story at different times, eventually all coming together. This strategy of storytelling serves incredibly well, with events that have been portrayed on screen before suddenly becoming the center of scenes.
Another unique approach Nolan took is how he handles the characters and dialogue. There is very little dialogue in the film, you don’t get to learn much about the characters, there are a few characters who were center-screen that I couldn’t tell you the names of, which sounds weird and confusing but works out pretty well. The lack of dialogue is filled with the spectacular soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, and the huge imposing sounds in the movie. You will be on the edge of your seat throughout the film as you are surrounded by the sounds of screaming dive-bombers, twisting steel, and thunderous explosions. I haven’t gotten to see it in IMAX yet (as it is intended to be viewed), but I’m certain that experiencing it in that format will be mind-blowing.
I personally give Dunkirk a 10/10, I think it is a masterfully done film that captures the suspense and emotion of one of the most pivotal moments in modern history. Christopher Nolan hits it out of the park with this one, I cannot recommend it more.