Film Review: Dunkirk
Fret not, as Christopher Nolan is at the top of his game is his latest war drama epic.
Anticipation can be a gift or a curse in the film industry. If there is too much ‘hype’ surrounding a movie, it can collapse under the weight of the audience’s expectation. On the contrary, go to a film blind and you’ll often come out pleasantly surprised. But throw in a director with a track record as strong as Christopher Nolan’s, and literally everyone is expecting a masterpiece, especially when it’s had the kind of glowing reviews Dunkirk has garnered since the previews earlier this week.
Thankfully, his latest film proves that Nolan’s work will always be something to look forward to, no matter how great the expectation.
The infamous evacuation of Allied Troops on the beaches of Dunkirk during World War II is a harrowing story, and Nolan expertly captures it through three perspectives – the mole, the sea and the air – with each played out through different passages of time. This structure allows Dunkirk to move along at breakneck speed, with the audience constantly bombarded with intense scenes of suspense, action and glimmers of hope.
We’re thrown in at the deep end straight off the bat and from there on, we’re shown each character’s struggle for survival. Throughout its 106-minute runtime, we’re given stunning imagery of the scale of the 400,000 soldier evacuation, but also intimate shots of the soldiers showcasing their despair.
While still a war film, Dunkirk is less about fighting the enemy and more about the act of escape, and how testing it is to hang on to any sliver of hope. This is a side of war that hasn’t been portrayed enough, as it skips any kind of build-up and delivers a relentless experience that masterfully mimics exactly what the characters are going through. Each thump of a rifle being fired or roar from an approaching bomber had me buried in my seat, fearing for the imminent danger the soldiers faced. This is largely thanks to the superb sound design and brilliant soundtrack which are the real stars in the movie, overtaking the little dialogue characters have between each other.
But dialogue isn’t needed, as the looks of acknowledgments or actions between the characters is enough to understand their feelings. There aren’t any emotional scenes where characters express in words the horrors of war – they are still living it – the time for reflection will come later. And while big names such as Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and (randomly) Harry Styles are riddled throughout, they’re purely cast because they have the right faces for the role. Don’t get me wrong, every actor is brilliant, but characterisation isn’t what Dunkirk focuses on. And that’s a good thing, as it transcends the thought of “*insert actor* performance was amazing,”… giving it that horrifying sense of realism.
At a point it can get a little tiring seeing one tense scene after another, especially when it quickly transitions into a perspective that isn’t as interesting as what is happening in another. However, just when I thought Nolan was losing his audience with ‘the air’ segment, he pulls back from it and gives audiences more of what they want.
If you’re looking for a war film fix, stunning cinematography and masterfully crafted action, look no further. Expectations? Don’t worry about them, as Dunkirk is one of those must-see experiences.