Christopher Nolan, acclaimed director of genre movies, brings us a war movie based on true events for the first time. For those of you who may not know, Dunkirk is a story of allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France, surrounded by the German army, being evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II. Read my review…I don’t even know where to start with this one. This story is a very intense part of history, being told by one of the best film director working today. Christopher Nolan has made comic book movies dark, gritty and brooding with The Dark Knight trilogy; he has made travelling through space and time into a compelling story with Interstellar; he has even made the idea of a dream within a dream, within a dream into a gripping and epic movie with Inception. So when he decides to take on a war story based on true events, my expectations were extremely high. Check out the trailer…
Dunkirk is a monumental piece of filmmaking. This is one of the most intense movies you will watch. Nolan manages to portray the sheer terror of war through a very interesting storytelling device by telling the story the perspective of what was happening on land, sea and air. These three perspectives unfolding over different spans of time and converging at the final hour helps ramp up the tension and literally had me on the edge of my seat.
Hans Zimmer’s outstanding sound design and score play a crucial part in building the tension and solidifying the idea of time running out for these soldiers to escape. Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography is absolutely gorgeous; every frame is painstakingly detailed.
The most interesting part of this story for me was Nolan’s choice to not give any backstory to any of the characters. I realised this about 20 minutes into the movie and thought it would be a problem; I was completely wrong. The behaviours of every character feel very realistic considering the situation they find themselves in. In fact, the lack of any back story made them more relatable because I didn’t have any preconceived notions about how they would behave and I think it allows the audience to project their own interpretation of fear in war. Regardless of their rank and experience, everyone is in this situation together, everyone is absolutely terrified and are having to dig deep to be brave and continue in their pursuit of finding a way home.
Overall, Nolan showcases the sheer terror of war on screen through the use of breathtaking visuals and the ticking countdown of time with tense sound design. We are treated to rip roaring scenes of conflict interjected with beautiful, small human moments. This isn’t a conventional story of glorious victory; this is a story of retreat. As you hear in the trailer, this is a “colossal military disaster”. But Nolan manages to depict the terrifying forces of combat as well as the bravery and kindness of those who survived.
My score: 5/5 – By far the intense movie I have watched this year. I watched this 3 days ago and my heart rate still goes up when I think about the movie.
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