FIVE STARS Christopher Nolan's epic masterpiece captures the days leading up to the evacuation of Dunkirk.
Starring Fionn Whitehead and Kenneth Brannagh
Christopher Nolan’s masterclass in filmmaking restores faith in an industry bedevilled by overwrought blockbusters (I’m looking at you, Marvel Studios). Which is not to say that DUNKIRK isn’t a blockbuster in its own right – this is the kind of movie that delivers the same action-packed drama and formidable intensity of any FURIOUS franchise. But it does so with the containment of 1970’s classicism that makes the experience more real, more heartfelt, more harrowing – more restrained - than its contemporary ilk.
That’s if a relentless, anxiety-inducing fight for freedom could ever be considered ‘restrained’. Think the first 20 minutes of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN extended for two hours. It leaves your heart hammering; from the opening shot (pun intended) in which a young soldier is under fire in the streets of Dunkirk, Nolan doesn’t let up. The boy is hoping to reach his countrymen on the beach from which they’re being evacuated back to England. On the other side of the channel, a day sailor and his son have answered Churchill’s call to mount a flotilla and rescue thousands of men trapped by the Nazi’s. It’s one of World War 2’s greatest stories, and DUNKIRK is one of the greatest films made about World War 2.
The magic rests squarely in Nolan’s soundscape. It is punishing, frightening, upsetting; an industrial score that captures the escalating heartbeat of visceral fear at being shot, of being captured, of being killed that fills each and every moment of this movie. A well equipped cinema drops you in the middle of the chaos like no other war film has ever done. It is distressing, to say the very least. Of course, that's the point.
DUNKIRK is the natural extension of all that came before - the methodical narrative work of MEMENTO, the thrilling set pieces of INCEPTION to the vivid characterisation of THE DARK KNIGHT. With Nolan's command of camera, narrative and cast (each of whom is superb), all these elements bond together to create a masterpiece.