Dunkirk

 Dunkirk

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%                                                            Empire: 5 Stars

 What has the director done before?
Christopher Nolan is one of the most illustrious directors of our time and with his new film, Dunkirk he has solidified his place in the Hollywood hills with the likes of Spielberg, Scorsese and Burton. A place that is rightly earned, while Spielberg might have ruled the late 80’s and the 90’s Nolan has been the director of the 00’s incrementally getting better and raking in more cash after each film. Nolan is probably most known for directing the Batman Dark Night Trilogy (Batman Begins, The Dark Night, The Dark Night Rises) which had a box office taking of $1.2 Billion dollars which has aided in making him one of the highest grossing directors in history. Before Dunkirk he most recently directed the space and time Odyssey Interstellar and the dream bender Inception, his films have the ability to capture the minds and the wallets of the people.

Christopher Nolan has to be commended for his earlier hits which demonstrated his ability to tackle various film genres for example films like Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige all deserve to be re-watched. There is a particular style of Nolan’s films, his films are always mildly surreal but are always displayed with a touch of realism, the minimal use of special effects makes his films very realistic and also very expensive to make. This attention and specificity to detail and realism in both the characters and the worlds which they inhabit are what makes his films so enthralling. Nolan’s movies are almost scientific in their explanation of storyline that you always believe that they could or did happen.

Was it as good as the critics say?
As expected critics are raving about the film, with some calling it Nolan’s best work being a visionary and technical masterpiece and there isn’t much denying that. Dunkirk was shot using IMAX cameras and was released in three different formats (IMAX, 70 mm and 35 mm film) and had a fantastic array of aerial sequences prompting critics to call it one of the greatest war films ever made. This is where the hype train needs to slow down with films like Dunkirk it is too easy for critics and audiences to jump on and a year later no one will be talking about the movie. Dunkirk probably isn’t the greatest war film ever made (yes, I said it) but it does offer an interesting perspective on the war as it focuses more on the soldiers and civilians experience rather than the battles themselves. Emotional and realistic story lines are something that can get lost in the violence, gore and patriotic music of traditional war movies.

Something to keep in mind is that a good judge of a film is by how re-watchable it is to the audience, think about Titanic it is 3 hours long yet people watch it over and over again. Titanic has an intangible allure in story and vision that keeps you coming back for more, with Dunkirk. However, I was quite satisfied with the first viewing but wonder when I will watch it again.

Who gave the best performance?
Dunkirk is made up of small stories of heroism and struggle during the evacuation period of Dunkirk in 1940 with the older actors such as Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance each having their separate story lines.  It is hard to put a spot line on one performance as they were all great as the film had minimal dialogue a significant portion of the movie was communicated through expression and action rather than words, so it takes a good set of actors to display a story without the words.

The established actors are supported by younger talent, such as Fionn Whitehead who plays Tommy who is the first soldier we are introduced to at the beginning of the film and whose storyline the film focuses on the most. Dunkirk marks the acting debut of Harry Styles who plays a frustrated soldier Alex on a mission to get off the beach, Harry Styles does a great job, but it is hard to detach the idea of Harry Styles the pop star from the character which makes his casting mildly distracting.

Watch in the cinema or watch on DVD?
Christopher Nolan is not a big fan of Netflix and is a staunch supporter of theatrical releases and films being shown in large screen cinemas, hence shooting Dunkirk with IMAX cameras. Dunkirk, more than any other film, was made specifically for the cinema screen so unless you have an in-home cinema you should probably watch it in the cinema where you can experience the film as the director intended in all its visual glory.

Could it have been better?
It would be tough to find fault with Dunkirk, the different interwoven human storylines make it an emotional journey and visually you are transported to Dunkirk with the cold grey clouds and sea, soldiers dying as they try to escape, it is hard not to feel miserable. This is a very British war film missing the gung-ho of Saving Private Ryan which perhaps is a good thing, and maybe I am conditioned to the Americanised war films, but a pinch of gung-ho ness might have added an extra layer of depth to the movie, but also may have distracted from the story.

 

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