Written,co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan [Dark Knight Trilogy,Interstellar and Inception] and starring actors solely from the British Isles,Dunkirk is a film re-telling the famous retreat and evacuation of the British and French armies during World War 2 and the “small fleet armada” that came to their rescue.
The film itself is filmed from 3 perspectives.The sea,the air and on the beach and set over a period of a day,a hour and a week with each perspective [pay close attention to that!] taken.
The British and French troops are stranded on the beach with “the enemy” all around them [no mention of the word “Germans” in this film] and are being picked off by the “enemies” air force as they try to leave on the boats.How will the 400,000 young men get back to British shores..?
The film is a minimalistic,yet still grandiose in scale,war drama with harrowing and gut-churning music from Hans Zimmer that will have you engrossed from start to finish.The lack of jingoistic Spielberg’ion styled patriotism is a welcome relief as Nolan let’s the story unfold with steady precision as the cinematography expands on the scale of the operation in hand without letting “Hollywood” take over with chest-beating ain’t-we-great bravado..
A very strong British cast led by Tom Hardy,Fionn Whitehead,Mark Rylance and Kenneth Branagh drive the film along as the tension slowly builds bringing a claustrophobic feel to proceedings whilst the characters on the beach find a way by any means possible to get “home”.
The parts of the movie filmed from the air are visually stunning [although the RAF only have 3 planes apparently] with Tom Hardy in fine form.Kenneth Branagh’s angst ridden Admiral stranded with his men on the pier keeping the stiff upper lip with Mark Rylance’s heroic fairweather sailor and the [very small in this film] fleet of small ships heading to their rescue.
You really do have to pay close attention though as the 3 perspectives can get confusing if you don’t,for one minute it’s blue skies and calm seas then it’s night and rough seas then back to daylight with choppy waves depending on who’s perspective we are following at that point.If you don’t follow how the film is made then you are going to get very muddled and very fuddled very quickly as the film pans out in it’s majestic glory..
A stunning piece of cinema this is though and Nolan’s Finest Hour as a film-maker.it’s cinematography is some of the best ever put to the big screen and this deserves to be seen on the biggest screen you can watch it on..
There is a minimalistic use of dialogue,some characters barely say a word all film with Nolan letting their expressions do the talking for them.The stirring use of the mesmurising music in the background with the [literal] ticking clock in the background as time runs out for the 400,000 is immense and takes the breath away as you feel every moment of the struggle to get off the beach..
Are there drawbacks?
If you want a Hollywood war film like Saving Private Ryan,then this isn’t it.It’s under-stated with it’s war scenes.When they do come,it comes with depth-charged precision and hit’s the spot without going all Michael Bay boom-boom-bang or Spielberg “USA,USA,USA” or Hacksaw Ridge body parts flying everywhere on you and the fact that there is no American [they weren’t on that beach in real life] in this film is a welcome relief!
The lack of props in this film was my big problem with this film though.3 RAF planes and fewer fairweather fishing boats coming to their rescue than Porthleven harbour on a sunny Sunday morning did make this film look cheap on scale at times.CGI could have been used to greater effect here especially in the final acts of the film.A lack of an “enemy” [not called Germans,remember] on screen was also something of note,it took away what the soldiers were actually retreating from!
So,if you want something VERY British in it’s refineness and under-statement then this is it.Immerse yourself into the drama and let your senses run free with the soundtrack and enjoy one of the best war films you will see this year or any other year for that matter..
Joxer Film Rating
[it did need more props]