Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Harry Styles
Reviewed By: Adam Monks
Rating: 4/5 Cans
Dunkirk, the 10th installment of Nolan’s cinematic career, to my knowledge is the first non-fiction piece he’s taken on. A fact that immediately intrigued me, because while he is an exceptional film maker, and continues to be with Dunkirk, I was worried that we won’t get a mind-bending concept to play with for 2 hours like we have with his last few films (Interstellar, Inception). So what he’s left with is a perfect, raw and real portrayal of a concept we all know but rarely understand properly War. Which is a bit of a turn in the other direction of what we’re used to seeing.
So Dunkirk does an amazing job of showing the frightening realities of trying to just survive a war, but the layer that really brings this into immersive territory is the sound. From every bullet fired to each shell that falls, this film gives full sensory priority to the sound. I swear to every god, the first time the beach gets bombed by planes scared the shit out of me. The camera switches to a close shot of a nameless soldier who just lies and waits to be hit. It shook the chair under me with each explosion, slowly zooming in and cutting off my view of the path of destruction put me completely in his shoes just waiting for the next one to hit me. I’ve never seen a bomb scene like this before, and it doesn’t stop there, relentless, powerful and thundering is the only way I can describe each battle scene in Dunkirk.
This isn’t really a film about war; it details some of the strategies of clearing the beach at Dunkirk, but really that’s where the history and politics end and the theme comes through. Dunkirk, is about survival, and in Dunkirk: Survival isn’t fair, it’s brave. It follows three different groups of people working to leave, travels to, and defend the beach. Which is a nice way to show the different approaches to survival and bravery in the war- we have the soldiers who are hiding to survive the beach, the pilots who are defending themselves and beach to survive and the civilians who are trying to keep the army alive. Also, anyone with a fear of drowning shouldn’t see a second of this! I’m not overly scared of boats or drowning, but I was for about 8 hours after seeing this. That said, this is a whole new approach to filming battle scenes, putting you in the shoes of the soldiers who just can’t ever really feel safe.
It wouldn’t be a Nolan film without some novel storytelling going on. In this film he experiments with time here, the stories don’t run in unison and time is not linear. So you see a week of the soldier’s adventure, 2 days of the civilian’s and only a few hours of the fighter pilot. I found this a bit hard to get my head around though; it wasn’t until half way through where I realised the night/day cutscenes weren’t glaring continuity errors but just the different stories changing.
There’s a nice subtle addition to show bravery and the idea that it was a combined effort of each soldier in their own way that none of them (bar Tom Hardy) has a name in this film. They are never referred to by their name or even bother to introduce themselves to each other when they find someone else clinging to wreckage in the beach, which is a scary thing to see someone do, they’ve all accepted their fate.
You have to admire the production in Dunkirk, the shell scenes and the dog fighting is breathtaking. It’s not his best film (cue the diehards now to shit all over the comment section) but it’s still a great, immersive adventure story.