Following in the footsteps of cerebral, visual and aural masterpieces such as Inception and Interstellar, Christopher Nolan certainly had a lot of expectations riding on his able shoulders when he conceived Dunkirk. While not as cerebrally appealing – due largely to meticulous depiction of realism and pertinence to actual events – Dunkirk surpasses its legendary predecessors in sheer suspense, thrill and edge-of-your-seat excitement.
For those of you who are unaware, the Battle of Dunkirk was a four day struggle for survival of roughly 400,000 Allied soldiers in the small town of Dunkirk, France, while British navy and civilian boats attempted to rescue them from certain death at German hands. From the opening shot to the end, the movie Dunkirk is less of a roller-coaster ride that we have come to expect of a formulaic modern Hollywood and more of perpetual rushes of suspense combined with extremes of the human condition.
There’s very little in the way of dramatic acting – the events themselves provide the drama. That being said, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and even Harry Styles, (in)famous for having been a part of teen band One Direction, put up solid performances. With a riveting screenplay and excellent direction to back them up, the cast made good use of an excellent opportunity.
What really sets this movie apart is the visuals. A combination of CGI combined with incredible editing and truly marvelous cinematography, Christopher Nolan outdoes his previous masterpieces with Dunkirk. Granted, there are no 10000-foot waves or bending-onto-itself cities, but the liberal use of spectacular aerial shots, incredibly scripted and filmed dogfights, magnificent attention to detail and meticulous colour grading make this a veritable treat for the eyes. This is compounded by the almost painfully realistic portrayal of the jarring paranoia of such a situation.
Although a brutal and haunting account of the horrors, trauma, and claustrophobia of the unique incident, it manages to depict the story without tagging along the blood and gore we have come to expect from war epics. It does so instead with the sound and soundtrack – the former ranging from staccatos of gunfire combined with the visceral thud of bullets hitting their targets to the harrowing screeches of diving Stukas, and the latter from a violently fast cascade of the heavier strings to the ominous countdown of a figurative time bomb. The movie is a true assault on the ears and not for people who are looking for a somber, moody war movie.
Personally speaking, it’s been a while since I’ve seen something so grand in scale and emotion without going over the top. The most interesting thing about the movie is something that I will not reveal to you, but you will yourself understand once the credits roll. Once you realise it, you will be wowed by the execution of the idea. It truly is an aficionado’s feast.
If you love movies, go watch Dunkirk.