Image from ScreenrantBy Diego Coya
After a year and a half of anticipation, I have finally seen Dunkirk. Any film that Christopher Nolan directs is automatically my most anticipated film of that year. This is because Nolan is my absolute favorite director of all time. Furthermore, it’s as if any movie he releases is like a cinematic event that always pays off. Needless to say, when I heard that he was going to direct a World War II film regarding the Dunkirk Evacuation, my excitement was through the roof.
Dunkirk is based off the true story of 400,000 Allied soldiers (Belgium, French, British Empire) who were surrounded by German forces, and were trying to survive at any costs possible. These soldiers were stuck on the beaches and harbor of Dunkirk from May 26th – June 4th, 1940. Civilians had to use their boats to try to rescue these civilians, and this film is exclusively about the Dunkirk Evacuation. The film is also told in three perspectives: (Land, Sea, Air). The Land follows the story of the soldiers who were stuck on the beach, the air is about the British Air pilots trying to take down the German airplanes, and the Sea is when the viewer is watching civilians trying to rescue the soldiers.
The film is constructed in a nonlinear structure, with the land having a time structure of a week, the sea having a timing structure of a day, and the air having a time structure of an hour. Having seeing the film twice, I can say with pure confidence that Dunkirk is without question the best film of 2017. Not only is this one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, but to me, it is one of the best films of the decade so far. Dunkirk is unlike any World War II film out there; it is such a unique film, from its storytelling, non-linear structure, and originality that it has to it. You may be asking, “How can a World War II film be original?” trust me, Nolan’s vision and style is shown throughout this film.
One thing that should be noted is that despite the fact that Dunkirk takes place during World War 2, this is not a war film. This is more of a tale of survival, and how these people were struggling to survive and tried to get home as much as they can. If the viewer goes in expecting Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, or Mel Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, you may walk out very disappointed. There is also hardly any character development (more on that later), and many of the clichés the viewer naturally sees in war films is not present here. As stated before, this is unlike any World War II film there is out there.
Dunkirk has an all-star cast which includes Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, Cillian Murphy, and Kenneth Branagh. Everyone delivers a very strong performance; no one is stronger than the other, they are all top notch. This is an acting debut for both Harry Styles and Fionn Whitehead, and they were outstanding in the roles they had. The film does not have much dialogue; many of the actors convey their emotions through body language, and facial expressions every time something horrifying was going to happen. Despite the fact that there are many explosions, bullets, and airplane engines, this is kind of like a silent film in a way. I most definitely see future acting careers for both Whitehead and Styles.
Even though everyone in the cast delivered a great performance, there is no denying that the star of this movie is writer/director Christopher Nolan. Dunkirk is probably his most challenging and arguably his best directed film. The way Nolan incorporates suspense, tension, and Hans Zimmer’s brilliant and incredible score, showcases how much of a mastermind Nolan is. Nolan also used little to no CGI, Real naval destroyers were used, thousands of extras, and most of what the viewer sees is practical effects. It honestly shows how committed and dedicated Nolan was, and this is a project that he wanted to tackle on for a very long time, which explains why he made the film as realistic as he can.
For those who were worried about the film being PG-13 instead of R, those worries will leave your mind once you see the film. This is an incredibly intense film that doesn’t let you breathe for a second. Since this movie is exclusively about the event, there are no moments where characters sit around and talk about their personal lives. Every minute, any solider is in danger, and it puts the viewer is on the edge of their seat. The way to see this film is in IMAX. Because 75% of the film is filmed with IMAX cameras, and it really increases the overall experience with the film. Hans Zimmer score is one of his absolute best, it’s almost as if the score was its own character. It really helps intensify the tension in the film.
Regarding the character development, there is none of that to be found in this film. There is not even a main character, everyone gets equal billing and the movie is exclusively about the event. This might be a problem for some people because usually there’s always a scene where characters talk about their back stories and this makes the viewer connect with the characters. I never saw it as an issue because Nolan intentionally did not want to make the film about the characters, but rather about the event that happened. Dunkirk is a film about heroism, people coming together, and hope. There are so many scenes that Nolan conveys these messages which I won’t spoil here because this is a film that must be seen on the big screen.
Overall, Dunkirk is a cinematic achievement that is ambiguous, masterful, and another classic from Christopher Nolan. He managed to make a World War II that has no main character, hardly any dialogue, and a PG-13 rating work really well. Theaters are expensive, especially IMAX theaters. However, if you can see it on the big screen, I implore you to do so. I have a very strong feeling that we are going to be hearing about this until Oscar Season comes along. Expect nominations for Best Picture, Director (fingers crossed), Sound, Score, and more. I seriously cannot wait what Nolan does next, whatever it is, I will be instantaneously excited. In Nolan we trust!!!