Dunkirk (2017), Dir. Christopher Nolan

Dunkirk (2017), Dir. Christopher Nolan
Why? Why waste precious tanks when they can pick us off from the air like a fish in a barrel?
— Lieutenant-Colonel Winnant, Dunkirk (2017)

Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, James D'Arcy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, Barry Keoghan.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Screenplay: Christopher Nolan

Intensity. The first 20 minutes are the most uncomfortable that I have ever felt in the cinema (maybe next to Whiplash in regards to staying in my seat). The immersion of the action, the claustrophobia, and feeling of time and pressure reveals Nolan's ability to use pace, sound, and unreliability in the knowledge of how this film will develop. You have no idea who will survive this fish in a barrel scenario that help over 400,000 lives on a knifes edge as the enemy terrorises the men on the beach with nowhere to escape and hope for rescue.

Nolan's use of the non linear is again this film's strength. One week, one day, one hour — though to be fair I kind of forgot what the film told me at the beginning until about half way through. We experience the story from many perspectives and many intensities. We get half the story and the film finally links the end note or beginning of what we saw beforehand.

However, while the film is a masterpiece the beginning is the strongest part. That first 20 minute arch of Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) escaping the village to racing the stretcher to the ship might be one of the greatest segments in filmic history. Basically Dunkirk is Interstellar in reverse with the story's quality. Everything becomes to tell rather than show with the ambiguity of warfare setting up the expectations for the rest of the film.

For the first time World War II feels like Britain's war against the Nazis with the heroism that is usually handed to the Americans when they finally showed up to fight. The Brits were there on the battlefield holding the Nazis off and even when retreating show some of the most bravest acts we can ever expect from war. The soldiers unrelenting discipline to stand in rows and wait for the ships on the horizon; dive to the ground when the enemy strikes to only get up to stand again expect for the men who are no longer able to stand.

Hardy's (playing pilot Farrier) once again proves his ability to act through a muzzle, Fionn's ability to hold his ground against the many talented cast, Styles' (Alex) surprisingly authentic performance, to Cillian living up to his standard with the role of a man who we both empathise with and shake our head at. This cast didn't just do their jobs they exceeded their roles, they filled the shoes of these men who must have been things that we should never see. 

I was at first worried at what a Nolan WWII film would be, and I apologise to thinking he could have made a terrible war epic.

 

★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2