Dunkirk (2017) : Nolan’s technical masterpiece.


Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.

Over the years Christopher Nolan has become one of the most respected directors of his time. Starting off with smaller art house films and moving into the science fiction realm, Nolan has finally challenged himself with a new spectacle for the screen. Dunkirk becomes his play on the War genre, a genre that has been regurgitated by Hollywood over the years. However, what we have here is a film that plays in its own league outside of the cliché genre. A few directors have achieved what Nolan has with Dunkirk, such as Terrance Malick’s arthouse take with The Thin Red Line and Roman Polanski’s human tale with The Pianist. Its closest comparison becomes Saving Private Ryan but the immersion that Nolan captures is one that hasn’t been done on-screen before.

My first discussion has to revolve around the visuals, earlier on in the year in my Most Anticipated movies of the year list Dunkirk sat quite high at number 7 but my only problem was the TV like visuals in its trailer. I take my comment back, the visuals in Dunkirk didn’t feel like it had a Hollywood filter. Instead we got the gritty real visuals which Nolan and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema created. They both worked together on sci-fi epic Interstellar but Dunkirk shows their diversity as they tackle the complete opposite spectrum of visuals. From the moment the film begins we are thrown into the action and as the film is split into three parts, Land, Air and Sea we are given a look at every aspect of Dunkirk.  From the bomb struck beaches as the soldiers and the audience sit on the edge of their seat waiting for the next bomber plane to fly over. The sea where ships are sinking faster than they arrive, capturing the tension of the underwater claustrophobia.  Then finally in the air giving us an almost video game like first person perspective of the spitfire plane. Creating this was a masterclass and this should be the film to get Christopher Nolan the Best Director Oscar because Dunkirk is a technical feat in immersive film making. To add to this immersion was Hans Zimmer score which begins at the start with a constant ticking sound that went through the whole film until the end. This was one of his best scores, full of dark experiment industrial sounds. What made it stand out was how well it went with the visuals, he did not create an epic war sound, instead we get a score that would be more suited to a horror film. None of Zimmer’s scores have sounded this experimental and I think that’s what makes it stand out in his large body of work.

The films weakest aspect was its script which is actually quite an odd criticism for a Nolan film which usually thrives on a smart script. There was little to no script, people barely spoke and there was a basic A – B narrative to follow for each of the films three parts. Nolan returned to his non linear storytelling and he seamlessly joined each of the parts together and when they met in the timeline it never felt disjointed. However, I wish their was more character development to flesh out the emotion for each of the films lead characters. Although, that was another problem, there was no lead character and performance wise any of the roles could have been played by any actor. The big names such as Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles seemed wasted because we didn’t get to see the bigger part of their characters. With a more fleshed out script this 105 minute film could have run for an extra hour with more development. However, I can see that this was a creative risk by Nolan so he could create this constant action and constant suspense that would have not been achievable with more character development. Dunkirk is a film like no other, not even in the war genre but any genre, it gives you a point of view aspect of the war and along with the amazing visuals and sound design you don’t just hear every bullet, you feel it. I even found myself turning my head as the spitfire spun in the air chasing the enemy. I wouldn’t call it Nolan’s best film but it is a technical achievement in film making and one that deserves its praise. This is a tale that hasn’t been told properly on the big screen and Nolan has done it justice by recreating what went on in Dunkirk all those years ago.

Final Verdict – 8.5

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