War movies are not my favorite. While you could say they’re usually just fact-based action films, I should like them more. So imagine my confliction when Christopher Nolan announced that his follow-up to the masterpiece headtrip Interstellar would be Dunkirk. Thankfully, not even Nolan can keep from making a Nolan film. While it may not feature any kind of twist — sticks to the facts and never goes Tarantino — he does have a few tricks up to his sleeve, making the film even more enjoyable than if it were simply another war movie. Dunkirk still is, but Nolan makes sure to keep it extremely interesting.
It’s 1940 and WWII is booming. We are split into three separate narratives focusing on different timelines of the Dunkirk evacuation where British, French, Belgian, and Canadian troops were trapped by Germany during the Battle of France.
- The Mole: One Week finds soldier Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) seeking safety on the beaches alongside British Army Private Alex (Harry Styles) while Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) tries to get as many wounded piled onto boats.
- The Sea: One Day leads us to Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), a mariner who is tasked with heading out to Dunkirk to help the trapped soldiers. Along with his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) and assistance from the young George (Barry Keoghan), they stop to rescue a Shivering Soldier (Cillian Murphy) on their way.
- The Air: One Hour whisks us into the skies with Royal Air Force pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) as he dogfights the enemy swirling the beaches.
Considering Nolan is at the helm — he wrote this one all by himself — it should come as no surprise that it’s one of the year’s absolute best. Relentless, thrilling, moving, terrifying, a technical marvel, there’s no stone left unturned. Coming up with the idea 25 years and a mere 76 pages later — this is his shortest screenplay to date — the technical prowess is astonishing. Nolan is firing on all cylinders creating a palpable sense of dread, putting viewers right in the middle of the action from the very first shot. Accolades are bound to come pouring in year end with everything from Nolan’s directing, the acting — even Styles is exceptional! — Hans Zimmer’s score, Hoyte Van Hoytema’s cinematography, Lee Smith’s razor sharp editing, right down to every other technical merit.
This is wham-bam summer spectacle at its finest. Running a mere 106 minutes shows that Nolan doesn’t have to delve into “self indulgence” to put on a grand time. While you would never call a film like Dunkirk “awesome,” it is flat out one of the most intense films of the year. Had it been any longer you’d have to check your pulse at the door. And make sure to see it on the biggest and loudest screen possible. Nolan loves his 65mm IMAX and it’s on full display here more than ever before. Most of the film is shot with IMAX cameras capturing every detail. If it happens to be feasible to see it on film it will look even better. As good as digital IMAX movies look, they always leave a little something to be desired in the visual aspect. No matter how you see it, Dunkirk will leave you breathless from the opening logo to the blackout of the end credits. Operation: Do Not Miss is in full effect!