We’ve come so far into the art of cinema that it often passes over us how magical a theatre experience can be. We live in a world in which the quality technical aspects of film are a given. So when a film is able to be a completely visceral experience, it is something that will be remembered for decades to come.
Dunkirk is Christopher Nolan’s latest film, and it tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. It is, without a doubt, a film that is nothing short of a spectacle.
Dunkirk does not waste any time. From the start, it gets going and it grips you right onto it. The editing of this film deserves immense credit, because the way the story itself is told can be a complete muddle if not told properly, and yet the film is so masterfully edited that it is just perfect.
The story of this movie is told from three perspectives. On the land, there are Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles, who are a part of the 400,000 men who are to be evacuated from Dunkirk. In the sea, there are Mark Rylance and Cillian Murphy, who are on one of the 700 civilian boats that came to help in the evacuation. And in the air, there are Jack Lowden and Tom Hardy, who are trying to keep a check on enemy aircraft that are bombing the area. What is most intriguing about these three perspectives is time, and I will not say more than this because it is really a great thing to experience while watching the film.
Everyone I mentioned above gives a surreal performance (even Harry Styles). Their combined effort in replicating an event in history to their fullest ability makes it completely real. Their performances are raw and powerful, and nobody stands out because everyone is able to be just perfect.
However, what makes this movie so special is the way it’s directed. Christopher Nolan has created something that is to be pondered upon as an aesthetic icon.
My two favourite war films other than this, both set in World War II, are Saving Private Ryan and Hacksaw Ridge. The first depicts war as war, and as sticking out for your comrades. The second is a war film told from the perspective of someone who does not want to kill, but to heal. Dunkirk is a war film that highlights the humanity of war. It puts the viewer right in the middle of it to experience it themselves.
The characters in the film are simply what they are in terms of the war. They have no backstory or anything. And this is something brilliant. They are only what they need to be at that moment. On the land, the viewer struggles with the army. In the air, the viewer flies with Tom Hardy. You can feel everything the characters are feeling because of the beautiful cinematography and intricate sound mixing, along with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score. The mix of visuals, sound and music make this film something truly spectacular.
For instance, there is a sequence in which a ship is flooding with water. The screen goes black and only lights up when the water sloshes around. The sound makes you feel like you’re drowning. The music gets louder and increases its tempo with every second. This is how the film is throughout, and you are truly immersed in it.
I’m going to focus on the visuals again for a second, because the scenery in this movie is incredible. There are times in the movie I swear I could see the curvature of the Earth. When a film makes you sit back in awe of simply what you are seeing, you know it’s unique.
One last thing to note is that the enemy, or the Germans, aren’t seen at all in this film. This is smart because the perspective of war is usually always one-sided, and that’s all the viewer sees too.
Everything I have said about Dunkirk does not justify its magnificence. It is a theatrical marvel that uses every frame to entice the viewer, and it is a powerful narrative that is aided by even more powerful performances.
Christopher Nolan has crafted a perfect film.
On a scale where M is the lowest and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating: