12A – 109mins – 2017
May, 1940. Allied troops are trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk. They require air, ground and sea cover from British and French forces – both naval and civilian – to see them safely evacuated as Germany advances into France.
Written and directed solely by acclaimed auteur Christopher The Dark Knight Nolan, action-packed war drama Dunkirk is just as commendable for its idiosyncratic storytelling as it is for its IMAX-conducive cinematography. The film does not follow one clear cut A-strand, nor does one standout star warrant the denomination of headliner, instead it interweaves three plot threads – one which begins on land, one at sea and one in the air – covering different periods of time (a week, a day, an hour) into one non-linear but highly effective narrative.
Dialogue is minimal throughout, the film carried by a feeling of authenticity (its props, extras, paraphernalia, staging) and an exquisite, minimalist Hans Zimmer musical score. Combined with the harrowing action, these elements sell the feeling of suspence felt by those involved in the evacuation.
Sir Kenneth Romeo & Juliet Branagh, Mark The BFG Rylance, James D’Arcy, Cillian In the Heart of the Sea Murphy, Tom Taboo Hardy and One Direction’s Harry Styles (yes, really!) all contribute to a heavy A-list cast, but all in ensemble roles which furnish the drama, the horror and the psychologically-perishing atmosphere rather than taking you out of the atmosphere by their mere presence. Hardy plays a farrier who spends all but a few seconds inside his aircraft; Murphy a shell-shocked survivor who spends the duration on the deck of a civilian boat; Styles impresses without superseding the demands of his tired private’s plucky spirit.
A lot of praise has – rightfully – been hailed upon Dunkirk. It is bold, brave filmmaking quite unlike anything in Nolan’s already rich and successful arsenal. I’m not usually one to warm to war movies, but this even managed to grip and transport me! Some may dislike the unnatural structure or lack of a meaty or linear plot, but this is still an immersive, visual and visceral viewing experience which demands to be seen on the big screen.
CR@B’s Claw Score: