Hi everyone, Bryan here….
There’s never been a war film like Dunkirk, which I’d say is a masterpiece in filmmaking, lead by Christopher Nolan (Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy). Even though Dunkirk cost $150 million to make, you really wouldn’t know it, as it’s simplistic, yet grand view of the Battle and Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 is perfectly captured here. Dunkirk is why we still go to the movies. It’s one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen and is one of the reasons to get out and see it in IMAX. Other war films try add sweeping music to add an emotional effect or certain camera angles to drum up more dramatic suspense.
That’s not the case with Dunkirk. It’s straight and to the point and never tries to hit you over the nose with cheesy or emotional tones. There’s plenty of it though on a natural basis. If you’re unfamiliar with the Battle of Dunkirk, in the span of a few days in the summer of 1940, the British, French, Canadian, and Belgium forces were cut off by the German Nazi forces. In an order to escape, mostly British soldiers ended up on the beach of Dunkirk, France to survive, in hopes that big battle ships would pick them up.
Due to enemy fire and fighter planes, as well as the big ships not being able to make it to the shallow shore, many local fishermen and citizens set out on their small fishing boats or yachts to help some 400,000 soldiers escape. There’s not one main person we follow, but rather a very unique and risky take on this incredible story that Nolan expertly tells. There are three different timelines here that all converge into one story with expert editing and pacing. There is the story on The Mole, which is a makeshift bridge to get the soldiers on the boats that spans a week. Then there is the common citizens and fishermen that help at beachfront, which spans a day. Then there are the fighter pilots that mostly acts in real-time, which is a little over an hour.
On the Mole, we follow a young man named Tommy, who ends up on the beach with thousands of soldiers standing in line, waiting to get on a boat. He and two other soldiers named Gibson and Alex (Harry Styles), try and find a way out since most of the shops are being bombed as soon as they disembark. Meanwhile, the naval Commander (Kenneth Branagh) is trying his best to save all of his men by any means necessary. In the sky above, you have a fighter pilot played by a masked Tom Hardy, who is trying desperately trying to takedown any and all enemy planes, which is where Nolan flawlessly captures the sky chases with great intensity and realness as we see just how difficult it was to shoot another plane down in mid-air. The other story we follow is one of the common citizens played by Mark Rylance, where he and his son take off in their small boat to help at Dunkirk without any weapons. They plan to pick up any surviving soldier they see along the way, which shortly results in a severely effected British soldier played by Cillian Murphy, being saved, but who has a horrible case of PTSD.
None of these stories really have an A to B storyline, but rather just to show the realistic horrible and different situations everyone had at Dunkirk. It’s as if we see the war in the eyes of very different people. There’s not one main character here, but rather it’s a group effort, where everyone turns in an excellent performance that never even comes close to being cheesy. The intensity of the film is out of this world and kept my heart rate up from start to finish. From flying with Tom Hardy, as he runs low on fuel and avoids being shot out of the sky to the thousands of soldiers having nowhere to take cover on the beach when the German fighter planes bomb the beach. I’ve never experiences anything like this, and is luckily the closest I will ever get to the face of war.
Nolan also does something special here too. He never focuses on the enemy. He instead focuses on the soldiers and the common citizens who helped them, keeping our thoughts, emotions, and mind on hope and their well-being. There is never a sight of a nazi swastika or German soldier here, which would probably enhance out hatred for the enemy. We don’t need that with Dunkirk and would draw us away from the escape at hand. It’s a bold move and greatly succeeded. The wide lens that was used for this IMAX presentation with simply magnificent and showed just how big a scope and scale this film had, as the cameras that were attached to the planes showed the miles of destruction of the city and many soldiers on the beach. One way to tell just how amazing a director can be, is how they end their film.
With Dunkirk, Nolan perfectly uses the famous Winston Churchill speech ‘We Shall Fight on the Beaches’. The way this is executed on film is something I will remember forever and has such a big impact. The score by Hans Zimmer is equally gratifying, which only enhances, but never over stays it’s welcome with music swells. instead, it’s used for background. The air-raids and gun shots pack enough of a punch for the sound. Dunkirk is one of the best films in a long while and perhaps one of the greatest war stories ever told on film.