Thanks to Roadshow Films we had the chance to see Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk before its Australian cinematic release. This is our review of the film, but – as usual – no matter what we say, we recommend that you still go to your local cinema and see the film because there is no better critic than yourself!
Dunkirk, to date, is Christopher Nolan’s greatest achievement. Visually beautiful and superbly minimal, this film steers well away from your average WWII movie; there are no Nazi’s, blood or limbs flying everywhere, nor is it a tale of trying to get back home to your sweetheart. It simply is about retreating from Dunkirk, which sounds far from heroic, but through all the cowardice, it surprisingly is.
Set during the early stages of the war, where the British army entered the war with the plan to recapture Dunkirk and thus gain entry into Europe; this film interestingly beings where the mission fails, at the point where British soldiers desperately sought out to escape Dunkirk, after being unable to break down the Germans occupancy of the town.
These British soldiers are played by an array of brilliant actors; there’s Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, and Cillian Murphy for starters, but there are also some newbies like Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles, who altogether, bring vulnerability and innocence to the story. Interestingly, all characters have equal weight in the story, which draws forth this collective bid to survive and escape what is a massacre of their fellow soldiers. This creative choice to not single out characters makes this war film ever more real and grim, so too is the choice to not show the enemy. There is not one German Nazi character and the only representation present is their ferocious bullets and bombs, firing at British soldiers from all sorts of unseen directions, placing the audience in the thick of it.
Throughout the film there is this constant feeling of fear, dread and adrenaline, largely created by Hans Zimmer’s score tied in with the sound design. This constant sound of what appears to be a mix of heartbeats, sirens, and time ticking, will leave your heart palpitating and reeling for a moments rest, which on a whole, is a clever way to engage audiences and bring them closer into the characters shoes.
Beautifully shot on 70 mm film, a format that should, without doubt, be used in every film, is a commendable feat for Nolan to explore and one can only hope viewers will appreciate this and recognize how truly monumental it is. It is in those subtle moments in the film, where you can really see the pure beauty and richness of 70mm film, like in those aerial shots of Dunkirk, or even in the glimpses of blue sky that really nail the feeling and vision of 70mm, that no other format has ever come close to.
Besides the breath taking visuals, the script itself is quite solid and the dialogue itself is spot on, which is remarkable for Nolan, as this is not particularly his strongest suit. Hopefully this marks the beginning of tighter, less fluffy lines from Nolan. Another significant improvement is in the way Nolan’s non-linear storyline unfolds, whereby scenes are not cluttered with varying narratives and moments in time, there is a simpler, toned down approach that smoothly unravels the plot.
Overall, this has to be Nolan’s most well thought out film and in my eyes, an utter masterpiece. He has essentially placed his audience in one of the most significant moments in history. Nolan may be telling a story of failure, yet he is also telling one of perseverance, for if Britain conceded defeat and did not pursue the fight for survival, there could have been an entirely different outcome to the war.
Dunkirk – In cinemas July 20