“Dunkirk” is written and directed by Christopher Nolan and stars Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, and Harry Styles. The film is about one of World War II’s biggest blunders, which left hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France.
There are certain directors that get me excited just from their names being attached, and Christopher Nolan is on the very top of that list. From “Memento” to “Inception,” “Interstellar,” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy, Nolan has never really made a bad film, and the idea of him directing a war movie got me very intrigued. So, with all of that in mind, as well as some stunning trailers and an absolutely mesmerizing prologue that I saw before “Rogue One,” “Dunkirk” quickly became one of my most anticipated movies all year.
Christopher Nolan, a man with some of the strongest directorial films of the century under his belt, has truly made his best-directed movie to date here. Nolan has masterfully created a war movie like no other, and one with a beautifully unique storyline that flows perfectly together. Every single moment in this film from start to finish feels expertly crafted, and even though the dialogue is kept to a minimum, Nolan makes sure every word counts, as his script is fantastic as well.
There are too many excellent performances scattered throughout this movie to give them all the justice they deserve, but I will do my best. Newcomer Fionn Whitehead is sensational in the lead role, as he always is able to subtly show emotion through minimal dialogue and with strong facial expressions. Harry Styles is equally as great, and it was amazing to see this already strong artist completely transform into his role, and he fit in completely seamlessly. Tom Hardy and Mark Rylance are both excellent in their roles, as they both add brutally important perspectives to the movie, and smaller roles from Barry Keoghan, Tom Glynn-Carney, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, and many many others just add so much to each and every scene they are in.
Optically and sonically, “Dunkirk” is truly one of the most gorgeous movies ever made, as every single shot looks like it could be put up in a museum. Hoyte Van Hoytema does the cinematography here, and he makes poetry in motion with these stunning wide shots that expertly portray the scale and magnitude of the event, as well as shots of action which beautifully brings together emotion and absolutely gripping suspense, as does the world class score by Hans Zimmer.
Zimmer is a nine-time Oscar nominee and a one-time winner, but this may just be his best score yet. The way Zimmer brilliantly bring the suspense with noise that can completely take over the movie at points is just riveting, and he does so without it ever feeling out of place or unnecessary. There are some specific sound effects involving a ticking noise that make even the calm scenes feel brutally gripping, and both Hoytema and Zimmer should be considered near locks for Oscars, even if the ceremony is still seven months away.
The camerawork and sounds are great, but it is the visual effects, specifically Nolan’s heavy reliance on practical ones, that brings the bar even higher with this film. Shots both in the air and in the sea are brought to life with brutally vivid moments of action that don’t shy away from the violence, even with the PG-13 rating. There may be some CGI in here somewhere, but I sure as hell didn’t notice it, as Nolan seamlessly brings some of the most realistic action sequences, specifically with the plane fights, to life with not a single flaw in his way.
Tension is Nolan’s bread and butter, but there may be no movie he has ever made that is more consistently tense than his new one right here. From the opening shot, there is a harsh feeling of uneasiness, and it does not go away until the closing moments. Zimmer and Hoytema are a big help in this, but it is also the excellent performances and Nolan behind the camera that really makes these action set pieces, along with even some moments of simple dialogue such an incredibly white-knuckled experience.
I may have touched on this, but Nolan’s decision to split this movie up into three segments is something only he could pull off, and this stylistic choice is what makes “Dunkirk” such a remarkable achievement on all fronts. Without getting too deep into spoilers, this is not a movie told linearly from start to finish, and this storytelling method is something that is just unheard of in war movies, but it works so effortlessly here to create a constantly flowing, always riveting experience that brings equal heart and suspense to every moment of the film.
I have so much more to say, but I’ll save it for an analysis review that I’m sure will be coming, but for now, I will say that “Dunkirk” somehow not only surpassed my lofty expectations, it completely shattered them. This is quite possibly Christopher Nolan’s strongest work to date, as every single piece of this movie works as marvelously as it could have, and there is not one flaw that I have with even a single frame of the movie. The performances are through the roof, the visuals even more so, and the score brings a heightened intensity that had me on the edge of my seat for the entire 106-minute runtime, a runtime that is also the perfect length. The way this story is told is clever, daring, and beautifully done, and by the end, I had nothing but happiness in my heart. I have waited for this film for at least two years, and nothing could have prepared me for the true masterpiece that is “Dunkirk”. This is one of the best war movies ever made, quite possibly one of the best movies ever made, and it is one that simply needs to be viewed on the big screen. July has been a terrific month for movies, but “Dunkirk” is easily the best movie of 2017, and it’s not even close.
Get tickets and showtimes for “Dunkirk” here (See it in IMAX or 70mm if you can)
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