Christopher Nolan, the director of “The Dark Night” trilogy and “Interstellar,” has probably given his best ever in this World War II thriller “Dunkirk” – a story about the evacuation of trapped Allied soldiers from the French coastal town of Dunkirk before Nazi forces can wipe them out.
This time around, however, the British writer/director is not dealing with superheroes or blowing away the minds of sci-fi fans. With “Dunkirk,” he has made an attempt, and pretty much successfully at that, to put his audiences in the thick of an intense war situation where some 400,000 Allied troops are trapped on a beach in Nazi-occupied France awaiting evacuation.
For most parts, during this gripping, intense war story, you feel more like a participant rather than an observer; that’s how brilliant Nolan has been in putting together this “not-an-easy-film-to-make” – a super-duper war flick, in a long, long time, indeed.
USA today has so brilliantly captured the essence of the directorial style of Nolan:
“It’s less a movie and more a close encounter of the combative kind: You feel every bolt rattle in the cockpit of a dogfighting Spitfire, every stressful moment with the choice of drowning or surfacing in an oil fire, and every thought of certain doom for the infantrymen trapped on a beach when a bomb comes whizzing out of the sky.”
Action lovers are in for a cinematic treat as there is plenty of it in brilliantly choreographed sequences. In fact, you are thrown into the midst of some eardrum splitting action from the very outset when Tommy (Fionn Whitehead), a British soldier, is seen scrambling through the streets of Dunkirk under heavy enemy fire, somehow making it out alive only to find himself on a beach swarming with trapped British and French soldiers in the hundreds of thousands.
With no rescue ships in sight and no apparent air cover, the Allied troops are sitting ducks on the open beach waiting to be picked off. If ever there was a situation that warranted the saying “trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea,” there couldn’t have been a closer one than this.
Tommy comes in contact with Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and together they are seen grabbing the stretcher of a wounded comrade for a faster retreat to safety. It’s a no-win situation for them, and they meet Alex (Harry Styles) and others who are willing to go to great lengths to get out of that joyless, godforsaken beach.
The skies belong to RAF pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) who is testing his craft to its limits in engaging the enemy overhead while, down below, Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh), a veteran naval officer, is scanning the horizon for hopeful signs.
Meanwhile, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), a British civilian sailor is preparing to cross the English Channel, in aid of the beleaguered troops in Dunkirk, together with other civilian boats commissioned for the mission.
For argument’s sake, while there may be some inspirational touches from here and there, “Dunkirk” carries the distinct imprint of Nolan’s colossal story-telling originality and brilliance.
Here’s how the critics saw it
The Guardian: Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian has awarded the film five stars out five calling it the best film to date by Nolan. “Nolan surrounds his audience with chaos and horror from the outset, and amazing images and dazzlingly accomplished set pieces on a huge 70mm screen, particularly the pontoon crammed with soldiers extending into the churning sea, exposed to enemy aircraft.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “Although the film is deeply moving at unexpected moments, it’s not due to any manufactured sentimentality or false heroics. Bursts of emotion here explode like depth charges, at times and for reasons that will no doubt vary from viewer to viewer. There’s never a sense of Nolan — unlike, say Spielberg — manipulating the drama in order to play the viewer’s heartstrings. Nor is there anything resembling a John Williams score to stir the emotional pot.”
Daily Mirror: Chris Hunneyset of the Daily Mirror writes: “This is Nolan’s finest film to date, an immersive and emotional masterpiece and a superb return to form.”
Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Tomatoes has given the film an approval rating of 98% based on 40 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10.
Metacritic: According Metacritic’s rating, the film has scored 96 out
of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating “universal acclaim.”
- Fionn Whitehead as Tommy, a British Army private
- Tom Glynn-Carney as Peter, Mr. Dawson’s son
- Jack Lowden as Collins, a Royal Air Force fighter pilot
- Harry Styles as Alex, a British Army private
- Aneurin Barnard as Gibson, a British Army private
- James D’Arcy as Colonel Winnant
- Barry Keoghan as George
- Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton, the highest ranking officer on Dunkirk
- Cillian Murphy as Shivering Soldier
- Mark Rylance as Mr. Dawson, a mariner and Peter’s father
- Tom Hardy as Farrier, an RAF pilot
Produced by: Emma Thomas
Written & Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Music by: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography: Hoyte van Hoytema
Edited by: Lee Smith