DUNKIRK – A Review by Cynthia Flores
Besides going down as Christopher Nolan's best film to date, Dunkirk may go down as one of the best war films ever made. Add to that the fact that it’s rated PG-13 and only one hour and forty six minutes long means it should be put it in a category all it’s own. You can tell this $150 million dollar movie is a labor of love for Mr. Nolan who’s from England.
The story of the battle at Dunkirk during WWII is such an important part of England's history. Not only because it was a huge military defeat, when four hundred thousand troops from Britain, Belgium, Canada, and France got stranded on the beach of Dunkirk, surrounded and being picked off by the Nazi armies. But it was also a great example of ordinary civilians pitching in by using their boats, small and large to sail across the English Channel, at great risk to themselves to help evacuate the men on the beach and bring them home.
Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema shot the film on IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large format film stock. No digital cinema here, and it really shows on the screen. You feel like you’re there with the men in the middle of the battle to survive. The film also didn’t just use CGI effects but used practical real effects such as employing 6,000 extras, assembling boats that had participated in the real Dunkirk evacuation, and using genuine era-appropriate planes for the aerial sequences.
The music Hans Zimmer created for the film is driving and primal. I saw it in IMAX and my seat rattled and shook from the combination of soaring music and the sounds of war.
Mr. Nolan wrote the script about the evacuation of Dunkirk, told from three perspectives – the land, sea and air – to contain little dialogue so he could create suspense solely through details of the madness all around them. His decision to tell a truly epic story this way is what makes it so accessible and personal. We don’t know many of the names of the main characters but we root for them to win anyway. We want them to survive the hellish beach and treacherous sea around them.
The casting is dead on and it’s interesting to see Harry Styles from the singing group One Direction play the part of one of the British army soldiers that’ll do anything to try and survive and get home. He’s not treated as Elvis Presley was in the movies he was in. Instead, he’s in the thick of it, shoulder to shoulder with all the other actors lucky enough to be in this must see film. If you listen closely there’s even a spoken cameo role done by British actor Michael Caine as the communication to the Royal Air Force.
Some of my favorite parts of the movie are the aerial battles being led by Farrier (Tom Hardy) a stoic Royal Air Force pilot that fights to the very end defending the men on the ground from flying enemy attacks. These scenes play against what’s going on below him on the water in one of the boats of a volunteer mariner, Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance), and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney), as they push closer and closer to the mayhem.
I’m not a big history buff, it’s hard enough to keep up with our glorious past in the US, so a film about another country's darkest military defeat which turned into one of their greatest stories of common, everyday folk standing together to help out their soldiers won’t mean the same to me as it will to a British person. However, being a Texan through and through, my heart swelled with pride for the civilians that jumped into a war zone to help support their military in thought and deed. I salute their bravery, and I know that with this film, the Oscar race has begun! So, skip the popcorn if you have to and spend the extra cash to go see Dunkirk in an Imax screening. You’ll be glad you did.
Directed By Christopher Nolan
Written By Christopher Nolan
Selig Rating A+
Running Time 106 min
Starring: Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy, Fionn Whitehead, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, Aneurin Barnard, James D'Arcy, Barry Keoghan Murphy, Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy.