Release Date: July 21, 2017
Director: Christopher Nolan
Writer: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Lee Armstrong, James Bloor, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Luke Thompson, Michel Biel, Constantin Balsan, Billy Howle, Mikey Collins, Callum Blake, Dean Ridge, Bobby Lockwood, Will Attenborough, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Nolan, James D’Arcy, Matthew Marsh, Cillian Murphy, Adam Long, Harry Styles
Genre: Action, Drama, History
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 106 minutes
Production Company: Syncopy, Warner Bros., Dombey Street Productions, Kaap Holland Film, Canal+, Ciné+, RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Language: English, French, German
Country: UK, Netherlands, Frace, USA
Budget: $150,000,000 (estimated)
Christopher Nolan is easily one of my most favorite directors of all time. He gave The Dark Knight Trilogy, and every other film of his is a near textbook example of how filmmaking should be done. He’s always able to tell a remarkable story, and shoots it with some of the best IMAX camera’s in the business. Many say that James Cameron is the Grand Master of 3D, which I agree. I also feel that Christopher Nolan is the Grand Master of IMAX. He’s been using this format ever since Batman Begins (2005), and has since been getting better and better with his shots each time. Using such cameras is no easy task, but now it seems like it’s as easy for him to do so as tying ones shoes. With all that said, I couldn’t think of a more talented director who should take the reins of overseeing Dunkirk. The details of this true story are somewhat new to some, but given the material, this film is in good hands. As 400,000 men were trapped on a beach trying to survive during WWII, Nolan was able to recreate this historical event and share it with the world as it should be. While the character development is lacking, it makes for it in towards the end when dawn rises from all the chaos.
The film starts with men already in the middle of the fight. There are a few subtitles for context, but you’re thrown in just like the soldiers are on screen. The entire picture is told from three different perspectives that never tie in together as well. This is no mistake, and in part is a way to create a more realistic experience, than an actual Hollywood production where there’s usually some flashy standoff action scene towards the end for flare. The different viewpoints range from the soldiers on the ground, the men fighting in planes, and the men on sea in civilian boats. The latter is the most enjoyable due to the best character arc in the film. Earlier, I said that development was lacking which may have been done on purpose. Instead of you focusing on certain people, it appears that the filmmaker wanted you to get to know the situation more than individual characters. That may be the case, but more character growth Is never a wrong decision. The film succeeds on not giving the same generic dialogue of a man pulling out his wallet showing his family, but the boatmen are the only characters you can attached to. Especially with Mark Rylance on board. On the beach, the men are making decisions out of desperation which you will understand, and the air pilots are mostly covered up by their masks, so for a large portion you don’t see their faces, so it is hard to get to know them.
One of the most impressive aspects of the film are the action shots and technical achievements with the IMAX cameras. Nearly 85% of this film is shot with IMAX cameras which brought the film up to levels that other films have never achieved before. It was a wonderful experience in the theater seeing the 70mm display. The imagery was remarkable, and the sound mixing with all the action was stellar. During all this, the level of tension was at insane levels as if you’re hanging from a cliff with only seconds to live. High praise should go towards the composer Hans Zimmer who always handles Nolan’s scores, and yet again did a splendid job in helping tell the story. The music he creates for each scene is magical and as always is a character in the film itself as it pushes the film along.
A complaint I have is how the geography of the film is laid out. Early in the film some subtitles suggest how long it would take certain groups in certain vehicles to reach their destinations, but after a while there was no consistency about it. There were also a few times where it was difficult to make out the dialogue between certain characters, For those speaking in English, this portion of the film was in need of subtitles, and without it you’re left frustrated trying to make out the words. This is also Christopher Nolan’s shortest film, but at times, it felt like is his longest. This may be due to the dipping in and out of the consistency with the action, and you not caring too much for the characters, but after a while, one battle or two appeared to repeat itself.
While the technical components of the film were spectacular, the emotions that the soldiers went through spoke volumes. Seeing men go crazy on the beach waiting to die was a horrific scene, but simultaneously riveting at the same time. Sitting there I truly felt a bit of the horror that they were going through as it appeared there was nowhere to run. Every time there was a glimmer of hope it was taken away, and seeing the men struggle was a true testament of the terrors of war. While there have been countless tales of WWII done over and over through the decades, this one should stand the test of time, and be teaching point to those that may want to learn about this time in history.