Possible spoilers ahead!
“Dunkirk” follows the events between May 26 and June 4, 1940, when British and French soldiers were surrounded on all sides by the German forces. With nowhere else to go, the allied troops, nearly 400,000 of them, must be evacuated from the beaches of Dunkirk. But that’s easier said than done, and the clock is ticking.
Among those trying to star alive on the ground at Dunkirk are British Army privates Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles). And the man trying desperately to get them all home is pier-master pier-master (Kenneth Branagh). Meadville, across the channel, local boat owners like Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) are recruited by the British Navy to help with the evacuation.
As events unfold on the beach and on the water, members of the Royal Air Force take to the skies, including Farrier (Tom Hardy) and Collins (Jack Lowden). The two pilots go to battle against the German bombers as evacuation takes place below.
So yeah, I think Christopher Nolan is finally going to get an Academy Award for best director. Seriously, “Dunkirk” is that damn good. As co-writer and director, Christopher Nolan explores the use of time by using three distinct threads: land, sea, and air.
Each one unfolds over a different amount of time, land is a week, sea is a day, and air is an hour. Also, all three threads take place at different points in the film’s timeline of events. This allows for story elements and characters to overlap during the movie. I know it sounds confusing, but when you see the movie, it will all make sense.
Thanks to Nolan’s incredible direction, this is a film that NEVER lets up. You’re in the thick of things from the opening shot to the last one. Everything you see, and everything you hear keeps building the tension. You as the viewer feel the clock is ticking, and even though we don’t know much about the characters, you sympathize with them and eventually think to yourself “That’s probably what I would do.”
Aside from Christopher Nolan, some of the credit need to go to composer Hans Zimmer. His score for “Dunkirk” is more ambient noise than music, but it works beautifully. The sound effects Zimmer uses help build the tension the characters are experiencing. They also enhance everything else you’re seeing on the screen, so when music does come into the picture, it feels earned, if that makes sense.
I won’t same too much about the cast because you don’t really get to know any of them. But for once, the lack of character development made sense. “Dunkirk” doesn’t have the traditional war movie scene where the cast ask each other if they have a girl back home, or what they’re going to do once the war ended. For me, this is one of the best things about “Dunkirk.”
However, there were a couple of standout performances that deserve mention. Oscar-winner Mark Rylance commands the screen whenever he pops up. I thought Jack Lowden as fighter pilot Collins was quite good too, especially when he joins forces with Rylance. And finally, I have to tip my hat to Kenneth Branagh, who delivered one of his best performances here.
At the end of the day, “Dunkirk” is one of the best war movies I have ever seen, and the only one I’m likely to watch several times. Whether you’re a Christopher Nolan fan or not, this movie is genuinely intense experience that will leave you in awe. “Dunkirk” is a film that nobody should miss.
“Dunkirk” final score: A