Review written by Guest Contributor Lucy Jacobson and Connor Johnston
Hope is a weapon. Survival is a Victory.
Christopher Nolan’s war epic Dunkirk starring Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance as well as a series of other enormously talented actors, takes place during the evacuation of 400,00 men on the shores of Dunkirk during World War 2. An event so pivotal to the outcome of the war warranted a film that captured the scale, ferocity and brutality of Dunkirk; a film that Nolan no doubt delivers.
Nolan’s films are known for their heightened sense of immersion, inviting audiences to not only share his characters’ emotional journeys, but also be utterly captivated by the adrenaline and atmosphere he creates around his narrative. In this way, Dunkirk wastes no time in throwing the viewer right into the action, almost recruiting them into the horrors and unforgiving reality faced by these 400,000 men. We share their uncertainty, we share their camaraderie- and at times it feels as though we even share their mortality. As much as it is true for the event itself, this film is certainly a team effort – with Nolan marrying his talents to those of Hans Zimmer and Hoyte Van Hoytema who provide a heart racing score and stunningly naturalistic cinematography, respectfully.
At 106 minutes, this is by a significant margin Nolan’s shortest feature film since 1998’s Following – and so can’t afford to waste a second of time in its opening sequences. Once the movie starts: you are there. We are quickly introduced to the scene through the eyes of various different characters. A soldier stranded, a yacht captain and his sons planning a retrieval mission and a RAF Spitfire pilot fighting off enemy planes. There is no effort to mess around with meaningless plot points or attempts to force backstory or character development onto the audience – instead Dunkirk takes a bold approach in that there really isn’t an incentive to connect emotionally with any one character – but with the entirety of the experience.
Dunkirk is a new brand of war film, one that simply focuses on an event and in turn how it can shape our world. Although the film embodies a certain sense of grandeur, this movie does not glorify war – it simply captures it. The plot follows a non linear narrative and although it is complex it is not a challenge to understand (unlike some of Nolan’s previous works). The varying perspectives weave seamlessly within each other, complimenting the aim of the film and establishing a remarkably complete depiction of the event.
Dunkirk is historic in its success, and will no doubt be regarded not only as one of Nolan’s best films; but one of the best films the genre and the industry has ever produced.