Written and Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, Harry Styles
Review by Jordan (For Eddie’s take on Dunkirk CLICK HERE)
Please note that portions of this review may contain spoilers.
“We’re mates, we’re not brothers”
Starting with the determination to challenge himself in the war genre; a field that demands immense effort and thematic calibration, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a film built around significant decisions.
Firstly, there are the filmic decisions stemming from writer and director: no established emotional ties to the protagonist, an event told from three perspectives over different timeframes, references to ‘the Enemy’ but barely any sight of the Germans and a tout runtime disallowing examination of the greater war away from the infamous beach. This is a brave approach that totally shines a light on this both wretched and significant week in English history, observing the chaos, hopelessness, courage and hope through Allied eyes only, as they struggle to stay alive when even the atmosphere appears deathly hostile.
Then, there are the innumerable split-second decisions of the soldiers and other heroes, made out of an intimate knowledge of the dire situation. We see two young men, acquainted by no more than a shared sadness at the sand burial of a body and shared water, race to board an injured soldier on a ship leaving the mole, a 17 year-old boy back in England jump aboard a leisure cruiser heading off to ferry the stranded back home in want of contributing and proving himself, an aware soldier slipping past the attendant and choosing to stay above deck on a doomed voyage and a spitfire pilot activate his reserve fuel while overhead France. These moments and their outcomes, like many others, speak to the chaos of battle; of the want for self-preservation but the brave tendencies of selflessness.
Kenneth Branagh as Commander Bolton Is Dunkirk’s sole authoritarian and conduit for the greater command, and his final decision to stay behind for the French is reflective of the will of his 400,000 men.
Nolan demonstrates that each thought that races through the mind of a soldier, officer or pilot comes with lasting impacts, that will not only determine their fate but that of their country. His film, arguably the finest in his outstanding oeuvre, takes tremendous but necessary risk and its commitment to the detail of the moment and not the subsequent World War will guarantee its high standing in the years to come. He is aided by naturalistic performances from a committed cast, and an understated score by the ever-dependable Hans Zimmer.
Kubrick meticulously made Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket, Spielberg gave us Saving Private Ryan and Malick’s The Thin Red Line is a meditative masterpiece; these film-makers are incomparable, but Nolan is forging his own legacy and has displayed an intelligence and expertise here to confirm that it too will be an outstanding one.
4.5 coastal cliffs out of 5
As an aside Dunkirk provided the Jordan and Eddie duo a rare chance for a catch-up at Imax Melbourne. A fantastic venue in one of the worlds great cities!