Dunkirk is the untold story of the British soldiers trapped on the beach of France, doing whatever they can to make it back home to the United Kingdom. This story is told in 3 vignettes. One week, One day, and One hour which intertwine throughout the picture. Nolan does a fantastic job with giving such a strong visual direction with the action and the pacing of this film. The film never lags as far as the pace is concerned, but sometimes if the audience member is unaware of the backstory of what is happening at this historic point they are left with no answers.
Though this film is very well acted, directed, written, and overall well made it suffers from the lack of a strong framework. If the audience had a stronger understanding of the current situation they would be able to engage with the film more to care about the characters. An audience member shouldn’t have to do homework to know what is happening. Other than that issue I had very little problems with the film. The choices to higher lesser known actors to play the leads was a great choice. You weren’t pre-exposed to other work they have done. Of course Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and Tom Hardy are known actors who have been in other pictures (notably Hardy and Murphy) but he uses them sparingly to not taint the audience’s viewpoint of the event. Harry Styles does have a presence in the film, he doesn’t have much to do but his addition didn’t detract from the film.
Wars are not won by evacuation.
The cinematography and the sound design I especially want to shout out because it is some of the strongest work that has been in one of Nolan’s films. You feel the loud piercing noises of the engines, planes and bombs going off around you. It feels brutal and organic, nothing feels like it is a Hollywood production. As a viewer I appreciate when the atmosphere is more organic than manufactured. There are also several shots that are painterly. Hoyte van Hoytema did a spectacular job with his usage of color in having the right shots have a particular tone. Hans Zimmer also again proves his excellence with this score, though not his best it is his signature style. The usage of the ticking clock throughout the different time periods was effective.
Overall I would recommend any historical or war buff to check the film out if they haven’t done so yet. This is definitely on awards watch for a lot of the technical categories. I don’t know if Nolan will be nominated for Best Director, but if it is his time this isn’t a bad choice to give him the Oscar for his incredible body of work. This film could be a chore or the casual audience member so know who you are going with if they are or aren’t a Nolan fan.