For me, Christopher Nolan is the only filmmaker in the world that has an impeccable track record and his latest effort is no exception. Nolan has crafted a film that does both honor and service to the soldiers involved in one of the most important battles in World War II.
The movie has an intriguing structure as it’s told from three different perspectives: Land, air, and sea. On land, a young soldier named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) is searching for refuge from the Germans and forms a friendship with other soldiers including an unknown Frenchmen who is accused of being a German spy. One Direction’s Harry Styles costars as Alex, a British Army private.
On sea, Oscar winner Mark Rylance stars as Mr. Dawson, a boatman with his son Peter and his friend George rescue a soldier trapped in the ocean (Cillian Murphy). Murphy’s character becomes hostile once he realizes the boat is heading towards Dunkirk to rescue other soldiers and is determined to stay out of the danger.
In the air, Tom Hardy plays a pilot who joins up with two other pilots trying to take down the Germans in some pretty hairy dogfights. He loses both comrades and has to continue on alone despite running out of fuel.
As history, it’s a powerful recreation of the evacuation of the people who were trying to survive and help their fellow man. As a film, it feels authentic, not artificial. It feels urgent and not inconsequential. The movie is equally effective by telling the story mostly through images and only using dialogue at crucial points. As for the war scenes, we feel we are in the thick of the action for the entirety of its 106 minute runtime.
It’s easy for a filmmaker to spray the screen with action every second, but Nolan does something even more riskier: He engages our senses in a visceral, immersive fashion. It’s an exhilarating chessboard and Nolan knows how to strategically place all the pieces just right.
Memento. The Dark Knight. Inception. Whether it’s a psychological thriller, a superhero movie, or a sci-fi epic that takes place within the subconscious, Nolan is a director that brings a refreshing spin on any genre he tackles.
When the Oscar nominations are announced next year, Nolan and his cast and crew better plan to wake up early that morning.