Allied soldiers from Belgium, the British Empire and France are surrounded by the German army and evacuated during a fierce battle in World War II.
Dunkirk is unlike any war movie I have ever seen. It's nearly a silent film and features one of the most honest takes on war I have watched on-screen. There is no fluff in Christopher Nolan’s latest masterpiece - it feels genuine, respectful and brutal, without using realistic violence and blood to emphasise the direness of war, and particularly this moment in time at Dunkirk.
Germany has trapped allied troops on the beaches at Dunkirk, France — they are sitting ducks waiting to either be saved or picked off slowly. German forces bomb the beaches, killing those awaiting evacuation, while sinking the small boats the British are allowing to be used in the escape. The dreadful desperation of the situation isn’t lost on anyone, but there is little to be done as they are surrounded and trapped against a wall of water; even sadder, they can basically see home across the blue landmass in the distance.
Dunkirk has three battlefields: the ground, the sky, and the sea. The characters featured in each area are, for the most part, portrayed by unknown actors. This helps a lot with the immersion achieved in Dunkirk, especially when it comes to the main two characters we follow on the ground — Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, and the unknown soldier he befriends early on the beach, played by Damien Bonnard. Both give very emotive performances, charred by the need for survival.
In the water, Mr Dawson, played by Mark Rylance, takes his son, Peter — Tom Glynn-Carney — and friend George — Barry Keoghan — in a civilian boat to Dunkirk, in an effort to do whatever they can to help save those on the beach. Along the way, they find a distressed and trapped soldier floating on the debris of a destroyed ship. It's here that Cillian Murphy gives a volatile and strong performance as a soldier obviously dealing with PTSD.
In the air, Farrier and Collins, played by Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden, lead small-scale dogfights, doing anything they can to save those getting bombed on the beach and those getting destroyed out of the water. Hardy and Lowden each give strong performances with the little wiggle room they have, being strapped into cockpits wearing a breathing apparatus.
The music in Dunkirk becomes its own character, like a person in the background with a stopwatch playing to the tone of the movie's pacing. Hans Zimmer has crafted a unique set of music to match the uniqueness of this war movie. A tick-ticking is a constant reminder of the time that's running out for those trapped at Dunkirk. Zimmer has crafted some of his best work once again, working with Nolan.
Dunkirk isn’t a normal movie, especially for the genre. It’s a unique war film in many ways, but Nolan has done something special by telling a true story — in a first for the writer/director — but still embracing his creative flair. The focus is less on the characters and their stories, but more on the human drive, the emotion of trying to survive such a dire situation, and the honour in trying to help those in need.
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk is a perfectly paced war film. It is filled with deadly silence from its cast, but actions always speak louder than words. This film is about what's happening, not what might happen. Dunkirk is not only one of Nolan’s best films, but one of the great war films of all-time.
Directors: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard, Lee Armstrong, James Bloor, Barry Keoghan, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden