The evacuation at Dunkirk truly was a miracle, and perhaps one of the pivotal moments during World War II. Nearly 350,000 men were rescued over the course of eight days and taken across the channel by a makeshift fleet of over 800 boats. This extraordinary operation has been portrayed onscreen before, but I can guarantee you have never seen it done like this. In fact, you have never seen a war film quite like this.
Christopher Nolan is, not unlike the late, great Stanley Kubrick, a director that likes to try his hand at everything. He has tackled superheroes (The Dark Knight), thrillers (Memento) and even sci-fi (Interstellar), so it only seems natural for him to try his own version of a war film. With Dunkirk, it feels as though this is the film he has always been building up to, his unique visual style and expert grasp of tension finally forming into a work of art both brutal and balletic.
Nolan's habit of over-exposition is gone here; the fact that there is hardly a screenplay to speak of, works drastically in Nolan's favour. Also absent is the sort of cliché sentimentality that persists throughout the oeuvre of Spielberg, Nolan instead relying on the drama of the event itself to power along his narrative. After all, there are few stories, fiction or non-fiction, as gripping as Dunkirk.
Nolan has always been able to assemble stellar casts, but this might just be his best yet. Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and, ahem, Harry Styles provide truly memorable performances, their stories each intertwining in some way with the fate of the de facto main character Tommy (Fionn Whitehead). Newcomer Whitehead is the closest thing the film has to a leading man, and his everyman persona serves Dunkirk perfectly; the film is essentially a dissection of heroism and bravery shown by the pilots, sailors and soldiers of the war. No superpowers on show here, just a will to survive and the strength to endure.
In reality, no words can truly do justice to this powerhouse piece of filmmaking. It has to been seen, and seen on the big screen. As immersive as anything I have seen in the past few years, I wouldn't be surprised if Oscars beckon; For Zimmer's score, for Nolan's direction, and maybe, just maybe, Best Picture. Even more than a movie, Dunkirk is an experience.
Book your ticket to Dunkirk here.