This film is set from May the 26th to the 4th of June, the year is 1940 and it is about a battle placed in World War II. The Allied forces are evacuating from the beaches of Dunkirk and are cut off and surrounded by the German army.
Unlike many other war films we have seen, Dunkirk is a rare film that instantly puts you in the centre of the terror that was WWII. Dunkirk gives no introduction to characters; no lengthy, mushy, slow backstories; no history of any solider growing up as a young lad only to one day be in war. This movie is all about the Fierce Battle and Evacuation of many men, shown from three perspectives- Land, Sea and Air. This film also surprised me with its gentle M rating (in Australia). Dunkirk doesn’t focus on the gross blood bath aspect of war, but has a more suspenseful tone.
It’s no secret that we know the film will be worthy of our time when the director’s name in the trailer credits is none other than “Christopher Nolan”. Nolan, whose resume includes Interstellar, The Dark Knight, Inception & Memento, has earned respect on many occasions, impressing audiences and providing plenty of surprises. This is the 1st time Nolan has directed a war film. Has he succeeded or has he finally hit his first brick wall?
Visually Dunkirk is amazing. From the opening scene alone, viewers will be impressed with the stunning, visual creativity of Nolan’s filmmaking. It didn’t take me long to speak aloud in my cinema, saying the words “oh wow”. Please understand, this film is not trying to impress its audiences by being just another classy action film. The director’s goal here is to put you right in the centre of the situation and this results in an incredibly real motion picture film. This feeling is enhanced by the film using real locations, planes, ships and an outstanding number of extra cast members.
The audio track is applaud worthy. Many key moments including the sea crashing and sudden explosions make you want to cover your own ears in the cinema, just as if you were on the sand yourself or hearing the raw sounds of a plane turning around to fire its gun. Dunkirk deliveries one the strongest surround tracks I have ever seen in a war film. The audio details and mixing is one thing sure, but the musical score by Hans Zimmer is even more breathtaking. Composer Hans Zimmer has been well known for working with Christopher Nolan and delivers another soundtrack that will keep you in suspense and feeling like you’re in a hurry. I noticed very clever use of the sound of a pocket watch during the film’s score, continuing to tick, tick, tick, tick, tick as the men try to move off the beach in a hurry. A simple effect, but successfully adding more tension to the film.
As mentioned before, Dunkirk gives you zero explicit character development and this factor alone could bother some viewers. For me personally, I was aware that this was a film about the event itself and a moment in time and knew what to expect. Going in blindly might have surprised me. Not only that, but this was also a huge risk to take. Because the film is fast-paced, the viewer will need to try and keep up. Like any war situation, the film gives you no time to stop and instead the viewer is given little bits of information along the way. With three different perspectives, the pacing and transitions between perspectives was a little tricky to follow at times. More than once I found myself questioning the film’s timeline and wondering if a scene or character was connected to another at the same time etc, or worse, trying to work out which character we were now following. To be honest this was something minor to me and I feel this will be rectified upon my second viewing. Given the number of actors and talent it was no surprise that it was tricky to keep up. Also, seeing Tom Hardy a supporting role for this film was fantastic.
Overall, Dunkirk is an outstanding film and will be on many people’s top lists of 2017 (including my own). It’s a film that puts it’s audiences right in the middle of it all in with a blink of an eye. Dunkirk deliveries a war story that cannot be forgotten or unseen. It is a movie with a huge list of talented actors all fulfilling key important roles and a film soundtrack that I must own on vinyl. This is an experience you really need to see on the big screen… and do it today.
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Review Written by Peter Walkden