This one I recommend.

The veterans aren’t wrong.

A boy and his trauma.

The war movie is, in my mind, the most difficult genre in which to create a fresh and original installment (excluding romantic comedies of course, but this is so obvious that it might as well be ignored). Most films about men in green talking about their families and shooting at “the bad ones” tend to be somewhat interchangeable. It figures that Christopher Nolan would be the one to go above and beyond in several aspects, averting most of the clichés that are typically par for the course in this genre.

For one thing, he chooses to retell the Dunkirk evacuation of World War II from three different points of view; one week on land, one day at sea, and one hour in the air, intercut with one another and overlapping at various times. In short: this means that all the scenes involving the British Air Force are really taking place at the end of the film’s events, the bits at sea mainly showing the events before that and the scenes on land showing the ones before those. This gets somewhat confusing towards the finale, where the three segments are now taking place semi-simultaneously. Note the “semi” prefix.

Nolan has made sure that the script contains a minimal quantity of dialogue, letting the imagery, sound design, emotions, and Hans Zimmer‘s near constant score communicate (Nolan supposedly studied old silent films to more accurately create suspense and drama without the aide of dialogue). The fact that he chose to make a war epic – or even a summer movie, for that matter – that’s below 2 hours in length also seems like a novel idea in this day and age. It is an unusually short runtime for him in general as well, but you knew that already.

The cast is filled with faces both recognizable and new. Fionn Whitehead was excessively stiff-faced, but it’s a powerful collection all the same, including Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Tom Glynn-Carney, Cillian Murphy, and Kenneth Branagh. This is another one of those films were Hardy shows very little of his face but still conveys everything he needs.

Dunkirk is downright meticulous in its realism and veterans will back me on this. My brother and I were thoroughly immersed during the flying scenes (he made note of Nolan’s little touches, such as the subtle but noticeable camera vibrations used to simulate air turbulence). Zimmer’s score helps create a sense of stress and intensity that never truly fades until the ending, making the first moment of complete silence all the more powerful. Don’t get me started on the sound design.

We didn’t know beforehand if Dunkirk was shot on film but as several sources tell me, 70 mm was used, and it does give the movie a distinctly pleasant look. It doesn’t hurt that Nolan continues to be wise enough to never use CGI unless absolutely necessary. All the extras, ships and old-school planes you see are entirely real. There exists an easier option, yes, but Nolan goes for what will ultimately look better (we can debate on whether computers can actually replicate real life flawlessly, but I’d like to think we’d be in pretty big trouble if they could).

However, some have complained that the movie falls short in terms of forming a connection with the characters. Even if I think it makes up for it with its technical achievments, I can see where the complaints are coming from.

Nolan’s detractors might also claim that he only chose to splice the three stories together non-linearly as an attempt to seem clever. Luckily, there is more to it than that and Nolan is deliberate as to when he chooses to cut between, say, two different storylines (and thus points in time). One such instance involves the motif of a tight space being filled with water at an alarming speed.

Despite its flaws, Dunkirk is exemplary in terms of photography, special effects, immaculate realism, innovative storytelling, and immersion in general. For those of you who don’t care about any of this, you can always go see the film because Harry Styles from One Direction is in it. Brings back some memories.

4/5 whatever

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