Dunkirk Review

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The newest movie from Christopher Nolan is finally here. Based off the rescue of British forces stuck in Dunkirk, France, here we see the many stories of soldiers and how they survived. Is it worth the watch? Most definitely.

 

Story

”Dunkirk” follows three different stories during the evacuation of British forces from Dunkirk beach in WWII. Each of these stories takes place in three different, interleaved time frames: one hour of “By Air”, one day of “By Sea”, and one week of “The Mole”. We are first introduced to a British soldier who escapes from the enemy in a town that leads to the beach. This part of the story, “The Mole”, follows all the soldiers fighting to survive and get themselves out of Dunkirk. Next, we are introduced to a sailor, his son, and his son’s friend who embark across the sea towards Dunkirk to rescue soldiers on the beach before they are overwhelmed by enemy forces. Finally, the Air Force is introduced with the job of keeping enemy planes from dropping bombs on ally U-boats and protecting other boats so that the soldiers can escape safely. Here is where director Nolan shows his specialty, crafting a nonlinear story that manages to tell three different stories while also keeping the narrative coherent. “Dunkirk” is not about the horrors of war like most war movies set out to display. While the stories may be terrifying to sit through, they feel personal, and by the end, you will feel a sense of relief that the chaos is over, just as the soldiers did.”

Acting

One of the greatest strengths of Dunkirk is that there is barely any dialouge. Every actor shows emotion through body language and facial expression. While most people might think that this would be a negative, it works in favor of Nolan’s skill. This movie is all about survival; all that the soldiers on the beach care about is surviving the night and getting home.

There is no time for long speeches, jokes, or making new friends. Every moment could be their last and Nolan captures this perfectly with every actor including many newcomers such as Harry Styles. The same can be said for the “By Air” scenes, in which the only dialogue we are given are commands and air force lingo. The main pilot, Tom Hardy, only has his eyes to portray emotion and he gives a phenominal performance.

The scenes in which we get the most dialogue are in “The Sea”. Here, we have the captain, played by Mark Rylance, his son, and a young boy who travel in their small fishing boat to rescue the soldiers on the beach. When they come across a man who is shellshocked after a torpedo sunk his ship, played Cillian Murphy, they start to realize what the real cost of war is and what coping might mean. There is no bad acting in this movie. I felt for every character and could see the need for survivial in every eye, as the next second can be his or her last. Never seeing the enemy in “Dunkirk” eliminated any unnecessary dialogue between sides and added a level of ambience that is rare in this film genre.

Character Development

What differentiates “Dunkirk” from most war movies is that it doesn’t have a central character who needs to prove him- or herself to be a hero. Everyone in this movie is a hero in his own right. The goal is survival at its purest and that means to protect everyone at any costs. There is neither necessity nor time for typical individual character development. The only sliver of character development we get is in the “Sea” arc, which resolves with great moral closure.

Effects

As a war movie and a Christopher Nolan movie, even casual viewers might already expect that the special effects are great. Once again, he uses as many practical effects as possible, ranging from explosions to gun fire. The most spetacular special effects are the sound effects. The way Nolan mixed the sounds in this movie is breathtaking. The star of the movie is its soundtrack, which is present from the moment the movie starts and does not stop until the very end. The sound is largely a mixture of heart-pounding music that intensifies the drama and made my heart beat in anxious syncrony. Every gunshot, every explosion, every footstep you hear is mixed perfectly and will erupt from any silence. During my viewing, I was on the edge of my seat afraid of what was going to happen next. I cannot tell you how many times I jumped when just a single shot was fired, the worst being when a torpedo showed up to destroy a U-boat.

Enjoyment

You will not enjoy this movie, but in a good way. ”Dunkirk” is wholly nerve-wracking to watch and this is due to how Nolan’s soundtrack perfectly depicts the chaos that is going on. Gunshots will make you jump out of your chair, while every drum beat will make your heart beat faster. You never know what is going to happen next and that is the beauty of this movie—it keeps you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Also, this movie is perfect for people who enjoy history and war movies but do not like the consistent gore and violence that many war movies are known for. While there are many deaths and acts of violence, you can rest easy, knowing that it will not make your stomach turn while watching.

Final Thoughts

Once again, Nolan has defied expectations and created a masterpiece. He chose a story that not many people remember these days and managed to make it into an epic that puts you in the shoes of the soldiers who so desperately want to survive. He does this with a heart-pounding soundtrack that will get keep you on the edge of your seat. It is an intense ride that is hard to sit through but I can say that it is worth your time. If you get a chance, watch this movie in IMAX, or if at home, try to get the best surround sound you can find.