I had been eager to see Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk from the very second I saw the initial trailer back in August 2016. Upon finally seeing the finished piece this July, I can assure you it certainly did not disappoint.
The visual masterpiece detailing the evacuation of British and French soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk on May 26th –June 4th 1940 did not hold back in its brutal depiction of the realities of war. Unlike many other war films that grace cinema, Dunkirk does not romanticise World War Two in any aspect. All loyalties are lost: Soldier hierarchy dictates how fast you will be evacuated, the only exception being the wounded, meanwhile all French soldiers are refused entry onto ships simply because of their nationality. The notion that brothers in arms had been abandoned is shocking to see –especially as so many war films cling to the idea. But Dunkirk offers the most realistic depiction in my view, it portrays the sheer desperation of soldiers to go home and in the process doing whatever is necessary to do so.
Among a star studded cast, it is truly the new talent that shines. Dunkirk opens and follows Tommy who is played by Fionn Whitehead, who does a tremendous job of making the audience ride an emotional rollercoaster. From laughing and marvelling at his cunning attempts to board a ship home, to anxiously awaiting the outcome of the character due to his loyalty to his strangely quiet friend. Whilst the heartbreaking circumstances aboard Mr Dawson’s (Mark Rylance) boat are made even more emotional by Barry Keoghan’s excellent the portrayal shy and innocent George, whilst the actions of Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) convey how carful handled a situation has to be even when not amidst the gunfire.
It goes without saying that Harry Styles –of former pop band One Direction- certainly did not receive the role of Alex from his household name alone. Styles truly does the role great justice from the get-go, particularly proving his acting talent in a tense scene where suspicion is rife that a German spy is among them.
Whilst the fresh faced talent obviously shines, that does not take away from the more recognisable cast. Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of a shell-shocked soldier is done wonderfully well. In some movies, shell shock becomes the defining feature of the character taking away any other aspect of the character and they become 2-D. Murphy brilliantly portrays the paranoia, fear and aggression that come with the condition whilst still maintaining the man there too. Perhaps my favourite characters are the air force duo Collins and Farrier, played by Jack Lowden ad Tom Hardy respectively. The two have such chemistry and communication skills that you almost forget that throughout the entirety of the film the two are never even face to face with one another. It is shattering to see that despite the undoubtedly immense effort that the two pilots put in, they get shafted with story endings that neither character deserved. Whilst Collins is mocked and heckled for apparently not being present when the soldiers needed him, Farrier is eventually taken as a Prisoner of War at the movies end.
What Dunkirk does best is, despite at the time being seen as a victory for the British by saving the thousands stranded, it portrays the real circumstances ad multiple failed attempts and sending ships home along with the countless who died. Dunkirk was a failure but was turned into a victory for morale. Dunkirk the film shows both aspects of this, especially after seeing the reactions of those back at home who hand beers to returning soldiers simply because surviving was enough.
Who should see it? The film has a rating of PG-13 which I would definitely agree with; there is strong language and scenes of distressing nature. I would certainly recommend the film if you are a history buff like myself or have a general interest in the Second World War. I would also recommend the film if you love Christopher Nolan’s work (he certainly has not let himself down) and also if you are a fan of Hans Zimmer, the score to Dunkirk adds so much to the film with perfect timing creating increased suspense in the right places. Unfortunately, I saw the film on normal screen and can only imagine how amazing Dunkirk would be in IMAX.
What I will recommend is that you pay close attention- especially to the opening text. Dunkirk is not always chronological, by telling one whole story through three separate fronts (air, land and sea), the scenes are not always happening alongside each other. But if you pay attention then there will be cross-over between the fronts and everything will make sense.