Film Review: Dunkirk
The film is about the Dunkirk evacuation from the Second World War, which, if you don't know, was when some 400,000 Allied troops were cornered on the beaches of Dunkirk, France in 1940. It took over a week and over 800 ships to get the soldiers across the 26 miles of English Channel to England and it is considered to be one of the biggest military retreats in history.
Nolan's film follows three storylines that are intercut, but play out on distinct timelines. The first follows three young soldiers (played by Fionn Whitehead, Aneurin Barnard, and Harry Styles) desperately trying to get off of the beach and onto one of the few ships, and it spans a week. The second follows a civilian mariner (played by Mark Rylance) who's yacht is called on by the British military to go to Dunkirk to get soldiers. He accepts his mission and sets off along with his son Peter (played by Tom Glynn-Carney) and Peter's friend George (Barry Keoghan). Their story spans a day. The last is about Tom Hardy as a Royal Air Force pilot, and it spans an hour. The stories occasionally intersect, and we see events multiple times from different perspectives, sometimes with slight alterations to the events based on who's viewing them.
Dunkirk feels like the second half of one of those three hour war epics from the '60s or '70s, with the first half (where the audience learns the names and personalities of the characters before they head into battle) chopped off completely. It's all action. Nolan is smart enough to realize the audience will sympathize with the characters simply because of the life-or-death situation. We don't need to know a solider has a girlfriend waiting for him at home or other dumb character beats hit by every other war film out there. It also helps that the cast is uniformly excellent. There aren't really any standouts, but I'll give special mention to Rylance's paternal mariner, who is responsible for much of the film's emotional potency.
Neither of my two usual complaints for Nolan films (that they are too long and have terrible dialogue) apply to Dunkirk. At 106 minutes, it's long, but it doesn't feel that long, maybe because it's never boring. Amazingly, it's over an hour shorter than Nolan's previous film, Interstellar. And there isn't really enough dialogue for me to complain about. The film is about characters doing things, not talking about things. Dunkirk also contains what is probably the most stirring, heartwarming moment in Nolan's entire filmography.
The year's first surefire Best Picture contender, Dunkirk will remain in the Oscar conversation for many months, as it also has a real chance of winning Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, and Best Sound Editing .
What did YOU think of Dunkirk? Let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!