Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” takes off like a rocket. After a few introductory messages onscreen, bullets start flying as British soldiers struggle to escape France to England ahead of the advancing Germans.
Known simply as “the miracle at Dunkirk,” the historical event is considered one of the greatest retreats–and escapes–in the history of modern warfare.
Every English ship that could float, from the Royal Navy down to private yachts, fishing boats and even skiffs, was enlisted to evacuate troops under relentless enemy fire.
This is Nolan’s first movie based on historical facts and while there are definite echoes from his other movies (“Insomnia,” “Memento” and even “Interstellar”), the director has scored a visual knock out, capturing the full sweep and drama of the rescue.
Without a war movie under his belt, Nolan could never be included among great directors.
Now he joins Steven Spielberg (“Saving Private Ryan”), Oliver Stone (“Platoon”), Francis Ford Coppola (“Apocalypse Now”),
Stanley Kubrick (“Full Metal Jacket”) and Terrence Malick (“The Thin Red Line”).
With strong performances from Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branaugh and top-lining Fionn Whitehead, moviegoers not only hear and see, but also feel every blast, every wave, every airplane attack.
The special effects are simply stunning; shot in Nolan’s typical in-your-face style, but with a surprising personal touch.
Tom Hardy, as an enemy pilot is a perfect study in the deadly business of war. His actions do all the speaking. His entire role is filmed in his airplane cockpit. It’s a marvelous challenge. He succeeds at every step.
In his final shot, his plane streaks to a sudden, yet graceful landing. He gets out and torches it and waits to be captured.
Just standing there, against the burning inferno, was not only a beautiful shot, but conveyed the horror, disgust and tragic poetry of war.
The other memory I cannot shake is the Hans Zimmer’s haunting score.
Zimmer’s work is always exceptional, but with this film, I think he’s hit a new personal best. At times reminding this writer of the music from “Blade Runner” (of all movies); it is sumptuous, strong and quite moving.
On the downside, between the planes, bombs and fighting, some of the dialogue is difficult to understand. Yet the music worked well to fill in all holes.
The final surprise was the appearance of One Direction’s Harry Styles, who acquits himself tremendously well as one of the young soldiers.
Make no mistake, he was exceptionally good. I daresay he’s got a long career ahead of him in film, if he wants it.
A totally compelling movie in every way, Nolan has outdone himself.
Since the beginning of the week I’ve been reading how this movie is the movie of the year. It’s been a pretty lean year, and I don’t know if “Dunkirk” is the one, but it’s definitely a standout.
The movie scored an stunning 95 rating on rottentomatoes, winning almost universal acclaim from critics. It scored a similar 96 rating on metacritic, which also tracks reviews.
It opens in theaters this weekend. Check out the trailers below.