Dunkirk is written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Stars-Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, and Kenneth Branagh. Premise-Over 400,000 allied soldiers are trapped on the beaches of the French city of Dunkirk with little to no means of escape. As the Nazis close in, the evacuation options seem nonexistent, until allied civilians take matters into their own hands.
I got the credits out of the way because we’re going to dive right into the meat of this epic. The Dunkirk Evacuation is undoubtedly one of the most important moments in history, and the fact that one of Britain’s greatest filmmakers has taken up the mantle to tell the story to the masses greatly boosts my hope for humanity. While, the amount of respect I have for the crew is unparalleled, my enjoyment of the finished product is a little shaky.
Since it’s a Nolan film you can expect the technicals to be freaking perfect! I saw Dunkirk in a dingy auditorium with a minuscule screen, but every bullet, bomb, and machine reverberated through me like a crash of thunder. Add Hoyte Van Hoytema’s Oscar-worthy camerawork (the wide shots… just wow) and you’ve got yourself one immersive war film. Oh, and let’s not forget Hans Zimmer’s intensely powerful music! Academy, if you don’t give these two nominations, there will be blood, because they bring out the best in each other. Supermarine alone is packed with fear and suspense, and the practical effects and sets are 100% believable. Seriously, watching this movie is like being there with our characters because the direction is that good.
Now on to the writing, this (unfortunately) is where all my complaints lie. When this film was first announced, I wondered if Nolan would change up his writing style a bit for it. After all, this is his first movie based off real events. A few of these changes would be a much shorter runtime (1 hour, 46 minutes), and a plot that doesn’t put much emphasis on character development. It’s an experience film if anything (we get two actions scenes before we learn anyone’s name) and that works in the movie’s favor since the scope and spectacle are so engrossing. The performances are just as excellent (Rylance, Whitehead, and Murphy especially stand out), and there are definitely a couple characters to like.
Now bear with me, because I know some of you will see these upcoming problems as nitpicks. Truth be told, I thought the same thing, but nitpicks don’t usually get on your nerves now do they? More or less, these are questions. First, we never get a good look at the Nazis. The only time we ever see actual German soldiers, it’s in the last 10 minutes of the movie, and they’re cast in shadow. There is absolutely no adaptation of World War I or II that should sanitize how evil the Nazis truly were. Especially since over here in America, Nazi ideologies (like white supremacy) have resurfaced (for many reasons, but there’s no time to go into that here). This is a pure guess, but I think Dunkirk was made in a way to educate as well as entertain. After all, Nolan went for PG-13 when some of the stuff in this film could have easily been much more realistic (aka, pretty violent/profane). I can imagine this film playing in every school in England, and that’s great! Young people (including myself) need to know this stuff, but playing down the evil of the most racist ideology of all time is not a wise decision. If you want more proof, the opening credits that tell us the date and what’s happening use the term, “The Enemy” to describe the Nazis, and they don’t give the date of the event (which will confuse anyone who doesn’t already know that Dunkirk happened in 1940, before the U.S. got involved). I apologize if I’m dragging this out; I have very low tolerance for the party that killed over 14 million innocent people.
That last paragraph aside, Dunkirk is still an exceptionally well-made thriller that depicts the horrors of war. Considering how unbelievably bland this year has been, it’s very satisfying to see Nolan deliver once more. The proof of this movie’s success is feeling that sense of victory even though the event was essentially a loss, and skill of that caliber simply must be recognized. Dunkirk gets Guy’s Guru Grade of an A-.