The last time a film warranted IMAX was Interstellar, a Christopher Nolan film. It’s only fitting that Nolan’s next film, Dunkirk, begs of its audience to experience this World War II tale — which is the loudest film I’ve sat through to-date — in IMAX.
Allied soldiers from Britain, France and Belgium find themselves in Dunkirk, surrounded on land, air and sea by German forces. However, as the film tells us early on, Dunkirk cannot be lost and must be protected at all costs.
There’s a weight to this film from the first gunshot fired at Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) as he walks with fellow troops throughout the desolate town defined by war, with mini-propaganda posters flying amuck.
Almost immediately did the authenticity of Dunkirk begin to seep into my eyes and ears. Everything felt real, not fabricated with an inane amount of special effects. From the costume design to the adrenaline rush felt as Tommy ran down a street, Nolan nailed the essence of war.
A while back, it was known that Nolan and marine coordinator Neil Andrea worked to use real boats. This sense of scale was transitioned on-screen quite nicely as we’re taken onto the beach just outside of Dunkirk, where hundreds and thousands of soldiers are lined up, ready to board ships. However, there’s no time to breathe as a German fighter plane begins to make a sweep overhead and drop bombs onto the beach.
The roar of a plane, coupled with each sound of fear and panic in the soldiers created an immersive atmosphere, which is what I’ve come to love about Nolan films.
The film tends to focus on three young soldiers: Tommy, Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) and Alex (Harry Styles). This war is entirely too big for them to digest, but they do their best to try to survive. It’s funny, because there’s no groundbreaking dialogue between the soldiers, but their visceral feelings surrounding the war are felt. There’s an internal sacrifice Tommy and Gibson made during the first act, where they transported a wounded soldier on a stretcher towards a British boat headed away from Dunkirk. Tommy and Gibson knew they wouldn’t make it aboard the boat in time themselves, but this theme of sacrifice and selflessness was a recurring theme throughout the film.
Each heart-pounding sequence, like the one above, wouldn’t have been made possible without Hans Zimmer’s masterful score. There’s a level of expectation when Nolan and Zimmer work together (i.e. Inception), but for the first time in a while the score carried the movie more than the actors on-screen in many scenes. This isn’t to say there’s hardly any good acting, but — and this falls in line with one of the few gripes I have with Dunkirk — there isn’t one performance that takes your breath away and carries a scene. If you can call it a supporting cast, as this is a film where teamwork truly makes Nolan’s dream work, Mark Rylance plays the captain of a civilian boat, Mr. Dawson. Most of the feel-good moments are reserved for Rylance, actually, but they’re few and far between. I just couldn’t find a performance that stuck with me after the film ended.
I appreciated the intricacies and level of detail that never dropped off over time. During time of turmoil and immediate danger, a constant ticking can be heard underneath the action and layered within the score — a ticking time bomb that signals something explosive is about to occur. When inside the cockpit of pilot Farrier’s (Tom Hardy) British fighter equipped with a Rolls-Royce aircraft piston engine, there’s a tiny blurring effect, which helped sell me on the reality of flying. I was even in awe with Tommy’s rifle jamming during a gunfight, which showed me Dunkirk isn’t a fairy tale war film. However, there are
This is very much an experience above all else. Formats other than IMAX hinder this film’s impact. While this isn’t necessarily a negative, I believe this does have to come into consideration when thinking about revisiting this breathtaking piece of cinema. There’s plenty of good in Dunkirk on first viewing, though, to justify it as one of the top dogs thus far in 2017.
I was able to attend an advanced screening of ‘Dunkirk,’ thanks to Warner Bros., for the purpose of this review ❤
‘Dunkirk’ is rated PG-13, runs 106 minutes and releases in North America on July 21, 2017