Director: Christopher Nolan
Cast: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Tom Glynn-Carney, Jack Lowden, Barry Keoghan, Kenneth Branagh, James D'arcy, Harry Styles
Plot: On May 26th 1940, British soldiers were trapped on the beach of Dunkirk by German forces. This is the story of how they made it back home.
Review: Only director Christopher Nolan can actually succeed at making a war movie that is both tense and compelling without resorting to violence and gore. But then again, Dunkirk isn't so much a film about fighting the war, but more of an escape from it.
Nolan's latest feature is seen from three different viewpoints: a British soldier and a French soldier attempt to flee Dunkirk by sea, though the lack of available ships make it almost impossible; an elderly man, his son and his son's friend set out by boat, answering Churchill's call to British civilians to bring their troops home; and a couple of RAF pilots do their best to shoot down German bombers in order to secure their comrades' safe evacuation. Nolan shifts between these three storylines seamlessly until they all come together by the film's end, but even on their own, each story is taut and gripping.
The tension already begins in the first scene as the British soldier dodges enemy fire on the streets of Dunkirk before reaching the beach, where he teams up with a French soldier and attempt to board a ship. Although their story is undoubtedly the most tense and interesting of the three, the other two stories have their own appeal. The elderly boatman faces problems as soon as he rescues his first soldier, one who is still in severe shock. The pilots engaged in aerial dogfights with the Germans have to stay alive while making sure they have enough fuel to return home. There isn't a dull moment at all as Nolan slowly raises the intensity and weight of each storyline right until they merge at the end.
As it is with every Nolan film, the technical aspects are well covered. Hans Zimmer provides what could be his best score yet while Hoyt Van Hoytema, who last did excellent work for Interstellar, turns in superb cinematography here by placing cameras in cockpits, underwater and wherever else necessary. Needless to say, Nolan's production team succeeds in doing everything humanly possible to make the audience feel as if they were in the film themselves.
Cast wise, Nolan opts for a combination of old and new faces. Mark Rylance puts in a subtle but memorable performance as Dawson, the elderly boatman while Tom Hardy is also solid as one of the pilots. Cillian Murphy, another frequent Nolan collaborator, is excellent as the shocked soldier Dawson saves, while well known British actors Kenneth Branagh and James D'arcy are also good as the superior officers supervising the evacuation. Fionn Whitehead, a rookie actor, shines as the British soldier while One Direction member Harry Styles is quite good as another soldier that Whitehead rescues.
I don't really have any qualms about this film, other than the fact that you won't see much war action here. But Nolan makes up for that by putting our heroes in one tense situation after another, the best of which is whenever a ship starts to sink, and there are at least three of those!
To sum it up, Dunkirk may be one of the least flashy of Nolan's films, but it may well end up being the most important, judging by how it ends. Recommended. (8.5/10)