“We will never surrender”. At this point I’ve come to believe that this should be the personal motto of director Christopher Nolan and his team, as once again he has delivered a film that is nothing short of a masterpiece. Currently sitting at a “fresh” 92% on RottenTomatoes.com, an 8.8 on IMDB.com, and a 94 on Metacritic.com, Nolan’s 2017 film Dunkirk is arguably his best film to date.
Dunkirk immediately stands out for it’s unique non-linear narrative, wherein three major plot threads spanning the course of one week, one day, and one hour are interwoven and interact masterfully with one another. Across the three threads the audience is introduced to several characters whose experiences are all vastly different yet ultimately intertwined, unbeknown to them. Herein lies the one and only criticism that I have seen expressed regarding Dunkirk, as it lacks a single human center, but I believe it works wonderfully for the film. Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, and all the young men playing foot soldiers all do an excellent job in their roles, and the lack of a single lead and the very minimal amount of dialogue throughout the film makes it feel real and aids in building the illusion that the audience is present at Dunkirk, watching these terrible events unfold. It is visceral and together with Hans Zimmer’s unforgettable score, utterly haunting.
Hans Zimmer is director Christopher Nolan’s normal go-to for the scores in his films, and it could be argued that the two are something of a package deal. In every film that the two have collaborated on – Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Interstellar – just to name a few, the scores have meshed with the visuals and stories so successfully that the movies would feel utterly different with a different score. Dunkirk is no exception to this rule, and may even be the prime example of it. In every moment of this 106-minute film tension is building and had me at the edge if my seat, heart pounding. Never have I seen a film without a dull moment such as this.
In conjunction with the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer, Dunkirk sports breathtaking visuals by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema and is edited wonderfully by Christopher Nolan’s long-time film editor Lee Smith. Every scene is both beautiful and terrifying. It is a rarity to see a film that works on literally all levels – story, plot, score, visual, editing, etc., and yet here Dunkirk is.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a short film. Clocking in at just over an hour and a half, it is one of Nolan’s shortest – but arguably his most important. Based on the historical event, known as the Dunkirk Evacuation – taking place between 26 May and 4 June 1940 – Nolan masterfully and respectfully introduces this important World War II event to the mainstream. Whereas many war films and period pieces are long and drawn out, Nolan’s Dunkirk is tight and efficient – successfully entertaining, educating, and eliciting emotional responses from its audiences on one of the most important events in the past hundred years without being dragged down by superfluous extra material.
Dunkirk is not only Christopher Nolan’s best film to date, it is one of the best war films of all time.