Stunning DUNKIRK is a Shattering Experience in IMAX
"Let me get through this, and then I'll figure out the rest of my life."
Historical films, are often filled with with fictional scenes to tug at our hearts or make us relate in some way to the drama unfolding. As great as some of these movies are, they are not accurate history. They are a Hollywood version of what happened. (Steven Spielberg's) fantastic war film (Saving Private Ryan) is remembered most, for his well researched and heart-pounding opening of the movie, depicting the storming of the beach at Normandy. It was amazing filmmaking, honoring the countless who sacrificed their lives on that fateful day. The rest of the story, while compelling and excellent, was fiction.
(Christopher Nolan's) new film: (Dunkirk) based on a critical period, early on in World War II, spares very few moments with fictional character exposition. This amazing event from the past, filled with spirit, courage, and resourcefulness, was enough to make Nolan's film. Dunkirk is a full frontal assault of a movie, that Nolans wants you to experience. Filmed primarily in the IMAX format, I strongly recommend that you see it this way, to get the true impact of what Nolan wants you to feel, as he honors all those brave people who, in any capacity, helped rescue almost four hundred thousand soldiers from annihilation, as Nazi Germany had them surrounded on that beach in Dunkirk.
It is 1940, the early days of World War II,much of France is occupied by Germany, and the British forces, along with the French and other allies, have been pushed back to the city of (Dunkirk) where they are now trapped by the English Channel that divides France from England by a mere twenty-six miles. There is now, nowhere else to hide and they stand, at the beach waiting for destroyers to arrive, that can't, because of the shallow waters at Dunkirk. Standing along the beach, or out on the manmade jetty named: (The Mole) they are basically sitting ducks for the snipers who pick them off, the planes that fly by and drop bombs on them, and the torpedoes that fire at anything that actually gets in the water towards England by boat. If this sounds like an impossible mission, it was, and it really happened.
I don't think it would have been a mistake on Nolan's part to get to know a few of these very young men a little bit, but that is not the story he wanted to tell. This is a film about the collective; a common desire to survive against insurmountable odds, and with the help of citizens when their country called on them to help, how they, in droves, answered, heading straight toward certain peril. This is what was faced at this moment in history, and this is the story that Nolan want you to see and feel in every ounce of your bone.
(Dunkirk) wastes no time starting the story, and after a brief description with titles describing the situation, accompanied by another haunting score by Nolan's brilliant composer of choice: (Hans Zimmer) we first encounter a small group of very young soldiers walking through the narrow streets of the city, while Nazi propaganda leaflets are dropped like snow, telling them that they are surrounded and they should surrender. This where we meet our first character: Tommy (Fionn Whitehead). There really are no main characters in this movie; just focal points to help guide us through the chaos that ensues. As sniper fire rings out, dropping all of the young men, except Tommy, he quickly makes his way to the beach where he sees thousands upon thousands standing and waiting. There is nowhere to go, and this is certain death.
As he looks out towards the Jetty, he sees an endless line of soldiers waiting to get on the next one of the few boats that come. After noticing that the wounded are being taken first, he and another young man: Gibson (Aneurin Barnard) decide, with no dialogue between them, to get a wounded soldier and carry him to the jetty. They will push through the lines with this wounded man and get themselves on the next boat out of there.their plan, as you would suspect, doesn't go the way they thought it would, for a completely different reason. Commander Bolton ( a solid as usual Kenneth Branagh) has the thankless task of coordinating the evacuation on The Mole, even though he knows the task is beyond God's help, and he is perfect and stic in this role.
Cut to England, where the Royal Navy has asked civilians to take their private boats across the channel, we meet the owner of one such vessel: Mr. Dawson (the wonderful Mark Rylance) and his good son: Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney ) as they get ready to set for Dunkirk to do their duty. At the last minute, Peter's friend: George ( Barry Keoghan) decides that he wants to go. Mr. Dawson knows this could be dangerous, but he doesn't question his sense of duty for his country. He is a good man, but he is resolute in his mind that this is what they should do.
Cut to the air, where two very calm and cool pilots are heading out to the channel to provide support for the boats and ultimately, for the men stranded on the beach. apparently, England spared little support with air, as they were concerned about future battles defending their shores. The two pilots are Farrier (Tom Hardy, in a mask again, but still cool) and Collins (Jack Lowden). I love how (Nolan) show these men, who are so calm under pressure and despite constant adversity, they never falter. They are proper English gentleman doing their duty despite the danger. They are the eyes in the sky and they are great. If the fuel gauge gets shot out, now unable to read it...they just say: "Fuck it" and mark the gauge with chalk, confer with the other pilot on how much fuel he has, checks his watch, and then carry on.
Nolan is such a master of grandness in what he strives for in his movies. He is his own filmmaker. He understands that things need weight and depth, but beyond the hardware, which is necessary. He is also, like (Spielberg) one of only a few directors, who really get that the music and sound are as critical character as anything else, but the drama has to come first before the other parts work (note to Michael Bay). I can think of only a few filmmakers who truly present the gravitas that Nolan strives for and presents constantly in his movies.
Nolan uses a fractured timeline between the three settings that he shows here (Land, Air and Sea) and as you watch (Dunkirk) you will go back and repeat moments again, but from a different point of view. It is at first, a bit confusing, but then it makes sense, as you will see the events and story lines converge.
At no point in this movie, is there but a moments lull in the action and tension. It is something that you will be immersed in, and that is the point. Except for a haunting moment towards the end, when one character, after doing his duty well above what he should have been able to, calmly does something braver, is there a hint of silence.
I came out of (Dunkirk) floored by the amazing experience that Nolan took me on, and truly appreciating what all those who were involved with the massive evacuation, went through to just get back home and live to fight another day. That's pretty great filmmaking if you ask me.
watch the trailer: