Dubbed as a masterpiece for the screen, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk has been heralded as one of the best war films to date as it leaves a lasting presence and impact with its viewers.
A serious and well-structured re telling of the British and French retreat from German occupied France from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940, it follows three main factors of the retreat; the sky, the land and the sea.
With scenes that make you arch your back in uneasiness or throw your hands over your ears at the sheer noise of the whole immersive film, Nolan throws you into discomfort, from water filling up around the camera lens through to bombs quickly dropping towards you, the film has been praised for tumbling the viewer into the action.
The film pitches you into a transfixing trance, with very little dialogue throughout, as of course, what would one say to each other in the despair of it all. Sparse dialogue also offers the chance for astounding acting, as Aneurin Barnard’s character expresses his fear through silent, harrowing looks, whilst Fionn Whiteheads’ ‘Tommy’ displays his through body language, curling up alongside fellow soldiers below the bombs, to display the helplessness of the whole affair.
The seeming protagonist, fittingly named ‘Tommy’ to emphasise his apparent insignificance in the sheer mass of soldiers on the beach, offers a thoughtful approach to war, as his determination ‘to go home’, a sentiment shared with all the others on the beach, resonates strongly with the viewer.
Even the presence of Harry Styles, whose place in the film has sparked confusion, sometimes anger and then praise by viewers- was surprising. The young musician turned actor held his own, kept his head down when he was told to and displayed a well-presented character intent on survival.
One major skill of Nolan is his ability to play around with time, as all three areas of the film, from man, to boat to plane, play out alongside each other throughout, a possible factor included by Nolan to display the necessity of cooperation in war, or how one person’s actions can have considerable effect.
Tom Hardy and Jack Lowden’s portrayal of spitfire pilots offers a different experience to that of the soldiers on the beach, as in comparison to simply waiting, Hardy and Lowden’s characters display the expectation and pressure on them to take down offensive German planes.
Nolan’s depiction of Hardy’s character and his concentration on his fuel gage offers up the lack of security and certainty in war whilst also keeping the viewer in constant suspense throughout.
Nolan keeps the enemy troops completely out of sight, with the only presence of them in the form of fighter planes or torpedoes, representing the menace they represented to the vulnerable ships making the crossing or the ‘sitting ducks’ on the beach.
The film is clever, well structured, seamlessly executed and sophisticated, displaying key characters, from the fighter pilots in the sky, the expectant soldiers on the beach, the vulnerable destroyers on the sea and the independent sailors making the crossing to put what soldiers they can on their boats.
Dunkirk is representative of a very British film, as well as delivering a sense of heritage and a feeling of attachment to the characters on screen with the film offering a very patriotic ending which does ‘tug at the heart strings’ in some instances.
The focus on individual characters also offers a personal approach to war, addressing themes such as shell shock, heroism, bravery and most important and prominent of all, fear, whilst the sheer noise levels of the scenes, especially if viewed in the cinema, are almost invasive and alarming, yet work to display the horror of the ordeal.
The sheer skill of all actors involved also needs to be taken into account with Tom Hardy putting forward an outstanding emotional performance, despite only his eyes and eyebrows being displayed.
With the score composed by Hans Zimmer, the music carries the film, the main element of it being a harrowing ship horn whilst violins count down seconds in sharp, quick notes.
Finally, Nolan’s astounding camera angle abilities mean that you are with the spitfires flying over the beaches, with the camera often tipped onto its side to make you feel discomfort at the whole scene.
The harrowing angles reached by the Spitfire through to the aerial shots of soldier’s terrified faces looking upwards carries the whole film, as Nolan’s heralded masterpiece is an important and thought provoking experience.
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Anuerin Barnard, Fionn Whitehead, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, Tom Glynn-Carney, Barry Keoghan, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden and Kenneth Branagh
Certified 12A cert
Film Length: 106 mins.
Dunkirk is in cinemas now.