5 / 5
There is the location, the situation, the characters and the deadline. All are set, wound up and then the ticking begins.
Dunkirk is not so much of a war movie as we traditionally expect one to be. We see soldiers, it is set in World War Two and there are moments of gunfire but its closer to Grave of The Fireflies because of it’s tone and more about the effect of war.
Our backdrop is the beach of Dunkirk where French and British soldiers were pushed back to and the Nazi’s have surrounded them and are going to move in for the kill. Some ships are coming to pick them up but they often get shot down by planes.
We have about three situations going on. One follows a young private named Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) who just wants to get on a ship and get out alive. Another follows Mr Dawson a man who owns his own boat and is taking it upon himself to rescue all the soldiers he can. Another is Farrier (Tom Hardy) a British pilot that has to defend what ships he can but a shot has rendered his fuel gauge broken so he has no idea how long he has left.
Seeing the movie is like seeing Hitchcock’s Notorious. Christopher Nolan has reduced this movie to as few spoken lines as he could and focused on sharply telling the story through visuals.
Throughout the movie it is all about choice. The characters are all facing death and how they decide to go about it. The young private doing all he can to stay alive, the pilot that is remaining in the fight to defend the troops as much as he can, even though his plane could give out any minute, the old man that has a boat so is going to pick up some soldiers even though he will most likely get shot down and die for nothing.
Over the course of watching the movie you will grasp that it is told out of order. Each characters narratives starts and you then learn that they intersect with the others. I tell you this because it isn’t really important, there is no twist involved with it, just a refreshing way to tell a plot with multiple characters from different perspectives. The kind of thing I expect and appreciate from Nolan.
This is Christopher Nolan striping himself back. His movies have become increasingly more dense and complicated, not in a bad way, though he has gotten pretty close to over-packing his movies. This is a simple concept with minimal dialog and more about clearly telling a gripping experience.