History has proven that war is Hell. Soldiers that have been there and back will reveal that they were in constant fear that any moment could be their last. There was no such thing as a safe haven. The moment they would retreat to their tents and shut their eyes for the evening would be treasured as they were never sure if they would ever wake up. Sure, having their hands on a gun or even knife might give them some reassurance, but the cloud of death is felt by everyone, with the acceptance that they’re okay with sacrifice.
There are too many war movie to name, but how many of them deal with the actual fear that came with it? Even I’m hard pressed to fully name one. I think it has to do with the ideology that’s similar to how the American government wants the public to see its military; fearless. Vulnerability seems to be seen as more of a sign of weakness then humanity, especially in film. It’s always about trying to be the hero. It’s all about showing that your have to stand and face the enemy. What if I were to say it’s okay to run? Dunkirk let’s you know that it’s alright to dream of home within hopelessness.
The film opens with some history exposition informing the audience that it’s 1940 and very early into WWII. We are then introduced to three different stories that seemingly blend together as the film progresses. First on the land is about a young British private Tommy (played by Fionn Whitehead) who (along with the rest of the troops) is being pushed closer and closer to the ocean. He joins with fellow private Gibson (played by Aneurin Barnard) and later Alex (played by Harry Styles) as they simply hope to catch a boat that will take them home.
The second story on the water is about an older mariner Mr. Dawson (played by Mark Rylance) as he and his son Peter join with several sailors in transporting their ships to Dunkirk to help with the troop rescue. They later pickup a shell-shocked soldier (played by Cillian Murphy) and deal with him wanting to turn the boat around.
The last story in the air, centers around three spitfire pilots on the English Channel to provide support from the Nazi attacks. Though one of the pilots Farrier (played by Tom Hardy) gas gauge breaks, he continues to fight as long as he can.
If film has been about immersing audiences into new worlds, then Dunkirk will transport you to the terror of WWII. Right from the opening scene (which I will not DARE spoil), I found myself flinching to gunshots and explosions, as if I was in a VR experience. Director Christopher Nolan again extends his belief that cinema should be an experience and Dunkirk is an incredible suspenseful war movie that gave me an idea of what fear I would have felt had I been in the military.
It’s been said that real veterans of the Dunkirk event felt like they had returned. I can say that this movie looks and sounds incredible. For such a story that shot in a wide scope, you ironically feel that claustrophobia that each of the men in France felt when they thought they were going to die. Sometimes its right on the beach and sometimes it’s on the sailboat in the little rooms where that may have been the only safe place. I saw this in IMAX, and I can say that it amplifies the sound to a level that added the number of times I jumped from my seat.
Will Dunkirk receive a best picture nomination? It’s tough to tell, but I’m sure it’s already guaranteed all of the technical awards from effects to sound to especially score by the great Hans Zimmer. The music, like the movie, all feel like a ticking time bomb that will eventually go off, yet you never see the timer.
If I had any issue is that the movie does feel a little long even with it’s hour and forty minute running time. A lot of that has to do with that you listen to very little dialogue and all the focus is the reaction of the characters. This makes for what has to be the loudest silent movie I’ve seen.
I’ll give this five Dunkirk flags out of five. Watching Dunkirk on the big screen will feel like a historical roller coaster, so if sound volume doesn’t bother you, spring for the IMAX screening if you can. While I can’t say this is Nolan’s best work, Dunkirk justifies his claim that we need cinema for movies like these.