Dunkirk The XS Review

Dunkrik film still

Christopher Nolan is BACK!

 After so much effort and attention had been made to seeing this film in the best possible format, IMAX 70mm, or just IMAX, or even IMAX 35mm… this reviewer ended up seeing a DCP at the local cinema. Sorry guys.

Cillian Murphy in Dunkirk trailer

DUNKIRK  (Dir. Christopher Nolan, 106 mins, 12A) ̣̣̣̣

In this film by director Christopher Nolan, of Dark Knight and Inception fame and acclaim, we are presented a tightly wound, personal and claustrophobic look at one of Britain’s single biggest military disasters, and that is exactly what everyone has been saying. It’s Nolan’s best film, his most personal film, his tensest film and his shortest film. Well, I agree with some of those. 

Following four young men across three different terrains (land, air and sea) we see how the attempted rescue of 400,000 trapped soldiers was handled by a government who were preparing to bring home only 30,000. Nolan cleverly casts unknown young actors in the leads to represent how it was Britain’s young generation who were thrust into the front line of the war and became and nameless, faceless people to be used as a disposable army… except Harry Styles. He’s not faceless or nameless, so… that doesn’t really work. There has been a lot of talk about Styles being in this film though and I can wholly say I am for it all. First and foremost he is a fine actor and does the film justice, aside from one or two dud lines, he’s delivers a performance that fits within the film very nicely, and if it because of him being in this picture that it brings a lot of younger audience members into the cinema to experience this film then that is just a bonus on top of it. The cynical minded will say he was cast for that reason alone, but I would disagree. That is not the style of Nolan, as anyone who’s seen one of his previous films can attest to, he clearly must have seen something good in him. 

One of the films more experimental features is the narrative structure, which works… some of the time. Kind of. Does it work well? I’m not sure. Nolan presents an hour in the life of the airforce, a day in the life of the navy and a week in the life of the foot soldiers, all cross cut continually thought the film to create a sometimes jarring transition of weather conditions and time of day that could be looked upon as bad continuity to some audience members. The experimental structure of this works in theory, and in retrospect I appreciate what it was trying to do, but during the film I just found it a little bit annoying. 

But this is an incredibly strong film. One that will no doubt be part of school curriculums for years to come. The use of large format photography (IMAX, 65mm) is phenomenal, although I don’t really appreciate the notion that it is pointless to see it in any other format, and the work of cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema is glorious to see on the big screen, the colour grade of the film also does a lot for the work of Hoytema. A particular highlight of all departments coming together well is during the film’s final stretch. The aerial dog fights with Tom Hardy are a continual source of awe, but when it finally ties into the other narratives it takes on a whole new level of anticipation. 

This was not the film I expected to see going in. Is that a good or a bad thing? I’m not quite sure yet. This is Nolan’s most experimental and risky film since MEMENTO, and is a welcome departure
to the huge scale epics we are used to seeing his name attached to. A somewhat cold film at times, but one that shows the events with an admirable level of objectivity as well as personal affectation.

4/5 STARS!