Dunkirk is a war film written, co-produced and directed by Christopher Nolan. It features an ensemble cast which includes Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles, Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Aneurin Bernard, Cillian Murphy, James D’Arcy and Kenneth Branagh and portrays the Dunkirk evacuation of the Second World War known as Operation Dynamo. The film is a co-production between the United Kingdom, the United States, France and the Netherlands.
An introductory text tells the viewer that in 1940, after the invasion of France by Nazi Germany, hundreds of thousands of Allied soldiers retreated to the seaside town of Dunkirk. As the allied perimeter shrinks and German forces close in, the soldiers await evacuation in a seemingly hopeless situation.
The film follows three inter-connected perspectives covering different but overlapping periods: on land covering one week, on the sea covering one day and in the air covering one hour. The three parts interweave to create a non-linear narrative.
On the ground at Dunkirk are British Army privates Tommy (Fionn Whitehead) and Alex (Harry Styles) who are desperately trying to get off the beach by any means possible. Across the ocean are local mariners such as Mr. Dawson (Mark Rylance) and his son Peter (Tom Glynn-Carney) who are recruited by the Navy to help and in the Sky are members of the Royal Air Force like Farrier (Tom Hardy) who are battling the German bombers in order to help the Allied soldiers in their efforts to evacuate.
With some 400,000 men on the beaches it soon becomes clear that making it out of Operation Dynamo alive will be a victory in itself for all parties concerned.
Director Christopher Nolan delivers his most intense and nerve-wracking film yet with the story of Operation Dynamo and the Dunkirk evacuation playing to his strength as a storyteller as he cleverly again explores the concept of time through a narrative composed of three distinct threads.
This plot structure not only generates narrative tension but it also serves to allow the central story threads to collide and overlap that showcase the film’s themes of self-sacrifice, heroism and how in times of war survival sometimes is victory enough.
Nolan reunites with his Interstellar cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema for their most impressive work yet from dynamic aerial dogfights to explosive naval warfare sequences. Just as important as the visuals is Han Zimmer’s score which further heightens the tense mood. With very little dialogue in the film it is the visuals and music which create the tension.
As the story of Dunkirk is essentially a race against time there isn’t room for character development but the film doesn’t suffer for it. Some are afforded more depth than others and with the ensemble cast strong across the board the characters do feel like real people even though the viewer only knows so much about them.
Standout performances include Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy as well as newcomers Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles. James D’Arcy (Colonel Winnant) and Kenneth Branagh (Commander Bolton) make the most of their limited screentime delivering noteworthy performances.
Dunkirk is a genuinely intense and immersive experience that will leave you feeling as though you have actually been in a World War II battle. For those of you that want to watch a visual spectacle and clever storytelling then this is one not to miss on the big screen!