In 1940 the defeated British army has been pushed back to the edge of France. Trapped on all sides by the advancing Nazis, a massacre seems imminent with stranded soldiers being picked off by both the air, sea and land.
What happens next irrevocably changes history and defines a nation forever.
Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ is a real departure for a director famed for his labyrinthine plots and dense complexity. His version of ‘Dunkirk’ has none of that. Without question this is his most lean film to date and there’s a reason why. In interview he revealed that he doesn’t want anything getting between the audience and the experience of being stranded on a beach, waiting for death whilst praying for salvation.
Gone are the war film staples of generals in war rooms, pushing pins around oversized maps. Gone is the face of the enemy, characterised as an unrelenting, demonic aggressor. Instead What you have in ‘Dunkirk’ is total empathy where you feel the circumstances of the men on the beach, the men trapped in the sinking ships and desperate fighter pilots trying to provide air cover.
...Visceral machine gun fire that chews up wooden jetties and punctures airplane fuselage in a way like never before.
Stylistically, ‘Dunkirk’ chooses to depict its violence in a very different way to other films. There are no cartwheeling, aerial dogfights or lingering slo-motion shots of the carnage. What you do have is sound. A sound like you’ve never heard before that puts you right inside the cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema’s intentionally sober frame. Visceral machine gun fire that chews up wooden jetties and punctures airplane fuselage in a way like never before, all of which collapses the distance between the audience and the on-screen drama.
A staunch advocate for film as a theatrical experience, Christopher Nolan has again shot his latest movie on the largest canvas possible with IMAX cameras. However it’s the Atmos sound system that selected cinemas that really delivers the one-two punch of Hans Zimmer’s percussive score with the bullets and explosions that rip through the lives onscreen.
With a fine cast as a true ensemble, Nolan’s movie jarring story is meant to confuse and disorientate. His jumping storyline takes risks in a reaching for a new visual language so as to convey its terror. Seen from the air, the sea and the land, Dunkirk is a sensorial experience that demands to seen in a theatre, on the biggest screen possible with the largest sound available. It is what many other movies pretend to be. It is a cinematic event that can only be really appreciated inside a cinema, the modern-day temple of dreams. Form an orderly queue now.