Nolan has reached a point where he is afforded autonomy with is work, and his name has become reliable and, more importantly, bankable by whichever studio backs him. Had any other filmmaker taken the concept of this film to the studio big-wigs there's almost no chance they would have received the green light to go ahead.
As the title states the film chronicles the evacuation of Dunkirk, a despairing chapter in England's WWII campaign which saw the rescue of over 300,000 stranded Allied troops on the shores of Dunkirk. With the German army surrounding the city there is no chance of a military rescue and so the British Navy enlist the service of regular countrymen and commandeer civilian boats to sail across the channel and into the heart of war. What unfolded was an astonishing story of survival that defied all odds and cemented a place in the history books.
The Dunkirk story has been adapted to the screen several times before (most recently in 2007's ATONEMENT) but it has never been told like this. Nolan rejects all romanticism in favour of realism and tells his story by way of observation. He chooses three perspectives and alternates between them in a non-lineal fashion. We see the evacuation from the points of view of fighter pilots, ground troops and civilians... whose actions occasionally intertwine, but are mostly centred as focal points for their respective time on screen.
Nolan shot the film on IMAX 65mm and 65mm large film format and he devotes over 60% of the film's running time to the full IMAX format. That's an amazing undertaking that will excite all film enthusiasts, and for the laymen who aren't familiar with cinematic presentation it means that Dunkirk is about as BIG as movies get! While the film will look incredible on regular cinema screens it looks absolutely phenomenal on the IMAX screen, and I would urge everyone to catch it at IMAX for the full emersion.
I am hard pressed to find fault with DUNKIRK, and much like MAD MAX FURY ROAD the film predominantly employs practical craftsmanship, with most of the action being shot with real actors, real stunts and real explosions. And, again, like FURY ROAD the storytelling is unconventional and all-consuming. The film hits the ground running and doesn't relent until the end credits roll. Fighter planes criss-cross the skyline while troops on the ground flee for their lives, dodging enemy fire. Light sea vessels punt across the English channel beneath a sky-borne war, while men fight for survival in oil-spilled seas. It is a non-stop spectacle that barely gives the audience time to breathe, and despite its intensity there's barely a drop of blood spilled on screen. The pure ferocity of the film is driven by an equally relentless score from the legendary Hans Zimmer, whose music not only drives the film but also remains suspended in an unsettling sense of escalation. Zimmer's presence dominates every single frame of the film and, in my opinion, he deserves the lead billing... “DUNKIRK starring Hans Zimmer”.
The cast is exceptional and all players give strong and invested performances, and despite Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance taking the top billing, the story prevents them from stealing a central role. All of the characters are pivotal to the narrative and Nolan refuses to hone his focus on just one. And it is with this concentration on the story at hand that he has successfully crafted one of the greatest war films of all time.
DUNKIRK is magnificent. It is an assault on the senses and possesses a flagrant disregard for convention. It is a stunning marriage of action and music, and most importantly it is a refreshing, compelling and all-consuming movie going experience.... the likes of which we are rarely afforded anymore.