The Dunkirk evacuation was one of the most impressive feats of civilian intervention during war time, to date. A myriad of fishing vessels, trawlers and the like were called upon to rescue some 400,000 British troops from the beaches at Dunkirk; surrounded by Nazis, with an ever-decreasing perimeter. Time was of the essence and the task in hand seemed impossible. Now that Christopher Nolan’s retelling of this epic story has hit our screens, I can tell you that the resulting film is phenomenal; a marvel in subtlety and implied meaning.
The main narrative is split into three separate, cleverly interlaced strands of time … almost as if Nolan had a hand in the making of Inception ... Brilliantly, these strands play over three different time periods. ‘The Mole’ is the first: A large pier-like structure, providing a giant escape ‘funnel’ onto the destroyer vessels. Hundreds upon thousands of men queuing for a place on a boat; arriving irregularly (if at all), in order to dispatch the men to safety. The second is aptly named, ‘The Sea’, where Mark Rylance (a brave and loveable civilian sailor) makes his way over the 75km crossing from Dover in a bid to save as many lives as he possibly can. Lastly, there is ‘The Sky’. With all events taking place in a single hour, Tom Hardy and his comrades endeavour to protect the events below from the dive-bombing Luftwaffe.
One of the most impressive things, I found, was the lack of dialogue. The vast majority of scenes being void of any script at all. The sheer power of each scene simply holds its own and has no need for the exchanging of words; with the pictures and emotions displayed, speaking volumes. Furthermore, when this is combined with Hans Zimmer’s mind-blowing blend of tension-building metallic bass, rising and sinking like the tide … well ... I didn’t even touch my Maltesers!
Back to Tom Hardy then, and his role as a spitfire pilot. The dog fights are fast, intense and feel almost physical as if you’re sat in the cockpit hit with each and every bullet. The Luftwaffe planes are cold and distant, as not once are you given a perspective of the enemy pilots making them one of the most genuine visual threats I’ve seen in a film. There are moments where a single creak or a stray bullet is ten times more sinister and dangerous than any CGI explosion.
The emotional sledgehammer moments of this film hit harder than a rocket propelled train going downhill, on steroids... At least, they did for me. When it comes to films about the World Wars, they never fail to choke me up and this was far from an exception. The sheer pride and utter, overwhelming admiration I have for the men and women that contributed to our effort is something I can never truly comprehend. It’s a mixture of disbelief and utter respect. Nolan’s Dunkirk took me to a place where I was brimming with pride to be British; and given the apparent lack of it in modern times, it’s always a welcome feeling. We owe everything to these people and the film does a superb job of showing us the struggle and strife they went through.
A short review, admittedly, but all the film really needs. There are not many words in the film and so in the same spirit, there are not many words to be said about it. It is a fine addition to the world of cinema and will rival Saving Private Ryan for that ‘war comparison’ film. Nolan has created filmic art and whether he likes it or not, he’ll no doubt need to polish up on his public speaking ready for all those award ceremonies. Superb by all accounts. You just need to go and watch it, experience it and be overwhelmed by it.
Even that One Direction chap is pretty good...
Hats off to Mr Nolan and his team.