Review: Dunkirk – War is a beach

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DunkirkIf you’ve been waiting for the “feel good” film of the summer, well, the bad news is that Dunkirk ain’t it. The good news, though, is that this is an amazing movie and one that I think is perfectly timed as a reminder of what can happen when the world is being led by egomaniacal morons.

Written and directed by one of pop culture’s favorite artisans, Christopher Nolan (see The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar), Dunkirk is epic in scale while remaining, at its heart, a simple story of surviving against impossible odds in the worst of times – ever.

In the same WWII vein as Saving Private Ryan, this film is as intense as anything you are likely to see on the big screen; and I do suggest that you see it on a BIG screen, as it was shot in 70mm and with IMAX cameras, and the Director of Photography, Hoyte Van Hoytema, utilizes those formats to maximum effect. The cinematography in the film is downright incredible and it is going to be worth repeat viewings – in IMAX – to fully absorb its visual wonderment.

To avoid any confusion, before going into this film it is worthy to note that the narrative plays with alternating timelines and perspectives that surround the evacuation of Allied soldiers from the beaches of Dunkirk, France. There are textual titles to help explain this, but to be honest those titles caused a little bit of confusion for me.

From land the evacuation of soldiers on the beach took approximately a week; from the water, the evacuation took about a day; but from the air the events only lasted about an hour. All three fronts and timelines converge in the movie, eventually, and everything makes sense – for the most part – but you’ll need to stay on your toes to keep up.

DunkirkThe score by longtime Nolan collaborator, Hans Zimmer, is fantastic and adds to the extreme tension of the visuals, which, for the most part, are conveyed in a silent-film-like storytelling method. There is very little dialogue and what exists is difficult to understand behind the European accents and loud music. (If you never had a problem understanding Bane in Nolan’s ‎The Dark Knight Rises, then you’re going to be all good.)

The acting here is first-rate, but mostly by unknown talent, with the standout being Fionn Whitehead as the young soldier, Tommy. As for people you’ll recognize, there’s Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) as a private yacht captain; Kenneth Branagh as the beach Commander; James D’Arcy (Jarvis from the Agent Carter TV series) as a British officer; Cillian Murphy as a shell shocked soldier; and Tom Hardy as a Royal Air Force pilot.

Harry Styles from the One Direction boy-band is also in this movie… so there’s that. (To be completely honest, I didn’t know who he was before this film – and I still don’t know now.)

If you are unfortunate enough to be suffering from PTSD, then you may want to pass on this ultra-intense movie – not a joke. Dunkirk is truly a magnificent and monumental work of art that tells an important historical story that many, I’m sure, don’t already know. You will feel this movie in your heart and in your soul; and if you see it in IMAX you’re going to feel it resonate throughout your entire body. Grade: 9/10

Photos Copyright © 2017 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

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About the author

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Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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