[Film Review] Dunkirk (2017)

Dunkirk poster

Title: Dunkirk
Year: 2017
Country: UK, Netherlands, France, USA
Language: English, French, German
Genre: War, Action, History, Drama
Director/Writer: Christopher Nolan
Music: Hans Zimmer
Cinematography: Hoyte Van Hoytema
Fionn Whitehead
Tom Hardy
Mark Rylance
Kenneth Branagh
James D’Arcy
Jack Lowden
Tom Glynn-Carney
Barry Keoghan
Aneurin Barnard
Cillian Murphy
Harry Styles
Michael Fox
Damien Bonnard
John Nolan
Bobby Lockwood
Michael Caine
Rating: 8.2/10

Dunkirk 2017.jpg

From a point-of-view of an inveterate pacifist, any war film shouldn’t be bothered to watch, whether it wields its anti-war flag or not, because it is either flogging a dead horse or being brazenly repugnant. But when one is made by Christopher Nolan, there is no excuse for a film buff to dodge from facing the man-made atrocity dutifully affixed with adequate dosage of individual heroism gleaming as the silver lining (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is a clear forefather), and this is DUNKIRK.

Without any question, Mr. Nolan envisions and executes an immersive experience for pampering audience to vicariously partake in the action, its triptych structural arrangement from land, sea and air with different temporal stints starts as a tad discombobulating, but before long would we be utterly blown away by the sheer mastery of its grand-scale imagery and sonic accompaniment, in particular that muffled ticking sound blanketing the infantry pawns as they are continuously besieged by aerial attack, torpedo charge and stray bullets, our protagonist on the land is the Private Tommy, played by a young Tom Courtenay ringer, the rookie Fionn Whitehead, who has no intention to be heroic at any rate when the priority is simply to stay alive. He is first paired with Gibson (Barnard), so as to take a chance of getting on board of a departing warship along with those who are injured, which doesn’t work. After biding their time hidden themselves under the mole, they finally land on their feet on another ship, surprisingly, Gibson chooses to stay away from his fellow compatriots, a decision which prompts his life-saving conduct when the ship is sinking underwater, among whom he saves are Peter and Alex (Styles), but the real reason behind that decision will boomerang later, which the ingrate Alex should partially answer for. Here Nolan’s script pluckily wrestles with the shadowy underside of the internecine conflicts among the Allies, when nationality hogging the precedence over individual lives. And it is interesting to divine why Nolan doesn’t swap the upshots of Alex and Gibson if he really wants to state a point.

On the sea, the evacuation aided by boats of civilians brings to the fore of an ordinary family’s selfless deeds in a perilous situation, Mark Rylance superbly plays Mr. Dawson, a seafarer who has already lost a son to the war and volunteers to the rescue mission with another son Peter (Glynn-Carney) and a young helper George (Keoghan) in his own boat, en route, they successfully come to aid to a soldier on the flotsam (Murphy, in his best shell-shocked form) and a British pilot (Lowden) almost trapped to death in the cockpit before sailing near Dunkirk, but one might feel a bit disappointed that even Nolan has to predictably yield to the last-second-succor shtick in his own script. The Dawson’s involvement also poignantly brings home to us the inconvenient truth: being heroic also entails that one must pay its price, however unpleasant it is. In the firmament, British Supermarine Spitfires (although riddled with malfunctions) engage in dogfight with German bombers, they are the guardian angels of those defenseless earth-bound foot soldiers and unwieldy vessels, Tom Hardy, as one of the pilots, is the ultimate hero specimen, laconic, unfazed and cool-headed, a sublimed understated performance.

DUNKIRK’s robust box-office revenue bears witness to a reassuring fact that a director’s name can still usurp bankability from film stars (whose power is actually dwindling significantly into the 21st century), because auteurism shouldn’t only to be ensconced on the art house sphere, it should be the new norm if our film industry needs to prosper, we need more star-directors like Christopher Nolan and maybe this time, Academy members can finally cave in.

referential points: Nolan’s INCEPTION (2010, 9.0/10), INTERSTELLAR (2014, 8.5/10); Steven Spielberg’s SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (1998, 8.6/10).


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