Dunkirk Reviewed By Jon E Clist

The Premise
“Dunkirk” opens as hundreds of thousands of British and Allied troops are surrounded by enemy forces.  Trapped on the beach with their backs to the sea, they face an impossible situation as the enemy closes in. The story unfolds on land, sea and air.  RAF Spitfires engage the enemy in the skies above the Channel, trying to protect the defenseless men below.  Meanwhile, hundreds of small boats manned by both military and civilians are mounting a desperate rescue effort, risking their lives in a race against time to save even a fraction of their army. 

The Review
What an amazing story that fits so strongly into the timeline of the Second World War. The importance of the events that unfolded at Dunkirk were profound in regards to the outcome. The man behind this huge cinematic encounter, Christopher Nolan, stated, "This is an essential moment in the history of the Second World War. If this evacuation had not been a success, Great Britain would have been obliged to capitulate. And the whole world would have been lost, or would have known a different fate: the Germans would undoubtedly have conquered Europe, the US would not have returned to war. It is a true point of rupture in war and in history of the world. A decisive moment. And the success of the evacuation allowed Churchill to impose the idea of a moral victory, which allowed him to galvanize his troops like civilians and to impose a spirit of resistance while the logic of this sequence should have been that of surrender. Militarily it is a defeat; on the human plane it is a colossal victory."
So, you could imagine that this is a story that Nolan wanted to do something that is as epic on screen as it was in reality. In fact, Christopher Nolan decided to use the real naval destroyers instead of CGI for sea battle sequences in this film. He also used cardboard cut-out props of soldiers and military vehicles placed in the far background of shots to create the illusion of a large army. At one point, there were 62 ships during filming, many of which were actual 'Little Ships' of Operation Dynamo. I guess that for me is what Christopher Nolan is all about. Making great cinema and compelling stories.

After first-hand accounts of the Dunkirk evacuation revealed to Christopher Nolan how young and inexperienced the soldiers were, he decided to cast young and unknown actors for the beach setting. This pays off in spades as the new fresh faces in this film including Harry Styles are all really good. Of course when you add in the stunning established cast of the likes of Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Brannagh and then you have something that is going to smash it out of the park.

This is a big film visually and such an epic tale is going to need epic music to keep it moving. So, for the sixth time Nolan csalled upon composer Hans Zimmer. They  have previously worked together on The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception (2010), and Interstellar (2014). Zimmer received an Oscar Nomination for both Inception and Interstellar. The soundtrack is totally amazing and helps to keep the intensity running high throughout. A nice little fact is that Zimmer used Nolan's pocket watch to create the clock ticking soundtracks in the film.

The film is told from three points of view: on the beach with the infantry (including Fionn Whitehead and Harry Styles), the evacuation by the navy (featuring Cillian Murphy and Mark Rylance, showing how civilians came to the rescue) and then in the air (with Tom Hardy engaging in plane combat). Speaking about the narrative structure in Premiere magazine, Christopher Nolan stated: "For the soldiers who embarked in the conflict, the events took place on different temporalities. On land, some stayed one week stuck on the beach. On the water, the events lasted a maximum day; and if you were flying to Dunkirk, the British spitfires would carry an hour of fuel. To mingle these different versions of history, one had to mix the temporal strata. Hence the complicated structure; even if the story is very simple. Do not repeat it to the studio: it will be my most experimental film."

The Verdict
A must-see and one of the best films of the decade. For me this is running very high up the films of the year and towards the top of the all-time war movies.

The Trailer

The Info
Releases: 20th July 2017
Rating: M – Contains Violence & offensive language
Duration: 106 minutes 
Genre:  Drama/War
Starring: Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Kenneth Brannagh, Fionn Whitehead, Damien Bonnard, Aneurin Barnard and Harry Styles
Director: Christopher Nolan (Memento, The Dark Knight)

The Extras

Christopher Nolan received a $20 million salary against 20% of the box office gross, the biggest deal for any director since Peter Jackson received the same amount with King Kong (2005).

Continuing his advocacy for film over digital formats, Christopher Nolan chose to shoot the movie in a combination of 15/70mm IMAX film and Super Panavision 65mm film in order to achieve the maximum possible image quality. Following The Master (2012) and The Hateful Eight (2015), Dunkirk (2017) will be the third major motion picture of the current decade to be primarily shot and shown theatrically in 70mm.

1,500 extras, a crane and a spitfire were used to recreate the miraculous evacuation of 338,000 allied troops.

This is director Christopher Nolan's first movie since Insomnia (2002) not to feature Michael Caine.

This is the 3rd Christopher Nolan film to be written entirely by Chris himself, the others being Following (1998) and Inception (2010). Memento (2000) was a story based from his brother, Jonathan Nolan. The Dark Knight (2008), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and Interstellar (2014) were all co-written by Jonathan. Batman Begins (2005) was co-written by David S. Goyer. Christopher's only uncredited written film is Insomnia (2002).

First Christopher Nolan movie to be based on historical events. All of his other movies have either been original scripts, remakes, novel/short story adaptations, or comic book adaptations.

The title "Dunkirk" is divided into three segmented colours, sky blue, dark blue and orange referring to the triptych plot of Air, Sea and Land.

Urk, a small fishing town in Flevoland, The Netherlands, was used as a base of operation for filming on the IJsselmeer.

The film could have been made earlier, as for idea of it was haunting Christopher Nolan's mind since his early student days, but he was too afraid his lack of experience in big-scale filmmaking is going to tamper his project of passion, so he delayed it until he trained his skill with his previous large-scale blockbuster projects, including The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception (2010) and Interstellar (2014).

This will be cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema's second collaboration with Christopher Nolan. The previous was Interstellar (2014).