Starring:- Fionn Whitehead, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance, Cillian Murphy, Aneurin Barnard, Tom Hardy, Jack Lowden, Harry Styles, James D’Arcy, Barry Keoghan.
Directed by:- Christopher Nolan.
When a movie makes you breath harder, your bones numb and your mind blank even when you are on your way back home from the theater, it is either an excellent one or one which reels at the bottom of a dried well. Dunkirk belongs to the former category, standing atop the peak made out of army helmets and film reels, making us look at the grandiose fashion in which it presents itself, yet remains endearing and most of all, intense.
Revolving around the Dunkirk evacuations in which thousands of allied troops got cornered on a beach by the Nazis, Dunkirk explores the topic in the form of a triptych – looking at the beach and its new inhabitants from the land, the sea and the air – these three strands come together to form a string or much better, a rope tied tightly around the environment in which Dunkirk finds itself scavenging in. Tommy (Whitehead) is one of the many soldiers who are trying their level best to get on a boat to home. Farrier (Hardy) is one of the three pilots of the spitfires who are trying to gain the upper hand in the aerial battleground. Mr Dawson (Rylance), his son and his son’s friend soon set course to the turbulent waves of Dunkirk to rescue the soldiers. These three strands intertwine with each other in a typical Nolan fashion, making the audience sit on the edge of their seats with bated breath and audible gasps.
Dunkirk feels like the ‘There Will Be Blood’ of Nolan’s filmography – the change in the tone of aesthetic and technical aspects is starkly visible – much due to Hoytema’s induction into Nolan’s circus tent. Even though the aspects haven’t transformed from kinetic to meditative like in the case of Paul Thomas Anderson, the rise in amount of experimentalism is made clear with the notable usage of handheld and locked-down cinematography and a sense of mobility which overlies on every direction in every shot of the movie. Maybe that’s why my mind was interspersed with images of Interstellar while watching Dunkirk, both of them so different yet united in such a meandering bond that it feels as if Dunkirk is a mature offspring of Interstellar. Nolan’s love for testing the audience strives to reach the bar set by Interstellar through Dunkirk, where every moment of relief or stagnancy is met with tense moments, always keeping the movie’s pace and the audience’s perspective on their toes, its pleasantly frustrating mentality found in tenterhooks.
Lee Jones’ jarring editing flawlessly transports the audience from one stage to another, keeping the tension and overall tone of the movie intact. When the tension of one particular stage rises in a staggering manner, we move to another one with an equal amount of tension ruling on the screen, putting ‘Sicario’ to shame. Hoyte van Hoytema’s cinematography boasts of exquisite imagery, a juxtaposition of dull and vibrant shots mixed with excellent camera movements which provides – with Nathan Crowley’s explosive production design – Dunkirk a robust physique with all the right ingredients. Splotches of Alcott and Lubezki are visible throughout the movie, sending tingles throughout the spines of the audience 24 times per frame.
Dunkirk also sees Nolan employing less detail on character development and the screenplay. It allows the audience to choose between concentrating on the matters at hand or the characters’ ability of dealing and triumphing over them. That’s why we are able to explore more from the expressions of the actors than the manner in which they deliver the mostly factual dialogues. I found the performances top-notch, especially those of Mark Rylance and Tom Hardy. Both of them are so adept into acting by their eyes that it results into multitude of emotions in pivotal moments. Whitehead and Branagh were great, and as is the case about Harry Styles, I felt that he did a fine job especially near the ending. A cameo by one of Nolan’s regulars (you know who it is) is in place too, in case you were considering a possible exception.
Hans Zimmer’s extravagantly furious score proves to be one of the strongholds for Dunkirk. The score serenely transitions from drawly pieces backed by the ticking of Nolan’s wristwatch to orchestral harmonies, the entire soundtrack being highly reminiscent of Zimmer’s work on Terrence Malick’s ‘The Thin Red Line’, save for a few tracks which throb and sizzle enough to be eligible for a Christopher Nolan movie. Tracks like ‘Supermarine’ and ‘Impulse’ are great, reminding me of the frantic mindset of Zimmer’s ‘Mombasa’. Nolan and Zimmer once again prove the already well-known fact that their partnership is one made in cinematic heavens.
I remember today, when I was riding in a cab and walking on my way back home from the theater with a great friend of mine, I looked at people’s faces – sad, forlorn, smiling and overheard their conversations, ranging from letters to marriages. My conscience was shouting at them, “You people are missing out on a great movie!” subsequently making me feel guilty when my negligence towards their present predicaments came to the fore. If I have to put it in a sentence or two, Dunkirk is a masterpiece and one of the greatest war films ever made. My views might change in the future due to further introspections or re-watches, in the event of which I might re-visit this review, either to spice and polish it up a little or to decimate it completely – earnestly hoping that it be the former.