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Dunkirk (2017)

by British Film Critic

I’ll never get over the fact that I missed out on watching this film in IMAX on TWO separate occasions, but the fact that I’ve finally gotten around to seeing it provides me with some semblance of closure. Nolan has always been one of my favourite filmmakers, always delivering fresh, original ideas executed cleverly, and Dunkirk manages to be one of his best displays of that.

How the significance of time and the sense of urgency is integrated into each of the three stories, as well as the score, makes for an impressive twist on the war genre, adding a level of intuition to the film in its use of non-linear storytelling, which is further perpetuated by its frequent dependence on visuals alone to communicate. The storytelling twist gives a distinctiveness to this war story, and stays true to Nolan’s exploration of time in his films.

Nolan makes a conscious effort to depend on the visuals and the intensity of the atmosphere to tell its own story as much as possible. Hoyte van Hoytema really outdoes himself with this film, providing a slew of breathtaking visuals from start to finish, utilising gorgeous lighting, colour grading and shot composition to form a habitually powerful visual journey. The scarcity of dialogue also allows many of the actors to showcase their prowess for physical performing, conveying great emotion and depth in as little as a slight facial expression. Aside from his intuitive direction, Nolan’s dependence on practical effects brings a new level of tangibility to each sequence, making each event more immersive, visceral and tense, due to the feeling as if what you’re watching is really happening because, at its core, it is.

All of these moving parts come together in what I found to be a genuinely moving tale of the perseverance of selflessness in war, providing a meaningful sentiment whilst straying far from any form of glorification, by maintaining a stern focus on how war changes people, mentally and ultimately morally, and often for the worse, exposing the undeniable presence of narcissistic attitudes that reared their heads in the dire moments of war.