Review: Dunkirk - not compelling enough to be the masterpiece it could have been

Dunkirk

Dunkirk - Credit: Archant

Dunkirk provides an immersive spectacle.

After a career focusing mainly on science fiction and fantasy, British director Christopher Nolan takes his first foray into true life with this World War Two epic.

The film depicts the events of the incredible rescue effort mounted by a number of civilian ships after 400,000 allied troops were left stranded behind enemy lines on the beaches of Dunkirk in late May 1940.

As always, Nolan’s reluctance to rely on CGI effects is refreshing. His use of authentic period vehicles paired with close to 6,000 extras gives the film a wonderful sense of scale.

The film is beautifully shot by cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema who manages to capture the claustrophobic nature of the soldiers plight and a constantly ticking score from Hans Zimmer helps ramp up the tension to almost unbearable levels.


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As in many of his other films, Nolan loves to play around with the time structures of his films and this is no exception.

The story is told from the three separate viewpoints each taking place simultaneously, but during differing timescales of a week, a day and an hour.

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Newcomer Fionn Whithead plays a young private attempting to escape the bloodshed on the beach and he receives solid support from Harry Styles of One Direction fame in his first acting role.

Tom Hardy, plays a spitfire pilot attempting to defend the civilian ships from above, while the excellent Mark Rylance captains one of the small vessels in their rescue mission across the channel.

The three interlinking stories are cleverly woven together. However, the conflicting timelines will leave some viewers confused and with no one thread taking the lead, it is difficult to fully connect with the characters.

The dialogue is sparse, and the film focuses more on the experience rather than any discernible narrative.

This fact coupled with the characters’ lack of depth mean the film is not quite compelling enough to be the masterpiece it could have been,

However, Nolan is without doubt a master craftsman and he has again produced a technically brilliant film and an immersive spectacle.

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