Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dunkirk (2017) Review


 Christopher Nolan
 Christopher Nolan
 Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles & Mark Rylance
 21 Jul 2017
 Suspense, Thriller, Action, Drama
 108 mins
Experience Christopher Nolan’s intense retelling of the evacuation of 400,000 allied soldiers from Dunkirk beach during WWII.


As a 22 year old young woman, war films are not usually my first choice of genre, but "Dunkirk" is not just any old war film. When Christopher Nolan plastered his name against the retelling of the historic evacuation of Dunkirk beach, I knew this would be a film I needed to see. To educate myself on the history of my country, yes, but to also see it brought back to life as delicately and respectfully as only Nolan could. Believe the hype and the press you've been seeing, as this film truly is more of an experience to be immersed in, than just a story to watch. Nolan's films are always meticulously designed and crafted to elicit particular emotions and forward-thinking; this film is a brilliant example of this. Intense and intimate from the very beginning, "Dunkirk" brings light to the gritty hardship of war, yet never glorifies the violence. More than anything, it highlights the breadth of humanity and how even in the hardest of times, the human spirit will prevail.


STYLISTIC CHOICES - One of my pet peeves in movies, is too much dialogue and monologuing. "Dunkirk" uses a surprisingly small amount of dialogue, yet all the narrative and character's emotions remain abundant, seen through continuous shots of Tommy, played by Fionn Whitehead, and Gibson, played by Aneurin Barnard. From the moment the two characters meet, their conversations are made through gestures and facial expressions; little nods and half-smiles. The whole scene where the two carry an injured soldier to the boat was certainly a highlight. The lack of words being exchanged forces the audience to use their brains to piece everything together, instead of having everything spelt out through characters thinking out loud. 

There is also very little focus on individual characters, but on the cast as an ensemble - many of the lead characters names are never even said, yet we still connect with these men, as we experience the emotional event with them. Choices such as this are always preferable to me, making the action feel much more natural and more enjoyable to watch. It also adds to the heavily visual filmic style, its up to the audience to literally watch as events unfold, while POV camera angles help the audience to imagine walking among the soldiers.

We witness the event through three viewpoints, the mole at Dunkirk beach, in the air and at sea. As events unfold, by the last 20 minutes, all three stories collide, taking place at the same time. Switching up the narrative in this way adds another piece to the puzzle for the audience to solve, which I always enjoy, yet it allows the retelling to be well paced, remain interesting and not too overbearing for the viewer. It's also worth noting that I did not find the film to encourage or glorify the violence in war in any way. Very little focus was given to any violent acts, with very little graphic imagery. The focus was purely on the humanity, the allied soldiers and the negative effects of war. The film does not tarnish the event, but honours it, reminding us of the emotional impact of war.

SOUND AND SCORE - With the aforementioned lack of dialogue, the use of sound effects and music is heightened. Individual characters were not carrying this film, as much as the style of the film carried the characters. The gentle ticking throughout the whole event helped to build the tension, whilst indicating that something was coming, which I found quite exciting. It was also very calming to finally hear the ticking stop as Tommy fell asleep on the train, we knew we were safe. Additionally the emphasised sounds of the aircrafts and explosions were incredibly immersive and quite frightening; exactly how I would imagine being in Dunkirk would have been. Combined with the manipulative, tense, pounding score from Hans Zimmer, the sound and score play a huge part in connecting the audience to the action in a much more prominent way, than in many other films of today.

Well executed; the focus was on the experience of the event and the time, rather than on any particular actor, character or action. Technically well designed and produced, "Dunkirk" honours the event and those involved. May it remind us and future generations to never forget and never repeat.

FAVOURITE SCENE - When the civilian boats arrive - the music finally softens and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face in the cinema.
FAVOURITE SHOT - The wide shot of the soldiers dropping to their chest on the beach before the bombs hit; incredibly powerful.
FAVOURITE CHARACTER - Mr. Dawson played by Mark Rylance.

"Dunkirk" is now showing in cinemas across the UK and is definitely not one to miss!
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