Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk is a masterpiece from a master film maker. As with Nolan’s other films as much as possible is kept under wraps until release date, something rare in a world filled with trailers for trailers when entire plots can be gleaned from the teasers leading up to the release of a film. But surely, we all know the story of Dunkirk? That may well be true, but where Nolan surprises constantly is the way the film is structured and the emotional impact wrought from the intensity of the build up.
The story unfolds across land, sea and air. One week on land, one day at sea and one hour in the air. All of those stories cut together with events seen from different perspectives. Nolan has proved he is a master of bending time and space before in Memento, Inception and Interstellar and he does it again here in such a way as to make events almost unbearably tense even when you know what is going to happen.
And whilst it will be already clear that this is a must watch movie, I want to underline how much this film should be seen in the cinema. Much is made of Nolan’s use of 65mm film and the larger image this provides, but the most outstanding technical achievement in this film is the sound design. You absolutely should watch this in an IMAX screen if possible, but just having the benefit of a cinema sound system is going to be a vitally important element to the experience. When enemy planes are bearing down on the troops it is the sound that has you gripping your arm rest. And when bullets start to fly it is the sound that have you jumping out of your seat.
Finally to the cast, all round excellent at portraying the gravity of their situations. Fionn Whitehead leads the story on land, a naive young man desperate to survive, Mark Rylance leads the story at sea as a diligent man prepared to do what must be done and Tom Hardy leads the story in the air as a stoic RAF pilot. And it is Hardy who I would single out for an exceptional performance, mostly told through his eyes.
An all round exceptional experience.