Over the past month or so, I’ve been reviewing a few of Christopher Nolan’s films leading up to his newest release, Dunkirk. Well, that film has finally arrived and I was able to make a nice little 45 minute commute to a 70 MM IMAX showing of the film and see the film as the legendary director has intended for me to see it. Well, I am so glad that I did because this was easily one of the intense, immersive and probably the best theater experience I’ve ever had. But, there’s something else even special about this film besides the experience. It’s a fantastic film and one of the best of the year.
The film presents itself as three different stories but as any Nolan film, it’s not convential. The film cuts between these stories so you have to actually be paying attention to not get lost and understand what’s happening. The first story follows a young soldier whose trying to escape the beach. The second follows Mark Rylance’s character and his son along with his sons friend taking a boat out towards Dunkirk in order to rescue soldiers either stranded out at sea. The third follows three spitfire pilots, one of which is played by Tom Hardy and sees them provide air support. This structure was brilliant and goes to show you that all it takes is great editing to make a straight forward story that much more enjoyable and investing. Boy, does this film have some truly remarkable editing. Each cut feels perfectly placed. Hoyte Van Hoytema, Nolan’s now frequent cinematographer after Wally Pfiester departed after The Dark Knight Rises, does a fantastic job with this film. This is one of the best looking films of the year and each shot truly pulls you into this tragic and intense situation these soldiers are faced with. If you have the ability or even if you have to drive a little, make that drive to a 70 MM IMAX. It is the only way to see this film, especially your first time seeing it. The film look is always one of my favorite things to experience and this movie looked stunning in a true IMAX theater. Go see it in 70 MM IMAX!
The acting in this film is spectacular. There isn’t a real standout here as the film doesn’t really have a protagonist and instead is more about you viewing what different people experienced during this battle of survival. Harry Styles of One Direction fame did really surprise me in his role as a soldier. He played his character really well and I’m curious if this is the start of a film career for him. Tom Hardy was brilliant as he always is as was Mark Rylance who is really starting to become a favorite actor of mine as it seems like he can do no wrong. Cillian Murphy was special in this film and honestly I love when Nolan and him work together because they’re such a great duo. The acting in this film was flawless. Obviously, it also goes without saying that Kenneth Branagh is tremendous as a general and I have a prediction that the two of the frontrunners for this years best picture are going to star him, this and the highly anticipated Murder on the Orient Express adaptation.
The sound of this film was something special also. This is easily one of the loudest films ever, especially in IMAX. I found myself jumping a few times because it will be quiet and then boom you’re thrust into an intense moment without any lead in. I loved that, it helped the film feel more real. The film really throws you in right away and for 107 minutes, your heart is racing. This is Nolan’s first film under 2 hours since Insomnia back in 2002 and it’s the perfect length. You are never bored, there is never a dull moment and it’s a truly grueling experience but in a great way because of how intense it is. I haven’t had this intense of an experience since I honestly can’t remember. Truly magnificent filmmaking.
Dunkirk is one of Nolan’s best films and honestly one of the most intense and best War films ever made. The way it throws you into this situation makes you feel as though you’re living through it alongside these characters. This film most certainly and hopefully will break Christopher Nolan’s Oscars curse and will be revisited again next January when nominees are announced. The film is a technical marvel but what it does so well is it tells a real and beautiful story about what people do to survive and how they come together. Go see this film, it’s one of the best of the year and please, go see it in 70 MM IMAX! Any other way is just a disservice to this film as that’s the true and only way to experience this masterpiece of a film, yet another that the great Christopher Nolan has delivered to us.