Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours
Almost like clockwork, Christopher Nolan has directed a masterpiece of filmmaking every two-to-three years since the start of the millennium. While his prior work is certainly entertaining, most of it was set in a fictional environment that allowed him to play with the format of nonlinear storytelling. When I first heard that Nolan would be directing a film about the World War II retreat from Dunkirk, I was skeptical at first. I mean, while he’s great at action movies like The Dark Knight (2010), mind-benders like Memento (2000), or even science fiction epics like Interstellar (2014), his only foray into the “historical” was via The Prestige (2006), and even that was mostly made up.
What I did not realize going into Dunkirk (2017), was Nolan’s ability to create art without the need for fancy camera tricks or mind-blowing plot twists. The simplicity of Dunkirk merely emphasizes the mastery of cinematography and directing that Christopher Nolan can command. Whole sections of this film were devoid of dialogue, allowing the audience to piece together what was happening and what was going through the characters’ minds as they try to save themselves from their inevitable demise at the hands of the unseen Nazis (thus making these antagonists much more terrifying, a la Jaws (1975)).
While Dunkirk is considerably slower than other Nolan films, its three separate foci help to drive the story forward, never spending too much time on each as the plots drive to convergence. It does become confusing in a few instances due to one of the character arcs starting a week ahead of the other two; but by the end, the impact of these characters’ decisions and actions delivers an emotional climax that is worth the wait. I would certainly be amiss if I did not mention Hans Zimmer’s incredible score to this film, practically making every scene come alive with an incessant note of tension and suspense. At any rate, the visual realism and artful presentation of an army in defeat is a rare treat and one that I have not yet seen, or will likely see in the future.
Another Christopher Nolan film that proves he can direct anything, I give Dunkirk 4.5 stars out of 5.