Thursday, 27 July 2017

'Dunkirk' Review

Christopher Nolan is a special kind of director whose films create a special kind of buzz as if they are one of a kind. His stellar filmography is hugely impressive as he produces hit after hit with his ability to craft unique interesting stories. His ability to create awe inspiring, large scale films are second to none, especially in the last decade of his work. With his latest project 'Dunkirk', Nolan's bold choice for a war story may be his most immersive yet.

In May 1940, the Second World War is underway with German troops advancing into France which has pushed and trapped the allied forces on the beaches of Dunkirk. Whilst under attack, the forces will look to bring back the hundreds of thousands of soldiers by any means possible, even using civilian vessels. This is the tale of the brave attempt to bring over 300,000 back home.

'Dunkirk' looks at three perspectives during the mass evacuation of troops from the beaches of Dunkirk at the start of the second World War. The first is on the beaches, with soldiers waiting on to be retrieved and brought back home whilst still under air attack from the Germans. The second, from the sea, where Mark Rylance takes his own boat to try to retrieve British soldiers. And the third follows Tom Hardy as a pilot who looks to aid the effort from the sky. The three follow the same story loosely, with the stories overlapping but not all at once.

The film doesn't have a clear protagonist as survival is the focus, not solely on any specific character. To some, this may not satisfy as they look for that extra something from the characters to make you care about them which is a criticism that can be made. It does pose a problem that you don't really build a connection with the characters which gives you that extra incentive to root for them or to see them succeed. However, the film looks at a true event and tries to create as realistic a story as possible for the viewer for maximum impact. The fact that these characters are looking scared and unsure about what is going on is accurate and does make it clear that they are in constant peril. This story is about being in the moment of this event and does a fantastic job of recreating the feeling of what it was like on that miraculous day.

This constant peril is helped massively due to the production and use of real effects. The film utilises real boats, planes, locations and hundreds of extras to make this seem even more realistic. The action is made to look brutal as real ships are blown up using pyrotechnics to create something visibly real, rather than something that has been made up on a computer. Nolan's use of these real effects, transports, and people make this film feel huge and truly epic. This is something quite simple but it makes a huge difference as it helps produce something lifelike as if you were actually there. Seeing how this event would really look really helps immerse you which is only helped by the gripping action.

As previously mentioned, the action contains many scenes where boats and planes are being attacked with pyrotechnics going off rather than using digital effects. This helps create this authentic feeling as everything looks like it is actually happening. The ships are really sinking, there's no dramatic use of transport being taken out, there are no unnecessarily large explosions which create a feeling of realism. The air aspect is a great example as there are many dogfights that aren't over the top. It doesn't feel staged or hugely cinematic, it's just a simple battle that immerses you as you are unsure of what the outcome will be and you are put into the pilot's seat. Nolan masterfully brings you into the film by being up close to the characters in these tense situations. The audience is taken inside the cockpits and the ships as these attacks are going on making you feel right in amongst the action. With this, you see the true terror that these people are facing as well as the horrifying expressions on the victim's faces in these moments. This is essentially a huge battle where the characters are under constant threat and barrage and Nolan does a truly incredible job of bringing those moments in 1940 onto the big screen.

On a technical level, as expected with a Christopher Nolan movie, you will struggle to find many better-executed movies. 'Dunkirk' is visually stunning with great overhead shots showing the grand scale alongside many perfect shots utilising the stunning locations in the background. The cinematography is exceptional and we can expect to see Hoyte van Hoytema be nominated at the next Academy Awards. The standard of film making is next level and on the big screen, it is simply breathtaking. There's been a lot of talk recently about how to see this new release which I have to urge you to see at the cinema and if possible, in IMAX. This is the sort of film that is made for the big screen as it is a complete experience. The visuals alone make for seeing this on as large a screen as possible a must. What puts this over the edge is the sound design and the score. As far as sound mixing and editing go, 'Dunkirk' is a complete masterpiece. The sounds of the battles, whether it be gunfire, airplanes or the destruction of boats, everything sounds brutally real. Again, the action is improved due to the magnificent quality of sound. To go back to the point of seeing this in IMAX, the sound is a large selling point for this. With the epic and loud speakers around the theatre, you feel every single shot whizz past you and feel the shots coming from all directions. You are completely immersed as this is more than a film, it's an experience.

A Christopher Nolan master class would not be complete if it wasn't accompanied by a great score from the legendary Hanz Zimmer. Much like with Inception, The Dark Knight Trilogy, and Interstellar, the film has a pulsating score that adds that extra bit of emotion and tension to each and every scene. This is one of the best scores of the year as it is incredibly powerful whilst making your hair stand up during the film's finest moments.

Nolan uses regulars Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy yet again in what is an odd ensemble cast that features the likes of Oscar winner Mark Rylance to pop sensation Harry Styles. The majority of the cast are not given that much dialogue, especially those in the beaches and the pilots are mainly talking about their attacks and planning each move. This leaves for a lot more silent moments, leaving the actors expressions to do a lot of the work to get their emotions and feelings across. Fionn Whitehead is the main protagonist on the beaches and barely says a word throughout the first act, yet his performance is very powerful. The film doesn't require its actors to provide a long inspirational speech to rally everyone together. The performances are a lot more quiet and subtle that makes you really focus on their facial expressions to know what the characters are feeling and going through.

As expected with the genre, there are many highs and lows, with this, in particular, edging more towards the lows. The film is brutal as every little chance the allies get to evacuate is under threat creating a constant state of fear and anxiety to what will happen. This is carried on with the characters being timid to do what failed previously creating a lack of trust at times. This creates great continuity making the characters feel real and intelligent too.  Whenever it seems like there's a small victory, danger is never far as Nolan creates tension in every scene, no matter what aspect of the film is being followed.

Christopher Nolan has yet again crafted another incredible, unique film. The decision to look at the event itself rather than the characters is a decision that may and has put people off the film but it works incredibly well. All the technical aspects fall into piece and make something truly remarkable. Everything seems so realistic in this truly epic war film that will have you experiencing all kinds of emotion. This is one of the year's finest pictures and you can expect to see a lot of buzz come award season despite us being very much in the summer season. Nolan again shows how a blockbuster can still be art as it provides many great moments whilst being aesthetically pleasing. Make sure to see this one in a cinema as it is an experience you do not want to miss out on.

Final Verdict = 

So have you seen 'Dunkirk'? If so, what did you think of the film? I hope that this review was useful for if you were planning on seeing the film or not which I highly recommend that you do! Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my review, it is much appreciated!

By Angus McGregor