Director Christopher Nolan
Cast Mark Rylance, Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Fionn Whitehead, Harry Styles
When it was confirmed that Nolan was to make a film about Dunkirk, the first thing that came to mind is that we’d be in for another lengthy run time. Then, much to my surprise (and everyone else’s) an actual running time of just 106 minutes was announced.
So, the story of 400,000 British troops that find themselves stranded on a beach in Northern France, had been scaled down? Not a chance. Dunkirk looks, feels and sounds epic. It’s also intense, almost unbearably so with Hans Zimmer’s brilliant score literally ticking away, ratcheting up the pressure as each second passes, the Nazi’s moving ever closer.
The French are holding the German army at bay in the town, whilst the Brits wait for rescue by sea, overseen by Kenneth Branagh’s Admiral who stands fast on “The Mole”, the only pier on the beach which enables large ships to reach them without becoming grounded. Enemy planes bomb the beach making the wait for salvation even more frightening.
Nolan again plays with the contemporary linear structure of film, with three intercutting perspectives from land, sea and air, which all move at different speeds. At sea we have Dawson (Mark Rylance) in his small yacht on a rescue mission, in the air we have RAF pilot Harrier (Tom Hardy in a mask again) and on land Tommy, a soldier who is trying to escape in any way he can (Fionn Whitehead). All of the action is framed by DoP Hoyte Van Hoytema, in his second collaboration with Nolan after Interstellar. Despite the harrowing subject matter the images are strikingly beautiful, especially the air battles with Nolan using real aircraft and no reliance on CGI.
For those who thought this review was only moving in ahem, One Direction, an honourable mention must to go pop idol Harry Styles, here in his first film role. Styles, like everyone else auditioned for a role and it’s pleasing to report that his acquits himself very well, as indeed do all the cast. There are no showy or heroic roles here, with everything nicely underplayed. Also, keep your ears open for an uncredited turn from Michael Caine as a voice on the radio.
The Verdict 5/5
Christopher Nolan turns in yet another fabulous film that features a career best score from Hans Zimmer (in my humble opinion). If you get a chance to catch this on an IMAX screen, do. If not your reaction will still be the same…Wow.