Dunkirk is the newest film from exceptional director Christopher Nolan, telling the story of the infamous battle as the British, the Dutch, and the French, have been pushed back to the shore by German forces. With an A list cast including Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, and Kenneth Branagh, Dunkirk is a simplistic but emotional film, showing us the bravery of these men wanting to make it home, and the home that came to save them.
Now, is it blasphemous to say that any Nolan film is simplistic? No, dare I say this film is. We follow the characters at different time periods during the land, air, and sea evacuations from Dunkirk. What appeals to me in this film is that it doesn’t boast at how many explosions it has, and doesn’t give us extremely grotesque forms of imagery. However, it is an exceptional war film. I often compare Dunkirk to Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, or even, Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. I’m sure I can name many more, but seeing as these are some of the most recent mainstream ones, I’ll limit my comparisons to only these two. But in comparing these two films to Dunkirk, there are similarities, but also some significant differences.
Dunkirk is a rather slow burn. And by saying that, it doesn’t pick up as fast as other war films tend to do. Our central character in this film is not a person at all, but rather the battle itself. Everything that our characters do revolves around this battle. From the generals to the civilians, everyone is simply impacted as to what is going on. Because our characters are not the “main characters”, the first soldier we are introduced to does not speak a word until further into the movie. Some of the main soldiers hardly even speak at all. This, as well as other moments, can derail a film. The characters not being fully developed by the film’s end, can easily go wrong. But in his experience, Nolan manages to pull this off.
See, Saving Private Ryan and Inglourious Basterds are two excellent movies. These directors wanted to show war life in a different manner. Tarantino’s version is more action than anything else. The film tells about a moment during World War II that didn’t even happen. But in Tarantino’s world, it did. Spielberg’s version goes in deep detail about these soldier’s personal lives, often relaying stories of the family that these soldiers left back at home. However, Nolan didn’t take either approach. The action is not grotesque, and there is never a moment when one soldier contemplates the girl he left back home. The characters in Dunkirk, who are amazingly portrayed by the actors, are amazingly different from previous war films.
Nolan’s film is an honest and believable look at the men of Dunkirk. The actors, the music, the script, and direction, all lend a hand to making this film unique, in addition to being able to show the suffering of these soldiers. Nolan doesn’t play for the audiences and our cravings of stories and action. No, instead he puts us in the situation alongside these men, and that feeling alone cuts the deepest.
Written and Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Fionn Whitehead, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Mark Rylance, Harry Styles, and Kenneth Branagh