MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance, Fionn Whitehead
Runtime: 1 hr 46 min
What It Is: From the always ambitious Christopher Nolan, we’re treated to a history lesson with World War II thriller Dunkirk. Following the evacuation of Allied soldiers in 1940, unfolding in three strands and spanning varied periods of time. Dunkirk follows young soldier Tommy’s (Whitehead) week-long struggle to survive on land, civilian Mr. Dawson’s (Rylance) day at sea bidding to help stranded soldiers and finally fighter pilot Farrier’s (Hardy) hour-long battle in the air.
What We Think: With Memento, Nolan isn’t a stranger to juggling multiple timelines and Dunkirk flickers between stories seamlessly, with paths becoming intertwined and leading to graceful, poignant scenes that thankfully aren’t reminiscent of the jarring, schmaltzy ending of Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. Unlike war epics of the past that showcase the atrocities of battle, blood and guts included, Nolan opts to transport the audience directly to the conflict, with precision engineered tension that attacks the senses in what is a truly enthralling experience. Escalating tension reaches a boiling point with the help of Hans Zimmer’s score which ticks along with your rising heartbeat, accompanying the high-stakes as well as the more stirring moments, without ever becoming overly sentimental.
Nolan’s cast of incredibly talented usual suspects returns, which includes Cillian Murphy shining in a minor role and Hardy proving once more he can act circles around most even with the majority of his face concealed. The real standout though, impressively in his first film role is Whitehead, in what is arguably a silent film with its minimal dialogue, every harrowing moment of fear is etched on his face and captured masterfully by cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema, with exposing close-ups displaying the horrors he’s witnessed despite his youth.
Our Grade: A, A reconstruction of the war genre, Dunkirk is a storytelling marvel. Christopher Nolan once again proves he’s the connoisseur of the classy blockbuster.