The legion of Christopher Nolan fans can breathe easy—the filmmaker’s new film is finally here. Nolan tackles a war film for the first time with Dunkirk, but unsurprisingly, he does so in a way no one else has before. The film tells the story of Operation Dynamo, a rescue operation in the early days of World War II in which nearly 400,000 British and French soldiers were rescued from the beaches of Dunkirk as the Nazi army closed in. It was a stunning feat of heroism in the face of defeat, and it’s been captured on film before in a jaw-dropping oner in Joe Wright’s Atonement, but here Nolan uses the entire operation as the backbone of his film.
Dunkirk has had a bit of a divisive response among audiences. Those going in expecting Saving Private Ryan will surely be disappointed—this is more akin to The Thin Red Line than anything, but in truth is very much a wholly unique take on the genre. Nolan has crafted a purely experiential film here, one in which the backstories of the characters don’t matter. Every decision he made is in service of immersing the viewer in this experience, and it’s that immersion that provides the emotional connection to the characters. We don’t feel for Fionn Whitehead’s soldier because we know he has a gal waiting back home or because he has a tragic backstory—we feel for him because we’re right there alongside him, struggling to survive in the face of overwhelming pressure.
Personally, I think Dunkirk is one of Nolan’s best films yet, and a movie that truly shows the power that cinema can hold when in the hands of a confident and ambitious filmmaker. The cinematography by Hoyte van Hoytema is otherworldly at times, and the images that Hoytema and Nolan are able to conjure here come close to heavenly in their power.
But that’s me. And Matt Goldberg’s review is on the site. Now we want to hear from you, dear readers. What did you think of Dunkirk? Was it worth the wait? Did you find the twisty narrative structure effective or confusing? Is Hans Zimmer’s score daring or grating? Where does this stand amongst Nolan’s other cinematic efforts? How was Harry Styles? Sound off in the comments below, and look for plenty more coverage of Dunkirk (including my thoughts on its Oscar chances) on Collider soon.
But first, let’s watch that first teaser trailer one more time…