World War II has been covered extensively throughout the history of cinema and it’s no surprise, it was one of the biggest events in recorded history and changed the world forever. Films like Saving Private Ryan, Hacksaw Ridge, Schindler’s List and The Dam Busters just to name a few. Earlier this year we saw an excellent example of the genre receive countless award nominations and wins. That film was Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.
The film tells the story of the evacuation at the Normandy and tells the story from three separate perspectives, land, air and sea. On land we follow a young British soldier, the story begins with his troop being ambushed by Germans, he is the sole survivor and manages to escape to the beach where many other soldiers are waiting to be evacuated. In air we follow three Spitfires as they cross the English Channel to provide air support for the survivors, along the way they come across several enemy fighters and bombers. And finally on the sea we follow a civilian sailor who sets out on his boat with his son and a friend of his in order to help bring soldiers home.
Released in 2017 the movie is both directed and coproduced by Christopher Nolan who is one of the most influential film makers of the 21st Century along with one of the highest grossing in history. He is known for films such as the ‘Dark Knight’ Trilogy, Inception and Interstellar. Since he began filmmaking he has been nominated for almost five hundred different awards for his works, five of which were Academy Awards. Nolan has covered a wide variety of themes throughout his films; this however is the first time he has made a war film.
Dunkirk relies heavily on actions and soundtrack, very little dialog is used, in fact the script was only 76 pages long which is roughly half the length of Nolan’s usual script and the shortest he’s ever written. This is really what makes the film special; the quietness of the troops against the booming of artillery adds an intense amount of tension and escalates your fear for these poor soldiers. Nolan is also known for his non linear approach to storytelling, In Dunkirk the three sections mentioned above are each presented in different time frames and scattered throughout the film, land is one week of action, sea is one day and air is an hour. Doing this spreads tension evenly throughout and helps keep an excellent pace, in fact the film is utterly exhausting.
Visually the film is stunning; most scenes were filmed in the locations where the real events took place. The scenes that really stand our however are those that take place in air, particularly during dog fights. Cameras were strapped to the planes and were filmed in flight. An estimated 75% of the film is shot using IMAX cameras on 65mm film and it shows, some of the shots are utterly breathtaking. This alone would be reason to watch the film, however it fires on all pistons; cinematography, sound, direction, acting and story are all on top form. If you want a war film that’ll rattle your cage whilst warming your heart give Dunkirk a watch.