Christopher Nolan has now become so big that he can literally sell a movie by just putting his name on the thing. Star power like that is very rare nowadays, unless your Stephen Spielberg. With big hits like The Dark Knight and Inception under his belt along with many others, everyone has had high hopes going into Dunkirk as they’re confident that Nolan can do this piece of history justice.
Straight off the bat what I must say is that this film looks absolutely incredible. Due to Nolan preferring a more practical approach to his films, Dunkirk has a more gritty and realist feel. It’s not all out war all the time like a lot of war films. It’s staged out and doesn’t follow a set routine. Using practical effects over CGI also allows Dunkirk to fully utilise and excel with the sound aspect of war. The sound of bombers closing in on the beach was suspenseful and gripping every single time. The build up as they slowly got louder and louder was done to perfection.
Dunkirk is very much a visual film in the way that there is very little dialogue. There is a period where about 15 minutes go by without a single word being said. Dunkirk shines with its suspenseful moments, along with the bombing runs there are moments where soldiers come close to drowning and the intensity is ranked up to the max. The constant danger the soldiers are put through always feels epic and you feel the tragedy as numerous boats are sunk and soldiers try and claw their way to safety.
However where Dunkirk fails for me is with its characters. I’ve seen plenty of people say that war itself is the character but that doesn’t translate well for me with a film. While the film boats big stars such as Tom Hardy, Mark Rylance and Harry Styles, they barley have a chance to show off their ability. This is where the little amount of dialogue is a problem, yes their motivations are obvious but you can’t connect with any of these characters. You feel the tragedy of what is happening but I wouldn’t say that you care about what happens to the actual people involved. The characters are used in a smart way though as each set is involved in a different part of the war while all working towards the same cause.
Christopher Nolan uses visual film making brilliantly, toward the end of the film there are some shots which are absolutely gorgeous. Panning shots over the beach of Dunkirk as the sun rises, the glistening sea as bombers fly over it, all the soldiers helmets laid across the beach, all shots are immaculate and worth the price of admission.
Overall, all of Dunkirks positives outweigh its character issues. The visuals, sounds and gripping feel of the film are without a doubt it’s strongest points and puts the film in a league of its own in those categories. I wouldn’t be surprised if Warner Bros. launched an Oscar campaign for Dunkirk come award season next year as it definitely has the potential to do so.