Ernest Calderon’s review published on Letterboxd:
Nolan is a damn master. This thing is a technical miracle. The aerial sequences alone are simply stunning.
The film has been as maligned as it has been praised, however.
The complaints tend to rest on Nolan's screenplay, his underdeveloped characters, and lack of plot
I think the film is a master work. A technical feat that manages to land an emotional punch.
First of all, it's far from perfect. And not even Nolan's best. But! It is unbelievable what he managed to pull off.
The film does not need a plot. It all revolves around a single event. The rescue of soldiers trapped on Dunkirk beach.
We experience the event through 3 different perspectives in 3 different blocks of time, interwoven, all with their own sense of terror, doom, and despair. This is practically not even a war movie. It's a survival movie. And the way it's all communicated is truly excellent.
It's basically a silent film. There's no glory in any of this. It's all about duty. Balancing the will to live with the need to serve a greater purpose. We don't need long stretches of added story to let us know where all these people are from, who their families are, who their loved ones are. We've seen those movies countless times. We've never seen the grounded straightforward story of failure and survival. Nothing else matters except making it out alive and trying to ensure as many others as possible do so as well.
However, what makes it really soar for me are the performances.
Kenneth Branagh as the naval officer is incredible. Perfect delivery of exposition with an added tinge of emotional gravitas. The moment when he sees the boats coming is beautiful.
Mark Rylance as the boat dad is magnificent. His need to help the soldiers however he can is a fatherly instinct infused by patriotism and the thought of having lost his own son, a pilot.
Tom Hardy acts with one eye. His entire face is covered up almost the whole movie. He conveys fear, determination, Resilience, confidence, and serenity, all without speaking.
Cillian Murphy is the broken, traumatized solider. He cannot bear the reality of having killed a boy. He has to convince himself that he didn't do it to be able to live on.
In the end, the film doesn't celebrate war. It celebrates the people that survived that horrible event and paints them in melancholy light. They fail, and that failure hangs over them. But they survived. And that's enough.