Dustin Funderburke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Dunkirk depicts the suffering of British soldiers during their attempts at evacuation off the coast of Dunkirk, France during the Halt Order on the German Army. British soldiers appear standing in long ques on the beach awaiting transport across the English Channel, enemy aircraft picking them off form above. Trapped and hopeless, many soldiers risk everything at the slightest chance of returning home. Nolan has crafted an exhilarating experience that begins as soon as the first shot is projected.
Silence fills the air; soon to be broken with the sound of gun fire, panting, and feet pounding against pavement. The opening shot sets the tone for the entire feature. With empty streets and paper filling the air, isolation and dread set in. Stakes are high and death is approaching. Nolan ratchets up tension throughout by employing a unique narrative structure. Never letting up for even a second, each story is intercut within the larger narrative displaying what has been dubbed: 1.) The Mole, 2.)The Sea, and 3.) The Air. Aided by musical cues and great cinematography Dunkirk is edited in such a way that it seamlessly transitions back and forth between each story. The sound of the music is matched with gun fire and a camera motion, cutting into another shot and matching the transition. Nolan lets the filmmaking speak for itself; no unnecessary dialog, no exposition. Just pure uninhibited sight and sound. You empathize with these soldiers. You feel as much a part of this event as they are. You are experiencing the dread, you are experiencing the fear, you are experiencing the longing for home. By showing the audience the atrocities of Dunkirk and allowing them to become immersed in the battle, they experience Dunkirk instead of just watching it play out on screen.
Many soldiers are depicted as desperate; desperate to evacuate Dunkirk and return home. This desperation however isn't depicted as cowardice, but as the willingness to survive. Even the only mention of the word "cowardice" in the film is dismissed as shellshock. For every action taken to save ones own self, another is taken to save someone else. Ultimately, Dunkirk is a film about the constitution of bravery. People can do extraordinary things when faced with impossible odds. Fear can make us swim harder, run faster, and make tough choices. Desperation can make us do the same things, but each of those emotions have bravery in common. It takes bravery to risk life and limb, regardless of the reason why. Dunkirk posterizes that bravery comes in all shapes and sizes and should be recognized as such. Whether you're a man seeking refuge home after surviving a U-boat attack, or a fighter pilot gliding through the air without an engine. Because after all, in the end survival is considered a victory. Unfortunately however, lives are lost, and that's the tragic truth of war.
If there's one word in the English language to describe Christopher Nolan's latest, it's "Endure". Dunkirk depicts frightened soldiers suffering what they fear could be their final days. It's a powerful portrait of the human condition and an examination of bravery on an isolated scale. This is one of the most beautifully shot films of the last two decades, and is truly a wonder to behold.