Adam’s review published on Letterboxd:
"We shall defend our honor whatever the cost may be."
The mole, the sea, and the air.
These are the three subplots Christopher Nolan chooses to pace Dunkirk with, and while a three-act structure maybe seem a bit contrived and overdone when it comes to war films, anyone who's seen Dunkirk can assure you that the opposite is true.
Right from the opening wall of text, Nolan fills you with the absolute minimum exposition needed, and straps you right in for an absolute adrenaline-pumper of a blockbuster. It's been beaten to death harder than Mal hit the concrete in Inception, but there really are an infinite amount of benefits to watching this in 70 millimeter IMAX. Immersion being at the top of that list.
We don't spend much more than a few minutes at a time with any given character, and that's all we need to be invested in each one when Nolan's direction is at his absolute best yet. The nameless protagonists are almost more relatable and identifiable than some of Chris' most dialogue heavy characters, and the decision to focus more on the event than the mechanics and backstory of a fictional soldier is one that's extremely beneficial to say the least.
Light dialogue doesn't stop every single cast member from giving the highlight of their career, and you essentially get a physical performance from each and every one of them here.
Anyone trying to make statements of hollowness shouldn't be taken seriously, as there are serious themes, SCENES, and LINES OF DIALOUGE throughout the entire movie that echo the aftermath of war. Not a single thing in this film is glorified. From the old man handing out blankets who's unable to look at the returning soldier's faces, to almost everything out of Mark Rylance's character's mouth, this is a sensitive and simultaneously bombastic film in the best sense.
While I've always been a fan of his prior works, I think people needed a reminder of Nolan's absolutely one-of-a-kind visual storytelling, as well as a reminder of the way in which he and Zimmer string together setpiece after setpiece flawlessly. The constant ticking of a stopwatch juxtaposed against immaculate visuals depicting absolute hell on earth renders each and every audience member stuck on the very edge of their seat, I know for a fact that both times I saw this I got the thickest goosebumps I've ever gotten during something I've seen in theaters.
After watching this multiple times, I think there is really something to be said about the impact of sound depicting the consequences of violence as opposed to visualizing it in the most gruesome way possible (not pointing any fingers at a single person besides Mel). There is a place for both in war films, but I think I much prefer this subtle-yet-all the more-effective approach as opposed to the latter.
Christopher has always been my biggest inspiration in terms of filmmaking. If it wasn't for my first viewing of Inception back in July seven years ago, I definitely wouldn't be in my third year of film school, and I sure as hell wouldn't even be aware of what this website is.
While he's teetered off a bit in terms of cohesively telling a narrative in the last four or so years, Dunkirk is possibly his best effort since The Prestige, and is easily the best film I've yet to see in 2017.