Dunkirk ★★★★½


If films are judged according to how often and how well they hit their apparent targets (and they should), then Dunkirk is near flawless. Nolan has explained that he wanted to portray the rescue mission of allied troops from France at the beginning of WWII not as a traditional war film but as a thriller, a tale of suspense and survival, and he has managed to do exactly that. Even for a film telling a well known story, this is thrill-packed, nail-biting stuff pretty much from start to finish. To achieve his aims, Nolan employs a pretty simple idea: he turns the film, in essence, into a series of set pieces, which are suspenseful in and of themselves, in that you constantly feel that absolutely anything may happen within each. The fact that in implementing this idea he makes almost each set piece near unbearably taut and filmed with an epic sweep is testament to his undeniable genius craftmanship as a director, and that of DP Van Hoytema, whose work is mostly breath-taking. Anchored by a predictably great unshowy performance by Rylance, which gives the film its main emotional core, ably supported by all actors giving solid performances (wtf even Harry Stiles can act!) and with an amazing sound design which contributes to the general feeling of immersion that this exudes, it manages to be not only very exciting but also immensely affecting. Hans Zimmer’s  haunting orchestral score adds to the drama working in sync with each gunshot. The decision to employ a pretty sparse script helps greatly in that it ensures that the (mostly script based) excesses which marred Nolan's recent output such as Interstellar are avoided here for the most part. And I say for the most part because there ARE a couple of missteps, most notably the story thread with the death of the kid in the boat as well as the last 10 minutes which are far too sentimental, and the film finishes in a very glib, bland and unoriginal manner (which involves young soldiers reading Churchill's famous "we shall fight them on the beaches" speech). It is also excessively loud (unless they fucked it up at the Cinema were I saw it - not a rare occurrence in this effin backwater btw) and by the end a couple of things feel like overkill (and on leaving the cinema I felt a bit tired). 

This is grand cinema craftsmanship and an audiovisual experience unlike almost any other.

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