Katherine’s review published on Letterboxd:
Let me start by saying I think this is visually wonderful. It's clearly a stunning achievement and I understand the overwhelming praise it has received. I think my lower rating is down to a personal standpoint rather than an "I'm right, you're wrong" situation. But I can try to explain my point of view.
If you imagine a documentary with perfect cameras, then you get Dunkirk. While I don't fully agree that there's a complete lack of characterisation, I do, however, think that the whole film lacks emotion because it took a backseat. I think the problem is that the "explore the base violence of war" approach can't be fully achieved with a 12A rating. It was heavy, yes. But in my opinion it wasn't heavy enough. With an R rating the lack of characters to emote with would have been more justifiable. Here, it is not. A lot of films are visually good, but looking good is not enough to warrant a great film at this point.
I've seen the phrase "nobody stands out" used about the actors because they're all great, but I disagree. I think the stand outs are very clearly Mark Rylance and Harry Styles, partially because they had the most to say but also because I felt the most actual personality coming from them. The boy that plays George, however, is inexcusably terrible.
I ultimately feel there was a lack of focus throughout the film to the point where none of the sections really had an impact. The first 20 minutes or so were impeccable, and from there it gets a little skewed. This is, like I said, my opinion and I understand why other opinions differ. The art of subjectivity is a great one.
Also, I'm editing this about a week after posting this review, but I just found out my great-grandfather was at Dunkirk. He was taken off on one of the boats then immediately sent back out to Greece where he was captured. The more you know.