Milo Paulus’s review published on Letterboxd:
A film scarier than most horror films, intenser than most action films, more humane than most dramas and more honest than most historic films, Dunkirk is a war film about survival not battle, that represents the humane in humanity
How do you write a review of a film that is basically pure experience? I wouldn't know, but i'll take a crack at it anyway.
Dunkirk, is one of the finest examples of visual storytelling in a long, long time. Mostly relying on music, sparse dialogue, lavish images, practical effects and performances that perfectly capture the dread of war, Nolan stretches his directing muscles the hardest in his career yet. He clearly respected and admired his audience, throwing us in the event, having us figure stuff out on our own. The way the film is put together, inter cutting within time and location, during the same event, was something i was afraid of. A gimmick like that often results in repetitiveness, but with Dunkirk it never repeats itself, it never bores, and you have to be really attentive to notice the connections within timelines. The way the scattered locations connect is done in a controlled and nuanced way.
Speaking of the music. Zimmer's score is a perfect example of cinematic music. It's a score with not a single notable melody (Except the clever usage of Edward Elgar's - Nimrod) found within it, but it is the necessary foundation of the entire film, pushing the audience over the edge in a swamp of intensity. The ticking of a clock, the pumping sounds, and the brilliant use of the Shepard's tone, something Nolan and Zimmer are big fans of, often found within both of their work, make this one of the most effectively scored films in memory.
How do you write a review of Dunkirk without talking about Harry Styles? The One Direction member's acting debut was a casting call that sparked much outrage on the internet in the months prior to its release. Many were conflicted and afraid it was just stunt casting. I had many of the same cutbacks, but i am very happy to report that he was solid. He doesn't have too much to do, but there are a couple of small scenes where he truly shines, bringing delicate intensity to many scenes, and i'd be lying if said i wasn't excited for what he's going to do next.
What probably surprised me most is that this is a film about the survival of humanity, instead of battle. (which so many war films are) There isn't any blood, barely any violence, no gun battles, and not too many scenes where the characters are truly staring in the face of imminent danger. Just scenes where characters attempt to survive, win small victories, and help people out.
I feel like this is Nolan's best film yet, because this particular story and presentation forced him to not do techniques he usually too easily falls for, like an over abundance of expository dialogue, unbelievably apparent plot holes or some poor characterizations. With Dunkirk he constrained himself so much, pulling himself out of his comfort zone, and the result is a truly stunning film.