Navil’s review published on Letterboxd:
I literally left the theater with tears in my eyes FOR A GODDAMN WAR MOVIE, so you BET I'm gonna give it 5 stars. Incredibly visceral, temporally chaotic, and definitely worth watching in IMAX, "Dunkirk" exceeded every single one of my expectations and now tops my list of 2017 summer movies. Nolan really went for it, and I think he's achieved something that can only be done with film, spectacularly so. With every gunshot and explosion, it made my senses duck for cover. Its relentless push through several timeframes and storylines kept me on guard, all while the much-hyped camerawork plunged me in deeper to every stressful scenario Nolan conjured up. And all throughout the claustrophobic carnage that ensued, I couldn't help but feel completely overcome by how beautifully it was all photographed. Understandably and unforgivingly bleak yet totally engrossing, this is definitely a film I plan on catching a couple more times during its theatrical run.
What I loved most was that Nolan didn't succumb to producing yet another humdrum war film where the story is bogged down by flashbacks and memories of family or home. Many feel that this results in the inability to sympathize with the soldiers, or in the lack of proper characterization, but I think the goal (and ultimate strength) of the film is to provide a way for viewers to directly sympathize with the instinct of survival that each character experiences, specifically by appealing to (bombarding?) the senses.
AND THAT'S WHY I LOVED IT SO DAMN MUCH! The immediacy in this film is undeniably palpable and bodily, due to several conventions that only film can combine: the literal clock-ticking and heart-beating rhythms of Zimmer's score, the juggling of several characters and timelines, and especially in the way the cameras immerse the viewers into the film space. We are completely submerged in these dangerous waters, sitting on the foamy shore, propelling through the air with these characters, and this simulation of sensation is more than simply spectacle. Combined with sparse dialogue and non-verbal communication (HELL YES), these effects do wonders in guiding us through the narrative emotionally. Our feelings, gut reactions, and responses are meant to match theirs as the action happens, which relays more about their fear and urgency than mere explanatory dialogue can. The merging of timeframes is a mental game, but the rest of this film? 100% made for the senses and the body, and I AM SO HERE FOR IT.
As far was depictions of war and soldiers go, I feel like, to some degree, the lack of depth in the characters makes it relatively easy to imagine soldiers from any country going through these exact scenarios. I totally get that this is an important event embedded in British collective consciousness, but there seems to be room to imagine this film as a sort of template for stories of soldiers from whatever country going through hell and trying to survive, which makes it feel less alien. Aside from some over the top cheesy stuff at the very end, I liked the direction this film took because it was easier for me to connect to. I've honestly gotten nothing from war film narratives until now, and I have Christopher Nolan to thank for combining some of my favorite film conventions, like silence and sensory immersion, into a genre I never thought I'd appreciate. Truthfully, I can't stop thinking about this film, and can't wait to catch it again!!